So I was bumping around the internet looking for something slightly more vegetarian, or different, or eye catching, when I tripped over a recipe for skewered cheese and french bread. Then I decided to google kebabs in general. Now I have something to talk about! What a food!
Historically speaking the kebab can be traced back further than the Egyptians. (I like them, they give real perspective to old and way back when.) In fact the story begins in ancient Persia where the word kebab was more of a catch all word for a variety of meat dishes that ranged from food prepared on a skewer as we know it now, to meat that was served on a warm flat bread, to stewed meat dishes, and almost anything in between. I almost want to think that our catch all word “thing-a-mabob” has been westernized so much from the original and more logical “thing-a-kebab”, although I have no proof of this, and I am sure that my english teacher would be embarrassed for me right now.
Kebab was adopted later by the Middle East and Turkey, where it then traveled all around the globe, gaining a seat at each culture’s dinner table in some way, shape or form. In fact nearly every culture has a kebab of some kind.
Greeks have the Gyros – kebab referring to the meat being cooked upright on a spit
The French have Brochettes – French for skewers
Japan has Kushiyaki – which means grilled skewered
The Orient has Satay – which is meat threaded on sticks and grilled…the list goes on, and on, and on!
We North Americans naturally think of meat on a stick when hearing kebab, as we are more familiar with the Turkish shish kebab, or skewered grilled meat. By the way, shish is Turkish for skewered.
Kebabs range from the uber traditional to the fun and funky fresh. They can be served by anyone with almost anything. You can go original with lamb like the first kebabs in Persia, or get crazy and try salmon, asparagus and baby potatoes. Serve your kebab with rice, a salad or on a pita, there has even been a few attempts at kebab pizza. (Results of this are unknown, however, but it is on the list of food to try)
Okay. We know the history. What can you do with this knowledge?
Lets start by picking a meat. Or if you’re vegetarian, vegan, or just plain adventurous, a nice hearty solid base like Portobello mushrooms or tofu. You can thread the meat on like a ribbon, or cut it, the mushrooms or tofu, into cubes and stab em’ on that way.
Really I should just list components of a kebab and you can do the rest.
Veggies and Fruit
Sweet Bell Peppers – red, green, yellow, orange
Corn (It’s easier if you leave it on cob
and cut the whole cob into slices)
Do what you want with these ingredients, and I bet you can think of more as well. But why stop with just the ingredients? There are also the skewers that you use.
Metal ones, you have to clean.
Bamboo ones are recyclable or compostable, and can lend a slightly smokey flavour to your kebab. They can be soaked in wine, cider, juice, or alcohols to lend a different flavor to whatever it is you are skewering.
For a twist, why not try using a twig of rosemary, grape vines, lemon grass, or thin twigs of cinnamon for your skewer.
Also consider the flavour you are going for. Marinades and flavoured oils for your kebab are great ways to give an authentic and ethnic feel to the dish. Marinate the meat or veggies, or both before grilling. Brush your kebab with oil before placing it on the grill.
Sauces for dipping or pouring over the kebab will lend more of that flavour and ethnicity to your dish. Consider a peanut sauce for a more Asian feel, Tahini for a more Middle Eastern feel, or make gravy and use potatoes and corn on the same skewer with your selected meat to do a traditional-esque meat and potatoes meal…on a stick!
What combinations did you come up with? Where did your kebab come from?
Tell me about your adventures in kebab-ing
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