The word for skewers in colloquial Hindi is Seenkh (Urdu speakers use the word Seekh) and so literally translated, these are skewered Kababs. Variants of this Kabab are popular in Afghanistan, Iran, the entire Arab belt and even Central Asian countries. Each of them has their signature ground meat Kababs grilled on a charcoal fire. I am a bit partial to the Indian one – probably because when I was a child, this was a take-out treat that my father would get for us when we were celebrating a special occasion. There are roadside dhabas (food-stalls) all over Delhi that make these Kababs in Tandoors (clay ovens) and serve them with a side of Tandoori Roti (bread) and pickled onions. Now that I have been living in the US for more than two decades, I get to eat them only when I visit India and the ones in the Indian restaurants in the US, just do not add up. So even though I don’t own a tandoor as yet (plan to get one soon), I tried them on my backyard charcoal grill and they turned out real good – still not as good as the ones I ate when I was a child, but close!
1. 3 lbs coarsely ground red meat (I used goat meat but you can use lamb or beef). It is important to use coarsely ground meat – you may need to ask a butcher to specially make it because ready-made ground meat available at stores is too finely minced.
2. One fresh green chili
3. One clove of garlic
4. One bunch of fresh cilantro leaves
5. One medium sized red onion
6. 2 teaspoons of Anardana (dried pomegranate seeds available at South-Asian stores)
7. 3 teaspoons of Coriander + Cumin powder (also available at South-Asian stores)
8. 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
9. Salt to taste
10. 2 teaspoons Amchoor (dried green mango powder available at South-Asian stores)
11. 2 tablespoons of corn starch
12. One teaspoon of red chili powder
13. One fresh lime or lemon
1. Start your charcoal grill and in the meantime get the Kababs prepped.
2. Finely mince the garlic clove (using a microplane) and also grind the Anardana in a spice grinder.
3. Finely chop the green chili and the cilantro leaves.
4. Mix all these ingredients with the ground meat. Also add the coriander cumin powder, whole cumin seeds, Amchoor, corn starch, red chili powder and salt. Do not add the onion just yet.
5. Set the meat mixture aside and just before the charcoal is ready for grilling, add very finely chopped onion to it (or you can grate it on a coarse grater- do not use a fine grater because then the onion releases too much water and the meat mixture does not stick to the skewers).
7. Hold the skewer in one hand and using your other hand, shape the ground meat mixture on the flat skewers – the meat should be shaped like a sausage. You may need to press down with your hand forming a fist shape. If the meat does not stick to the skewer, add some more corn starch. Also keep a bowl of cold water next to you and periodically dip your hand in cold water while forming the Kababs. The water prevents the meat from sticking to your hand and instead helps the meat to stick to the skewers.
8. When all the meat is shaped into Kababs on the skewers, grill them on a hot charcoal grill till both sides are evenly cooked.
9. Serve them with a sprinkling of fresh lime/lemon juice, a side of raw onions and some flat bread.