Kebabopedia: Decoding the Most Popular Kebabs and Their Origins

If there’s one thing that is common between the streets of Old Delhi, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Patna & Lucknow, it is the love for kebabs. What is particularly interesting to note is how this popular dish went on to rule the alleys of India, which is not even the birthplace of kebabs and evolved into different styles over time. Thus from being consumed in the form of rustic chewy chunks in the Rajputana to the tender and juicy ones made in the royal kitchens of Mughals, Kebabs have come a long way. In this blog, we unearth the stories of evolution of some of the most popular Kebabs in India:

1. Galouti Kebab

Back in the 13th century, when Kebabs made inroads into the royal kitchen, they were quite chewy. Maans Ka Soola (a celebrated Rajasthani barbecued lamb dish made with a spicy marination of herbs and yoghurt) is a typical example of this variety. But this changed in the 16th century when the toothless king, Nawab Asa-ud-Daula (the heir of Siraj-ud-Daula) demanded for an incredibly soft variation. This culinary rendition led to the invention of a new variety of kebabs –Galouti Kebabs – which simply melts in the mouth. Legend has it that as many as 150 types of herbs were used by Haji Mohammad Fakr-e-Alam Saheb, the royal khansama (chef), to prepare this dish. Some of the ingredients that contribute to the richness of this dish include minced meat, coriander leaves, green chilies, gram flour and egg.


2. Seekh Kebab

Originally known as Shish Kebab, these Kebabs were introduced in our country by the Turks. Thus, it is hardly a surprise that they derive their name from the Turkish word Shish, which means a “sword” or a skewer and Kebab, i.e., “to roast”. According to a popular belief, these kebabs were the result of hunting activities of the Turkish soldiers who would take shelter in forests during the war. Sword was used as a skewer by them to roast kebabs. They were traditionally made with minced mutton/chicken, chickpea flour, cashew paste, cream and other condiments. Vegetarian versions of the same are also popular nowadays.


3. Shikampur Kebab or Patthar ke Kebab

One of the finest specimens of the fusion of local ingredients with a foreign cooking technique, this variety of Kebabs is endemic to Hyderabad.  They were developed under the patronage of the Nizam. These deep fried kebabs are made out of patties that are a blend of the fiery spices of Andhra Pradesh with mutton (leg piece), split gram, hung yoghurt, eggs, bay leaves and black cardamom. This unique culinary delight was originally made by placing it on a heated stone which gave it a distinct smoky flavor.


4. Kakori Kebab

Kakori, a small town in the outskirts of Lucknow, is famous for two things: the Kakori Conspiracy, 1925 (which was a major milestone in the Indian freedom movement) and the hard to resist, Kakori Kebabs. Known for their dainty texture, these piquant kebabs are one of the classics of Awadhi cuisine. Served with naans (flatbread), they are often grilled on skewers like their counterparts, Seekh Kebabs. Legend has it that Nawab Syed Mohammad Haider Kazmi held a large scale party for his foreign acquaintances. When one of the British guests had Seekh Kebabs at the party, he passed mean comments about their chewy texture. The Nawab took offence and asked his khansamas to curate a softer version. After a series of hit and trials during the rigorous experimentation, they finally came up with the fine Kakori Kebabs. ‘Maliabali’ mangoes coupled with a host of eclectic spices softened the meat.


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