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In most English-speaking countries, a kebab may be the classic shish kebab or shashlik – small cubes of meat cooked on a skewer – or, outside of North America where it is better known as gyros, the more recent and now-ubiquitous fast-food doner kebab. By 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 chuan.
Kebabs consist of cut up or ground meat, sometimes with vegetables, and various other accompaniments according to the specific recipe. Although kebabs are typically cooked on a skewer over a fire, some kebab dishes are baked in a pan in an oven or prepared as a stew such as tas kebab. 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.
Excavations of the Minoan settlement of Akrotiri unearthed stone supports for skewers used before the 17th century BC. In ancient times, Homer in the Iliad (1.465) mentions pieces of meat roasted on spits (ὀβελός), and the Mahabharata, an ancient Indian text, also mentions large pieces of meat roasted on spits.
In Ibn Sayyar al-Warraq's 10th-century Baghdadi cookbook Kitab al-Tabikh (Arabic: كتاب الطبيخ), a compendium of much of the legacy of Mesopotamian, Persian, and Arab cuisine, there are descriptions of kabāb as cut-up meat, either fried in a pan or grilled over a fire. The method of cooking smaller chunks or slices of meat on skewers 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. Indeed, many cultures have dishes consisting of chunks of meat cooked over a fire on skewers, such as the anticucho that has been prepared in South America since long before contact with Europe and Asia.
However, while the word kebab or shish kebab may sometimes be used in English as a culinary term that refers to any type of small chunks of meat cooked on a skewer, kebab is mainly associated with a diversity of meat dishes that originated in the medieval kitchens of Persia and Anatolia. Though the word has ancient origins, it was popularized by Turks to refer to this range of grilled and broiled meat, which may be cooked on skewers, but also as stews, meatballs, and other forms. This cuisine has spread around the world, in parallel with Muslim influence. According to Ibn Battuta, a Moroccan traveller, kebab was served in the royal houses during the Delhi Sultanate (1206–1526 CE), and even commoners would enjoy it for breakfast with naan. Kebab dishes have been adopted and integrated with local cooking styles and innovations, from the now-ubiquitous doner kebab fast food, to the many variations of shish kebab, such as the satays of Southeast Asia.
The word kebab likely came to English in the late 17th century from the Arabic kabāb, partly through Hindustani, Persian and Turkish. 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. In contrast, food historian Gil Marks says that the medieval Arabic and Turkish terms were adopted from the Persian kabab, which probably derived from the 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. The Babylonian Talmud instructs that Temple offerings not be kabbaba (burned). These words point to an origin in the prehistoric Proto-Afroasiatic language: *kab-, to burn or roast.
Varieties by regionEdit
This section needs additional citations for verification. (February 2018)
Chuan (Chinese: 串; pinyin: chuàn), often referred to as "chuanr" 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 chuan 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.
Middle East/Western Asia and North AfricaEdit
Both Armenian and Azerbaijani cuisine feature oblong kofte-style mincemeats kebabs known as lula or lyulya kebab, while Armenian cuisine refers to shish-style kebabs as khorovats, and doner kebab as Karsi khorovats after the city of Kars which became known for the dish during the time of the Ottoman Empire.
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 (چلوکباب), 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 (کنجهکباب, چنجه) 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 Iraqi cuisine, 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 Levant and EgyptEdit
Several varieties of kebabs can be found in Levantine cuisine. 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.
Mizrahi Jews brought various types of grilled meat from their native Middle Eastern countries to Israel, where they have become an essential part of 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 meat restaurants and the main dish of the traditional holiday barbecues, 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.
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.
- Adana kebap (or kıyma kebabı) is a long, hand-minced meat kebab mounted on a wide iron skewer and grilled over charcoal. Named after the Turkish city of Adana, the kebab 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.
- Ali Paşa kebabı, "Ali Pasha kebab" – cubed lamb with tomato, onion and parsley wrapped in phillo.
- Alinazik – Ground meat kebab sautéed in a saucepan, with garlic, yogurt and eggplants added.
- Beyti kebap – Ground lamb or beef, seasoned and grilled on a skewer, often served wrapped in lavash and topped with tomato sauce and yogurt, traced back to the famous kebab house Beyti in İstanbul and particularly popular in Turkey's larger cities.
- Bostan kebabı – Lamb and aubergine casserole.
- Buğu kebabı – Steam kebab, 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.
- Cağ kebap, 'spoke kebab' – Cubes of lamb roasted first on a cağ (a horizontal rotating spit) and then on a skewer, a specialty of Erzurum region with recently rising popularity.
- Ciğer kebabı, 'liver kebab' - usually eaten with sliced onions, salad and bread.
- Çökertme kebabı – Sirloin veal kebap stuffed with yogurt and potatoes.
