Originating in the Middle East, a skewer of meat, fish or vegetables roasted and served up hot is a staple of the Omani diet. It’s finally getting the recognition it deserves, says Shishira Sreenivas.
The humble but mouth-watering kebab, or kabab, has been the go-to snack in the Middle East and South Asia for centuries. Basically, they are skewered pieces of meat marinated with spices and grilled, a versatile takeaway eaten for breakfast, lunch or even dinner.
Omanis as well as expats can be seen enjoying this delectable favourite at local coffee shops all over the Sultanate, along with their equally beloved shisha.
The word “kebab” is derived from the Persian word “kabap” and means fried meat. It was invented by medieval Persian soldiers who used their swords to impale their meat and cook it on open fires. Now, however, the swords have been replaced by the less intimidating and much smaller wooden or metal skewers.
In his accounts of his travels to India, Ibn Battuta, a celebrated 14th-century Moroccan traveller, noticed that kebabs, which were introduced during the Mughal era, were served in royal houses to emperors during the Delhi Sultanate period. Even commoners would enjoy kebabs with naan (bread) for breakfast.
While the Middle East and South Asia claim kebabs as their own, they have become synonymous with street food in many countries around the world.
Typically, they are prepared using lamb, mutton, chicken, beef or seafood. While kebabs were originally meat-based, there are now several options for vegetarians.
If you’re looking to get your hands greasy with these ravishing snacks, there are many varieties to choose from around town.
In honour of these appetisers, The Indus, a restaurant at the Opera Galleria, has introduced a month-long festival to satiate Muscat’s kebab connoisseurs.
There will be no fewer than 18 varieties to choose from: 12 meat-based and six vegetarian options. These include baby grilled pomfret from the seafood kebabs, shikampur from the mutton selection or the tandoori aloo tuk from the vegetarian section.
While the locals do have some absolute favourites, master chef Shaikh Arif Ahmed says kebabs are kebabs.
“The locals prefer tandoori lobster, kakori kebab, shikampur, murgh anari tikka and a few vegetarian options also,” he says.
“In fact, Omanis prefer to taste everything and love all types of kebabs. People also like the authentic taste of the Hyderabad and Lucknow kebabs.”
But the chef says his personal favourite is none other than hara bhara kebab, a spinach-based veggie lover’s delight. Another great place for kebab tasting is the Mumtaz Mahal Restaurant. During their tikkas and beverage promotion, chef Pardeep Singh will be offering a variety of kebabs from their tandoori tikka specialties. Chef Singh’s personal favourite? He says it’s undoubtedly the fish tikka mumtaz.
While kebabs are definitely a hit with your taste buds, they may not do you many favours when it comes to your mid-section. Just one serving of kebab piles on a whopping 200 calories.
And if you’ve somehow managed to live under a rock and never sampled this perennial hunger stopper, now’s the time to join the growing number of kebab lovers around the world.
Marinate the fish for 30 minutes, then skewer and cook in a hot charcoal tandoor for 10 to 12 minutes. Garnish and serve hot with mint yogurt dip.
Saute spinach leaves and green peas in clarified butter (100g) until the water boils off. Wait until it cools down and then grind without water. After the paste is ready, roast in the clarified butter, yellow chilli powder, cardamom powder and salt to taste. Make round patties. Add roasted cashew nuts to the paste. Shallow fry without any clarified butter in the pan as the butter in the patty will suffice. Serve the patties with your favourite spicy chutney.