Aidha Cader samples the flavours of assorted kebabs for you.

Photographs by Abu Naser

Raan Buzkazzi

Kebabs were first introduced to the people of Indian subcontinent by the Persian invaders during the rise of Islamic caliphate. When Ibn Battuta travelled to India in 1344, he was served a multitude of kebab dishes for breakfast and a whole lamb cooked with delicate spices as festive meals at the royal court of the Delhi Sultanate.

Photographs from Khazana Restaurant

1 lamb leg, fat trimmed
1 tbsp salt
2 tsp red chilli powder
¼ cup ginger and garlic paste
¼ cup vinegar
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick, broken into 1-inch pieces
1 tbsp black cumin seeds
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp kebab masala

For the kebab masala:
1 ½ tsp dried raw mango powder
1/4 tsp cumin powder and salt
1 tsp fenugreek powder
½ tsp black salt
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
½ tsp garam masala

Loosen the meat from the bone at the top of the leg. Once that is done, rub salt and red chilli powder. Next, rub the ginger and garlic pastes and pour the vinegar. Set aside to marinade overnight in a refrigerator. Add bay leaves, cinnamon sticks and sprinkle black cumin on top. Cover with a foil and bake in a preheated oven at 350F for two hours. Turn the heat down to 300F, remove the foil and let it cook until the liquid dries out. Skewer the braised leg and roast on charcoal grill, while basting it with clarified butter. Continue roasting until the meat turns brown. Remove from the grill and drizzle with lemon juice, butter, and kebab masala.

Lamb Kofta

Turkish and Persian influence of medieval courts reached its height during the Delhi Sultanate. However, the next wave of invaders from Mongol stock led by Timur sacked Delhi in 1398. The battle was followed by the establishment of the Lodi dynasty. During this period, Afghan dishes immersed into the royal courts.  Afghan kebab, mostly made of lamb served with naan instead of rice, soon became popular among the locals. 

Photographs from The Westin Dhaka

100g lamb, minced
30g lamb fat
100g onion, chopped
50g coriander, chopped
2 tbs chilli paste
20g pine Nuts
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients together and set aside for 30 minutes. Divide the mixture into 50g balls and roll each ball into a 4-inch long kofta with your palms. Place them over a hot grill and cook on both sides with a basting of melted butter. One can serve the dish with mint yoghurt raita.

Paneer Tikka

Near Eastern influences were deep seated into the subcontinent during 1526 with the arrival of the Mughal Empire. Persian and Afghan cooks accompanied the early Mughal rulers. It was however, under Akbar’s reign that the local spices and food cultures began to amalgamate into the royal cuisine. Also, after the royal marriage to his Hindu Rajput Queen, the culinary preferences at the court began to change. For instance, Akbar refrained from eating meat on Fridays and gradually vegetarian delicacies entered the royal cuisine.

Photographs from Lucknow, Dhaka

200g paneer, cut into thick slices
1 of green, red and yellow bell pepper, cut into large squares
1 onion, cut into large squares
Oil for basting

½ cup, hung yoghurt
1½ tsp chilli powder
½ tsp cumin powder
1tsp coriander powder
½ tsp garam masala
½ tsp fennel seeds powder
1tsp chaat masala
1tsp dried mango powder
¼ tsp black pepper powder
1tsp dried fenugreek leaves
Salt to taste
2 tsp ginger garlic paste
1½ tsp lemon juice

Mix all the above ingredients together for the marinade. Coat the paneer and vegetables with the mixture and set aside for 30 minutes. Thread the paneer with the vegetables onto wooden skewers and place it over a hot coal grill. Baste it with melted butter and cook until it changes colour. And finally, serve with a drizzle of lime juice.

Hariyali Chicken Tikka

During Shah Jahan’s reign from 1627-58, details of the banquet culture and the foods he liked was well documented. The food was served on a dastarkhana (tablecloth) around which three men would sit in a triangle. At least 50 dishes were served before the guests. The extensive use of green chillies was popular during this period and food was decorated in colours of purple and green.

