Kebab cravings

Pooja Prabbhan gets experts to deconstruct the succulent delicacy that kebabs are so synonymous with


I don’t like kebab,’ said nobody ever. The middle-eastern delicacy enjoys immense popularity — among meat lovers and vegetarians alike. Whether you’d like relishing the regular deep-fried version or can’t ever get enough of the charred flavour as a result of being dunked in a tandoor — a plate of well-made juicy, tender kebabs seldom disappoints. Yet, ever wondered what sets a delectable plate of kebabs different from about just an average variant? What are some of the factors to key in if you wish to recreate the magic at home?

Culinary experts break down the secrets with DH Living. “The one thing that truly defines a great kebab is the smokiness that comes from the slow roasting over the open charcoal pit,” begins Chef Sanchit of ROOH. “The smoky flavour finds universal admiration because as humans, we evolved to eat smoked food in the Palaeolithic period after the discovery of fire, and this is what we drool over in a good kebab to this date,” he adds. For those wanting to recreate the magic at home, the smaller the size, the more desirable. Speaking of which, Chef Amrick Singh, Chef De Cuisine, Conrad Bengaluru, says, “The biggest challenge when you cook with minced meat is to make sure it is moist. It’s best recommended to opt for smaller chunks which helps extract the flavour as well as keeps the kebabs moist. The biggest tip when you make a kebab is to consider the ratio of each spice used for marinating. Excess of a single spice can very well dominate the flavours in the kebabs as Indian spices have a strong flavour.” Furthermore, it’s always important to check the temperature of your sigree/ tandoor.

Tandoor ambient temperature ranges from 280-350 degrees and different cuts of meat require different ambient temperature, if it’s a barbecue grill then pre-heat accordingly but never start in a cold tandoor or barbecue grill,” says Chef Sanchit, ROOH.

Wish to take a detour from meat, Executive Chef Amitesh Singh Virdi from Punjab Grill adds, “Vegetable kebabs should have a mix of ingredients that can keep it juicy post cooking, for example — adding paneer, curd etc can soften the kebab. Press the kebabs often during cooking as heat tends to dry the kebabs.” Quite like most dishes, kebabs turn out well when the prep time is adhered to. “Kebabs taste the best when they are double marinated. I would suggest that you leave the marination in for two hours, post which they need to be cooked slowly. Also, the fresher the meat, the better the taste of the kebabs and they also cook easily, avers Chef Lawrence Amalraj from InterContinental Chennai Mahabalipuram. Dishing out important keynotes to consider, Virdi says, “Purchase good quality meat to which spices should be added in a manner that it merges in with the flavours rather than camouflaging them. Depending on the desired texture, ingredients should be minced together for a perfect blend. Consider resting the kebabs during cooking — cook it half, take it out of the oven, rest it for a while and cook again.”

Busting a popular myth surrounding the ideal method of cooking kebab; Chef Vikram concludes, “Only tandoor cooked food is a kebab — that’s a myth — kebabs can be tandoor cooked/tava cooked/deep fried/girdle cooked/open hearth charcoal broiled.” Chef Lawrence Amalraj opines, “The other point to remember is the fact that kebabs don’t necessarily need to be spicy. They can be mildly seasoned or sweet as well.”

There are indeed fewer joys in life that match up to the joy of relishing one’s favourite meal. So, worry less and sink your teeth into a tray of moist, delectable kebabs.

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