|Place of origin||Middle East|
|Region or state||South Asia, Central Asia, the Balkans, the Middle East, North Africa|
In most English-speaking countries, a kebab is commonly the internationally-known shish kebab or shashlik, though outside of North America a kebab may be the ubiquitous fast-food doner kebab or its variants. In contrast, in Indian English and in the languages of the Middle East, other parts of Asia, and the Muslim world, a kebab is any of a wide variety of grilled meat dishes. Some dishes ultimately derived from Middle Eastern kebab may have different names in their local languages, such as the Chinese chuanr.
Although kebabs are often cooked on a skewer, many types of kebab are not. Kebab dishes can consist of cut up or ground meat or seafood, sometimes with fruits and vegetables; cooked on a skewer over a fire, or like a hamburger on a grill, baked in a pan in an oven, or as a stew; and served with various accompaniments according to each recipe. The traditional meat for kebabs is most often mutton or lamb, but regional recipes may include beef, goat, chicken, fish, or more rarely due to religious prohibitions, pork.
- 1 History
- 2 National varieties
- 3 Other variants
- 4 Kebab in Western culture
- 5 Similar dishes
- 6 See also
- 7 References
Evidence of hominin use of fire and cooking in the Middle East dates back as far as 790,000 years, and prehistoric hearths, earth ovens, and burnt animal bones were spread across Europe and the Middle East by at least 250,000 years ago. In ancient times, Homer in the Iliad (1.465) mentions pieces of meat roasted on spits (ὀβελός), and excavations in Santorini unearthed stone supports for skewers used before the 17th century BC.
Kebab dishes originated in the medieval kitchens of Persia and Turkey. They were generally made with smaller chunks or slices of meat, or ground meat, often cooked on skewers over a fire. This cooking method has a long history in the region, where it would be practical in cities where small cuts of meat were available in butchers' shops, and where fuel for cooking was relatively scarce, compared to Europe, where extensive forests enabled farmers to roast large cuts of meat whole.
The word kebab, most likely of Arabic origin, came to English in the late 17th century partly through Urdu, Persian and Turkish. In Ibn Sayyar al-Warraq's 10th-century cookbook Kitab al-Tabikh, kabāb is described as cut-up meat either fried in a pan or grilled over a fire.
According to linguist Sevan Nişanyan, the Turkish word kebap is also derived from the Arabic word kabāb, meaning roasted meat. It appears in Turkish texts as early as the 14th century, in Kyssa-i Yusuf (the story of Joseph), though still in the Arabic form. Nişanyan states that the word has the equivalent meaning of "frying/burning" with "kabābu" in the old Akkadian language, and "kbabā/כבבא" in Aramaic.
The American Heritage Dictionary also gives a probable East Semitic root origin with the meaning of "burn", "char", or "roast", from the Aramaic and Akkadian. These words point to an origin in the prehistoric Proto-Afroasiatic language: *kab-, to burn or roast.
According to Ibn Battuta, a Moroccan traveller, in India, kebab was served in the royal houses during the Delhi Sultanate period (1206-1526 AD), and even commoners would enjoy it for breakfast with naan.
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Suya is a spicy kebab which is a popular food item in West Africa. It is traditionally prepared by the Hausa people of northern Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger, Ghana and some parts of Sudan (where it is called agashe).
Kyinkyinga is common and popular in West Africa. It is a Ghanian dish, very similar to or synonymous with the Hausa suya kebab, also known as sooya, tsinga, chichinga, tsire agashi, chachanga or tankora.
Sosatie (pl sosaties) is a traditional South African dish of meat (usually lamb or mutton) cooked on skewers. The term derives from sate ("skewered meat") and saus (spicy sauce). It is of Cape Malay origin. Sosatie recipes vary, but commonly the ingredients can include cubes of lamb, beef, chicken, dried apricots, red onions and mixed peppers.
