You hear kebabs and your mouth lights up in anticipation. Charred and succulent pieces of meat with their bold and sharp layers of spices accompanying drinks, raitas, relishes and mounds of fluffy rice–kebabs are absolute bliss. But, to an Indian, the word kebab incites much more than its deliciousness. Kebabs evoke stories and traditions that can be traced back to Indian prehistory. Food history books describe kebabs as spiced morsels of fire grilled meat that were preferred by the then Indian armies (16th century) because they could be very easily made to feed the soldiers. This fascinates me, because I immediately imagine armies of Mughal soldiers wearing quilted cotton jackets, silk paijamas and metal body armors, marching forward with their kebab equipments, clanking against their metal hand and head gears, to make meticulously spiced kebabs in large tandoori ovens. I see Kebab armies sharing a laugh or two over boti kebabs between battles.
Fast-forward to present day India–kebabs still fascinate me. Kebab joints–dhabas, Mughlai restaurants, road side stalls, or upscale restaurants–witness various groups of people milling around on their way to bars, or clubs, or home, or nowhere. The interesting thing about kebabs is that unless you are an alcoholic, or a solitary traveller, you don’t eat kebabs alone. Kebabs have a sociable quality about them. In addition to the stories of kings and soldiers, each kebab recipe threads together thousands of stories of friends, and families, and lovers. During this time of the year (winter, that is), in India, most domestic roof-tops/backyards turn into veritable kebab joints where friends and family gather around small but intense open fires to roast generously spices meats and vegetables. It’s these tiny neighborly kebab armies that fascinate me most.
Also fascinating is how healthy kebabs are. They use little to no oil, lots of spices, and sometimes a little yogurt. I use a little cheese in this recipe, but traditionally kebabs are completely cheese-less. I try to use lean meats to make kebabs, unless I am cooking for an army (of friends). Fattier meats render kebabs juicier, therefore, are easier to prepare. But white and lean meats, when marinated properly, can totally change the weight loss game. Serve a skewer of kebabs with brown rice, roasted veggies, an egg, and garlic lime chutney or cilnatro mint chutney to make weight loss tasty and fun.
Chicken Malai Kebab recipe
Level: easy Preparation time: 15 mins Rest period: 1 hour Cooking time: 15 mins Serves: 5-6
1 kg (2 lbs approximately) chicken, cut into cubes
Salt to taste
black pepper to taste
2 tsp meat tenderizer
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tsp (or more) cardamom powder
1/2 tsp red chili powder (optional)
1 tbsp garlic paste
1 tbsp ginger paste
1 tsp cumin powder (or more)
1 tsp coriander poder (or more)
1/2 tsp chili powder (or more)
1 tsp chaat masala powder (optional)
1 tsp garam masala powder
1/4 cup Greek or hung yogurt
2 tbsp sour cream
2 tbsp grated cheese (any white cheese except parmesan)
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp oil
salt to taste
black pepper to taste
Wash the chicken pieces and pat dry. The idea is to get all excess moisture out of the chicken. This is the only way to ensure juicy and charred meat. Moisture is a kebab killer.
Add the ingredients listed under 1st marinade. Mix to make sure that the chicken pieces are evenly coated. Cover with cling wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
To prepare the yogurt marinade just mix everything listed under 2nd marinade in a large bowl. If you are making your own garlic and ginger paste (which I highly recommend), use as little water as possible. It is a good idea to use the lime juice to make the ginger garlic paste to control the moisture in the kebabs.
Add the marinated chicken pieces to the 2nd marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 45 mins to 1 hour.
Generously grease metal skewers (you can use wooden skewers, but make sure to soak them for at least 12 hours).
Thread the chicken pieces on skewers, making sure not to crowd them (you will need 6-7 skewers).
Broil on high for 10 minutes, then flip and broil for 3-4 minutes on the other side. If you don’t have a broiler, preheat oven to the highest possible temperature.
Serve hot with green chutney.