Photographs from Lucknow, Dhaka

6 chicken breasts, cut into squares, 4 tbsp oil, 1 onion, chopped
2 tbsp garlic and ginger paste
8 green chillies, finely chopped
3 large handfuls of baby spinach leaves, 2 lemons, juiced
1 handful of coriander leaves
15 mint leaves
20 roasted cashews, 100g butter,
1 tbsp garam masala, 1 tbsp cumin powder
½ tsp turmeric, 3 tbsp yoghurt, Salt and pepper

Heat oil in a pan, add onions, green chillies and fry until the onions become translucent. Mix in the spices, ginger and garlic paste, followed by the spinach. Cook until spinach is wilted. Remove the pan from the stove and set aside to cool. Blend the spinach mixture with lemon juice, cashew, butter, fresh herbs and yoghurt. Once the marinade is blended. Add salt and pepper. Mix it in with the chicken cubes. Set aside in a refrigerator for at least 24 hours. Thread the chicken into skewers and grill over hot coal on both sides.

Kebab Hendy

The exotic kebab gourmets came to existence in the later years with the decline of the Mughal Empire. As the British Raj sliced up the subcontinent, the princely states of the Nizam’s and the Nawab’s, battled out rich culinary traditions. In the courts of Lucknow, Hyderabad, Bihar and Calcutta, royal cooks competed against each other.Large banquets were organised by the rulers to entertain the British and other royals to demonstrate regional culinary superiority. The humble Delhi shami kebabs transformed to ‘avadi kakori’ and so forth.

Photographs from The Westin Dhaka

100g lamb, minced
160g onion, chopped
20g parsley
1 onion, chopped
40g garlic paste
50g one of red, yellow and green capsicum, cubes
40g tomato paste
2 tbsp oil
½ cup lamb stock
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix the lamb with minced onions, parsley, salt and pepper. Make kebabs and bake in a preheated oven at 180C for six minutes. Prepare the sauce by heating oil in a pan followed by garlic and onions. Fry until the mixture turns brown and stir in the tomato paste. Mix well and simmer for five minutes. Pour the stock and the capsicums. Cook until the sauce thickens. Pour over the kebabs and serve.

Tangdi Kabab

The Nawabs love of kebabs including ‘Tunde Kebab’ made by the one handed royal chef has been a legendary tale. When Wajid Ali Shah, the last Nawb of Awadh was exiled by the British in 1856 to the outskirts of Kolkata it is believed he brought along with him his royal cooks and spice mixes. The culinary evolution in this region was the widespread use of beef instead of lamb. The popular local dish ‘Sutil kebab’ retains its original characteristic even today. As the princely states eventually declined the royal chefs continued to pass down their culinary skill to the future generations and a lively street food culture inherent with royal cuisines took hold in the streets of Bengal.

Photographs from Shiraz Mughlai Feast

8 chicken drumsticks, skinned
1/2 tbsp lemon juice
1 cup drained yoghurt
3 tsp ginger-garlic paste
2 tbsp gram flour
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp garam masala, dry roasted
1 tsp chilli powder
2 green chillies, minced
1 tsp chaat masala
Oil for basting
Salt to taste
Lemon wedges and sliced onion to garnish

Wash the chicken drumsticks and make slits on the surface. Marinate it with lemon juice and set aside for 30 minutes. Mix gram flour, yoghurt, turmeric powder, ginger and garlic paste, green chillies, red chilli powder, garam masala and salt. Coat each drumstick with the marinade for at least two hours. Place the chicken over a hot coal grill or tandoor and cook on both sides while basting oil over it. Sprinkle chaat masala and garnish with lemon wedges. You can wrap the joint end of the drumsticks with foil for convenience.

Staying within the fringes of mainstream cultures, Aidha Cader, ICE Today’s culture connoisseur has inculcated an appreciation for food, history, travel and art beyond her comfort zone.