Afghan kebab (Pashto/Dari: کباب) is most often found in restaurants and outdoor vendor stalls. The most widely used meat is lamb. Recipes differ with every restaurant. Afghan kebab is served with naan, rarely rice, and customers have the option to sprinkle sumac or ghora, dried ground sour grapes, on their kebab. The quality of kebab is solely dependent on the quality of the meat. Pieces of fat from the sheep's tail (jijeq) are usually added with the lamb skewers to add extra flavor.
Chapli kebab, a specialty of Eastern Afghanistan, is a patty made from beef mince. It is a popular barbecue meal in Afghanistan. The word Chapli comes from the Pashto word Chaprikh, which means flat. It is prepared flat and round, and served with naan. The original recipe of chapli kebab dictates a half meat (or less), half flour mixture, which renders it lighter in taste and less expensive.
Khorovats (Armenian: խորոված) is a dish of pieces of meat grilled on flat skewers known as shish or shampoor. It is very popular, especially on festive occasions. In contrast to shish kebab, the meat pieces are typically larger, and left on the bone. While sometimes coated in salt, pepper, onions, and herbs shortly before cooking, vinegar-based marinades are not used. Various kinds of meat are used, the most common is pork, with ribs being the most popular cut. Vegetables are not cooked on the same skewer.
Seasoned oblong meatballs cooked on skewers, known in other regions as lule kebab or kufte, are called kyabab, with the emphasis on the first syllable. Karsi khorovats is the Armenian name for doner kebab, which the city of Kars became known for during the time of the Ottoman Empire.
In the Republic of Azerbaijan, the main varieties include tika kabab, lyula kabab (doyma kabab in some places), tas kababy and tava kabab. The meat for tika kabab is sometimes prepared in basdirma (an onion gravy and thyme) and then goes onto the skewers. It may be served, wrapped in lavash, with sauce-like pomegranate addon (narsharab) and other condiments.
In Bangladesh there are various types of kebabs (Bengali কাবাব or "Kabab"). In the old Bengal Subah capital of Dhaka, various Persian- and Arab-influenced dishes started to be made. Amongst these were kebabs. In Bangladesh most kebabs are made using beef whereas its Indian Bengali neighbours use chicken or mutton to make it. Amongst the popular kebabs are:
In Bulgaria, the word кебап (kebap) is a generic term for meat stews with few or no vegetables. The döner kebab is widespread as fast food and is called дюнер (dyuner). Shish kebap / shashlik is also common, and is called шишче (shishche - "small skewer").
Chuanr (Chinese: 串; pinyin: chuàn), often referred to as "chua'r" throughout the north, or kawap (كاۋاپ) in Uyghur, is a variation of kebab originating from the Uyghur people in the western province of Xinjiang and a popular dish in Chinese Islamic cuisine. The dish has since spread across the rest of the country and become a popular street food.
Although the most traditional form of chuanr uses lamb or mutton, other types of meat, such as chicken, beef, pork, and seafood, may be used as well. Small pieces of meat are skewered and either roasted or deep-fried. Common spices and condiments include cumin called "ziran", pepper, sesame, and sesame oil.
While the history of street foods in Greece goes back to ancient times, the iconic Greek gyros and souvlaki as it is known today arose only following the Second World War. Introduced to Athens in the 1950s by immigrants from Turkey and the Middle East, gyros was originally known simply as döner kebab. It is typically served as a sandwich rolled in pita bread, or on a plate, with french fries and various salads and sauces such as tzatziki. Later in the 1960s, vendors also began selling dishes in the same style made with souvlaki, which resembles Turkish shish kebab, but is usually made with pork.
Around the same time, the Greek word gyros replaced döner kebab, and the Greek style of the dish spread to become popular, particularly in North America, and various other parts of the world.
In contrast to other areas of Greece, in Athens, both types of sandwich may be called souvlaki, with the skewered meat being called kalamaki.
Although gyros is unquestionably of Middle Eastern origin, the issue of whether modern-day souvlaki came to Greece via Turkish cuisine, and should be considered a Greek styling of shish kebab, or is a contemporary revival of Greek tradition dating as far back as 17th century BC Minoan civilization, is a topic of sometimes heated debate, at least between Greeks and Turks. While English speakers may refer to souvlaki skewers as kebabs, they are not properly called that in Greece.