- Çöp şiş, "small skewer kebab" – a speciality of Selçuk and Germencik near Ephesus, pounded boneless meat with tomatoes and garlic marinated with black pepper, thyme and oil on wooden skewers.
- Döner kebap, 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.
- Hünkâri kebabı, 'Sultan's kebab' – Sliced lamb meat mixed with patlıcan beğendi (aubergine purée), basil, thyme and bay leaf.
- İskender kebap – döner kebab served with yogurt, tomato sauce and butter, originated in Bursa. The kebab was invented by İskender Efendi in 1867. He was inspired from Cağ kebab and turned it from horizontal to vertical.
- İslim kebabı, 'steamed kebab' – Another version of the aubergine kebab without its skin, marinated in sunflower oil.
- Kağıt kebabı – Lamb cooked in a paper wrapping.
- Kuzu şiş – Shish prepared with marinated milk-fed lamb meat.
- Patlıcan kebabı, 'aubergine kebab' – Special kebap meat marinated in spices and served with eggplant (aubergine), hot pide bread and a yogurt sauce.
- Shish kebap – 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". According to tradition, 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. The Pontian Greeks made a dish similar to shish kebabs, although theirs were cooked in a saucepan.
- Tavuk şiş – Yogurt-marinated chicken grilled on a stick.
- Testi kebabı, 'earthenware-jug 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.
South Asia has a rich kebab tradition with a great variety of different kebab dishes. Many modern kebabs in Bangladeshi, Indian and Pakistani cuisine trace their origins back to the time of the Mughals and the strong influence of Mughlai cuisine. Kebab dishes common two one or more of these countries include:
- Tandoori kebab (Urdu: تندوری کباب)
- Naga doner kebab
- Shami kebab
- Seekh kebab
- Tikka kebab
- Kathi Kebab (including Porota Kababs, kebab wraps)
- Shami kebab (Urdu: شامی کباب) - A Shami kebab is a small patty of minced beef or chicken and ground chickpeas and spices.
- Seekh kebab (Urdu: سيخ کباب) - A long skewer of beef mixed with herbs and seasonings, it takes its name from the skewer.
- Tunde ke kabab (Urdu: ٹنڈے کے کباب)
- Bun kebab (Urdu: بن کباب) - A unique kebab sandwich with beef, lamb, fish or chicken.
- Bihari kebab
- Shatkora doner kebab
- Chapli kebab (Urdu: چپلی کباب) - A spiced, tangy round kebab made of ground beef and cooked in animal fat. A speciality of Peshawar in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
- Bihari kebab (Urdu: بہاری کباب) - Skewer of beef mixed with herbs and seasoning.
- Kalmi kebab (Urdu: کلمی کباب)
- Sheesh kebab (Urdu: شیش کباب)
- Burrah kebab - made from goat or lamb chops, liberally marinated with spices and charcoal grilled.
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. In Afghan cuisine, 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 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.
In Bangladesh there are various types of kebabs (Bengali কাবাব or "Kabab"). In the old Mughal province of Bengal Subah's capital of Dhaka, various Perso- and Arab-influenced dishes started to be made. Amongst these were kebabs. In Bangladeshi cuisine, most kebabs are made using beef.
Though spit- or skewer-cooked meat dishes are noted in the Hindu text, the Mahabharata, and a Medieval Indian text, the Manasollasa, modern-day kebabs in India mostly trace their origin to the influence of Mughlai cuisine. Some Indian kebabs have very specific geographic attributions, such as Kakori kebab, which is made of finely ground, soft mince and attributed to the city of Kakori in Uttar Pradesh, where legend has it that it was first prepared for old and toothless pilgrims.
In Pakistan kebabs trace back their origin during the time of the Mughals Mughlai cuisine, and their influence on the cuisine of modern day Pakistan. There are all sorts of kebab varieties such as seekh, chapli, shammi and other forms of roasted and grilled meats. As Pakistan is a predominantly Muslim country, pork is not used. Instead meats like beef, chicken, lamb, fish and sometimes buff are used in the making of kebabs.
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.
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.
Suya is a spicy kebab which is a popular food item in West Africa that originated in Nigeria. It is traditionally prepared by the Hausa people of 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 Ghanaian dish, very similar to or synonymous with the Hausa suya kebab, also known as sooya, tsinga, chichinga, tsire agashi, chachanga or tankora.
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 North 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.
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 to 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 cultureEdit
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, or in North America also kabob, 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 either mixed or topped with vegetables and sauces in a sandwich made with pita or other flatbreads. Certain regional variants also include cheeses. 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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One of the best ways to preserve Italian traditions and culinary culture has been the ‘anti-kebab regulations’ introduced in Brescia and Bergamo, in Bussolengo closed to Venice, and in Prato and Lucca in Tuscany...Italian civil society reacted firmly to these discriminatory practices... formed a coalition of protest against ‘racist acts’ and ‘apartheid climax’ using the defence of human rights
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