Ancient Hindu texts, such as Mahabharata, mention a dish made of marinated game meats roasted on large, open fires. Modern day kebabs in India trace their origin to the influence of the Mughlai cuisine in India. Some varieties of kebab in India are more or less similar to other kebab preparations along with their distinct taste, which can be credited to the use of the Indian spices. Though there certain distinct versions like Tunde ke kabab, Tikka kebab, Shami kebab, Soovar ki Saanth (Pork belly kebabs from Rajasthan) and Rajpooti soolah, which are native to India. Also, owing to widespread prevalence of vegetarianism in India, there are many local, vegetarian varieties of Kebab, made from Paneer or potato.
- Kakori kebab
- Shami kebab
- Seekh kebab
- Kalmi kebab
- Tunde ke kabab
- Sambhali kebab
- Bihari kebab
- Boti kebab
- Reshmi kebab
- Lasoni kebab
- Chicken malai kebab
- Tikka kebab
- Tangdi kebab (tangdi meaning "leg of the chicken")
- Kaleji kebab
- Hariali chicken kebab
- Burrah kebab
- Soovar ki saanth (Pork belly kebabs from Rajasthan)
- Rajpooti soolah (Game meat-wild boar, deer & partridge barbecue kebabs made with a special "Kachari" (wild melon) sauce by Rajputs in Rajasthan)
There are several distinct Persian varieties of kebab (Persian: کباب). Kebab may be served with either steamed, saffroned basmati or Persian rice and called chelow kabab (چلو کباب), which is considered the national dish of Iran. It may also be served with the various types of bread that are the most commonly eaten in Iran, such as lavash.
It is served with the basic Iranian meal accompaniments, in addition to grilled tomatoes on the side of the rice and butter on top of the rice. It is an old northern tradition (probably originating in Tehran) that a raw egg yolk should be placed on top of the rice as well, though this is strictly optional, and most restaurants will not serve the rice this way unless it is specifically requested. "Somagh", powdered sumac, is also made available and its use varies based on tastes to a small dash on the rice or a heavy sprinkling on both rice and meat, particularly when used with red (beef/veal/lamb) meat.
At Persian restaurants, the combination of one kabab barg and one kabab koobideh is typically called Soltani, meaning "sultan's feast". The traditional beverage of choice to accompany kebab is doogh, a sour yogurt drink with mint and salt.
In the old bazaar tradition, the rice (which is covered with a tin lid) and accompaniments are served first, immediately followed by the kebabs, which are brought to the table by the waiter, who holds several skewers in his left hand, and a piece of flat bread (typically nan-e lavash) in his right. A skewer is placed directly on the rice and while holding the kebab down on the rice with the bread, the skewer is quickly pulled out. With the two most common kebabs, barg and koobideh, two skewers are always served. In general, bazaar kebab restaurants only serve these two varieties, though there are exceptions.
In Iranian Azerbaijan, "Binab (also Bonab) Kebabi" is very famous in Azerbaijani cuisine for its large size. It is named after the city of Binab in East Azerbaijan province. This kebab and other types (e.g., Shishlik, kubide, Berge, Gelin, etc.) can be served alone or with rice and fresh salad on the side. In this region Kebabs come usually with yogurt, hot bread, tomato, onion, parsley and paprika-salt, and tarragon.
Kabab Koobideh contains: ground meat, onion, salt, pepper, turmeric, and seasoning. These ingredients are mixed together until the mixture becomes smooth and sticky. One egg is added to help the mix stick together. The mixture is then pressed around a skewer. Koobideh Kabab is typically 18 to 20 centimeters (7–8 in) long.
Kabāb-e barg (Persian: کباب برگ) is a Persian style barbecued lamb, chicken or beef kebab dish. The main ingredients of Kabab Barg – a short form of this name – are fillets of beef tenderloin, lamb shank or chicken breast, onions and olive oil.
Marinade is prepared by the mixture of half a cup of olive oil, three onions, garlic, half teaspoon saffron, salt and black pepper. One kilogram of lamb is cut into 1 cm thick and 4–5 cm long pieces. It should be marinated overnight in refrigerator, and the container should be covered. The next day, the lamb is threaded on long, thin metal skewers. It is brushed with marinade and is barbecued for 5–10 minutes on each side. Kabab-e Barg
Jūje-kabāb (جوجهکباب) consists of pieces of chicken first marinated in minced onion and lemon juice with saffron then grilled over a fire. It is sometimes served with grilled tomato and pepper. Jujeh kabab is one of the most popular Persian dishes.
Kabab Bakhtiari is a combination of Jujeh kabab (chicken kabab) and Kabab barg (beef or lamb meat) on the same skewer. Its name comes from the Bakhtiari region of Iran.
Kabab Kenjeh, also known as Chenjeh (کنجه کباب) is a kabab traditionally made with chunks of marinated lamb meat. It is typically served with grilled tomatoes and rice or bread.
Several types of kebab are popular in Iraq, although the word kebab in local use is reserved for skewers of spiced ground lamb, traditionally grilled on natural wood charcoal to give the kebab its special flavor. Skewers of grilled marinated meat chunks are called tikka, the most popular of which is the chicken tikka.
Kebabs in Iraq are consumed any time of the day, including for breakfast.
Mizrahi Jews brought various types of grilled meat from their native Middle Eastern lands to Israel, where they are an essential part of the Israeli cuisine. Among the most popular are skewers of elongated spiced ground meat, called kabab (Hebrew: קבב, qabab), which have become a staple dish of the Israeli meat restaurants and the main dish of the traditional Israeli holiday barbecue, alongside the shishlik. They are commonly made of beef, though lamb is also occasionally used, and are almost always served with the local pita bread, hummus and vegetable salads.
The Levant and Egypt
Several varieties of kebabs can be found at most restaurants representing this region. Among the most common are shish taouk, which are grilled chicken skewers marinated in olive oil and spices, and lahem meshwi, charcoal-grilled skewers of prime lamb cubes lightly seasoned with herbs.
Shawarma, although not considered a kebab in most countries of the Levant and Egypt, is another very popular type of grilled meat preparation that characterizes this region.
In Nepal it is a popular dish in Nepalese cuisine as well as Newa cuisine and known as Sekuwa. It is a meat roasted in a natural wood/log fire in a real traditional Nepalese country style. At first while the meat is still in its raw stage is mixed with homemade natural herbs and spices and other necessary ingredients. Sekuwa could be of pork, lamb, goat or chicken, or a mixture. Sekuwa is very popular in Nepal, especially in the Eastern Nepal and Kathmandu. Tarahara, a small town in Sunsari District of Koshi State in the Eastern Nepal could be called as the sekuwa capital of Nepal.
Kebabs in Pakistan trace their origin to the influence of the Mughlai cuisine.
Satay may consist of diced or sliced chicken, goat, lamb, mutton, beef, pork, fish, other meats, or tofu. Traditionally skewers from the midrib of the coconut palm frond are used, although bamboo skewers are often used instead. It is grilled or barbecued over a wood or charcoal fire with spicy seasonings. It may be served with various sauces, though most often a combination of soy and peanut sauce. Hence, peanut sauce is often called satay sauce.
Satay was developed by Javanese street vendors as a unique adaptation of Indian kebab. The introduction of satay, and other now-iconic dishes such as tongseng and gulai kambing based on meats such as goat and lamb, coincided with an influx of Indian and Arab traders and immigrants starting in the 18th century. It is available almost anywhere in Indonesia, where it has become a national dish. In Sri Lanka, it has become a staple of the local diet as a result of the influences from the local Malay community.
Shish kebab is a dish consisting of small cubes of meat or fish threaded on a skewer and grilled. Şiş, pronounced [ʃiʃ], is a Turkish word meaning "sword" or "skewer". Tradition has it that the dish was invented by medieval soldiers who used their swords to grill meat over open-field fires.
In Turkey, shish kebab does not normally contain vegetables, though they may be cooked on a separate skewer. It can be prepared with lamb, beef, chicken, or fish, but pork is not used.
Döner kebab, literally "rotating kebab" in Turkish, is sliced lamb, beef, or chicken, slowly roasted on a vertical rotating spit. The Middle Eastern shawarma, Mexican tacos al pastor, and Greek gyros are all derived from the Turkish döner kebab, which was invented in Bursa in the 19th century.
The German-style döner kebab sandwich, sometimes called simply "a kebab" in English, was introduced by Turkish immigrants in Berlin in the 1970s, and has become one of the most popular take-away foods in Germany and much of Europe. It is commonly sold by Turks, and considered a Turkish-German specialty, in Germany.
İskender kebap is a dish made with doner kebab meat, served with tomato sauce, melted butter, and yogurt, on pita bread. It is named after a cook from Bursa who is often credited with the invention of the doner kebab.
Adana kebabı (or kıyma kebabı) is a long, hand-minced meat kebab mounted on a wide iron skewer and grilled over charcoal. It is generally "hot" or piquant. The traditional Adana Kebab is made using lamb, with a high fatty content cooked over hot coals. Only three ingredients are used in a proper Adana Kebab, minced lamb, red capsicum (pepper) and salt.
Steam kebab (Turkish: Buğu kebabı) is a Turkish stew which is cooked in a pan or an earthenware casserole. The casserole's lid is sealed in order to cook the meat in its own juices. The dish is prepared with pearl onions, garlic, thyme, and other spices. In Tekirdağ, it is served with cumin; in Izmir, it is served with mastic.
Testi kebab is a dish from Central Anatolia and the Mid-Western Black Sea region, consisting of a mixture of meat and vegetables cooked in a clay pot or jug over fire (testi means jug in Turkish). The pot is sealed with bread dough or foil and is broken when serving.
Burrah kebab is another kebab from India. This is usually made of goat or lamb meat, liberally marinated with spices and charcoal grilled. It uses cuts of chops and not other meat cuts
Ćevapi (pronounced [tɕɛv̞ǎːpi]) or ćevapčići (formal diminutive, [tɕɛv̞ǎptʃitɕi], ћевапчићи), which comes from the word kebab, is a grilled dish of minced meat, a type of skinless sausage, found traditionally in the countries of southeastern Europe (the Balkans). They are considered a national dish in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia and are also common in Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Albania, Slovenia, as well as in Republic of Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania. Ćevapi has its origins in the Balkans during the Ottoman period, and represents a regional speciality similar to the kofte kebab. A dish with similar origins is in Romania called mititei.
Chapli kebab is a patty made from beef mince, onions, tomatoes, green chilies, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, salt, black pepper, lemon juice or promegranate seeds, eggs, cornstarch and coriander leaves. Chapli kebab is a common dish in Pashtun cuisine and popular in Afghanistan, Pakistan. The kebab originates in Afghanistan. Mardan is famous for chapli kabab not only locally but also internationally.
Chapli kebab is prepared flat and round and generally served with naan.
The Galouti kebab is a dish originating from the Indian subcontinent, made of minced goat and green papaya. It was supposedly made for a Nawab in Lucknow who could not eat the regular Kebabs due to weak teeth. Like Lucknowi biryani and Kakori kebab, it is a hallmark of Awadhi cuisine.
Many leading Indian hotel chains have taken to popularising the Awadhi food tradition, with the Galouti kebab being a pièce de résistance. The home of this kebab is Lucknow. It is most famously had at the almost iconic eatery "Tundey Miyan" at Old Lucknow.
Kakori kebab is an Indian kebab attributed to the city of Kakori in Uttar Pradesh, India. The kebab is made of finely ground mince goat meat with spices and then charcoal grilled on a skewer. It is commonly served with Roomali Roti (a very thin bread), onion and a mint chutney (sauce). The meat is ground to a fine paste and kept moist so the texture is soft. There is a legend that it was first prepared for old and toothless pilgrims.
Kalmi kebab a popular snack in Indian cuisine. The dish is made by marinating chicken drumsticks and placing them in a tandoor. Various kinds of freshly ground Indian spices are added to the yogurt used for the marination of the chicken. When prepared, the drumsticks are usually garnished with mint leaves and served with onions and Indian bread.
- Kebab karaz (cherry kebab in Arabic): meatballs (lamb) along with cherries and cherry paste, pine nuts, sugar and pomegranate molasses. It is considered one of Aleppo's main dishes.
- Kebab khashkhash: rolled lamb or beef with chili pepper paste, parsley, garlic and pine nuts.
- Kebab Hindi: rolled meat with tomato paste, onion, capsicum and pomegranate molasses.
- Kebab kamayeh: soft meat with truffle pieces, onion and various nuts.
- Kebab siniyye (tray kebab in Arabic): lean minced lamb in a tray added with chili pepper, onion and tomato.
Pinchitos or Pinchos Morunos is a Moorish-derived kebab dish in Spanish cuisine. The name pinchitos is used in the southern Spanish autonomous communities of Andalusia and Extremadura. They consist of small cubes of meat threaded onto a skewer (Spanish: pincho) which are traditionally cooked over charcoal braziers. Similar dishes in North Africa or other Muslim majority countries tend to be lamb-based, but pork and chicken are the most popular meats for the dish in Spain. Pinchitos are also extremely popular in Venezuela, due the heavy influence Spain had in Venezuelan cuisine during many years.
Shashlik is similar to, or sometimes a synonym for, shish kebab. It is popular in many countries, particularly in Eastern and Central Europe, the Caucasus, and the Baltics. In non-Muslim-majority countries, shashlik and equivalent dishes like Romanian frigărui may sometimes be prepared with pork.
Kebab in Western culture
Kebab cuisine has spread around the world together with Muslim influence. Although non-Muslim Westerners may be increasingly familiar with some of the many other international kebab dishes, only two have become an established and widely popular part of the culture in many Western countries. In English, the word kebab commonly refers to shish kebab and, outside of North America, to döner kebab or related fast-food dishes. These dishes are also served in many other countries, where they may have different names.
In English, kebab, often occurring as shish kebab, is now a culinary term for small pieces of meat cooked on a skewer. The word kebab, most likely derived from Arabic, has been used with various spellings in this sense since at least the 17th century, while the Oxford English Dictionary records the earliest known publication of the term shish kebab, derived from Turkish: şiş kebap, in 1914.
In many English-speaking countries, it refers to the now well-known dish prepared with marinated meat or seafood together with vegetables such as onions, tomatoes, and bell peppers threaded onto the skewer, also sometimes known as shashlik. This preparation is different from the typical Turkish shish kebab style, where vegetables are usually cooked on a separate skewer. Shish kebabs are customarily prepared in homes and restaurants, and are usually cooked on a grill or barbecue, or roasted in an oven.
The word kebab may also be used as a general term in English to describe any similar-looking skewered food, such as brochette, satay, souvlaki, yakitori, or numerous small chunks of any type of food served on a stick. This is different from its use in the Middle East, where shish (Persian/Mazandarani: شیش, Turkish: şiş) is the word for skewer, while kebab comes from the word for grilling.
English speakers from countries outside North America may also use the word kebab generally to mean the popular fast food version of the Turkish döner kebab, or the related shawarma or gyros, and the sandwiches made with them, available from kebab shops as take-away meals. This usage may be found in some non-English parts of Europe as well. In North America, the Greek variant gyros is most widely known.
The döner kebab originated in 19th century Turkey, but it became widely popular in the West only in the latter half of the 20th century. Many layers of meat are stacked onto a large vertical rotating spit; the outer surface is gradually cooked and sliced off, and typically served as a sandwich in pita or flatbread with salad and sauces. Sandwiches served in the same manner, but with other meats or cheese, may also sometimes be called a "kebab". It is available in most parts of Europe, and many other countries, though sometimes with different names or serving styles. In Germany, the highly popular sandwich, introduced by Turkish immigrants, is called a Döner, though Arab shops there serve shawarma.
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