Discover the essence of Iranian cuisine through its iconic kebabs. Renowned for their rich flavours and enticing aromas, these grilled and skewered meat dishes are a culinary delight. Explore the flavours, learn about their cultural significance, and try our recipe to recreate the magic of Iranian kebabs in your own kitchen.
Iranian kebabs are an integral part of Iranian cuisine, renowned for their rich flavours and aromatic profiles. These kebabs are essentially grilled or skewered meat dishes, traditionally cooked over open flames. The history of Iranian kebabs dates back centuries, with roots in nomadic and Persian culinary traditions.
They hold deep cultural significance, representing conviviality, hospitality, and celebration in Iranian society. Kebabs play a vital role in communal gatherings, family meals, and special occasions. They symbolise the art of grilling and the mastery of blending spices, marinades, and meats. Iranian kebabs showcase the country's diverse regional flavours and culinary expertise, making them a beloved and cherished component of Iran's gastronomic heritage.
6 Types Of Iranian Kebabs
1. Chelow Kebab: Chelow kebab is a classic Iranian kebab that consists of tender grilled meat, often lamb or beef, served with saffron-infused basmati rice called "chelow." The meat is typically marinated with a combination of yoghurt, lemon juice, and spices, resulting in succulent and flavorful kebabs. Chelow kebab is considered the national dish of Iran and is often accompanied by grilled tomatoes and buttery grilled vegetables.
2. Koobideh: Koobideh is a popular ground meat kebab made from a mixture of finely ground lamb or beef, along with grated onions, herbs, and spices. The mixture is shaped around long metal skewers and grilled until charred and juicy. Koobideh kebabs are known for their smoky flavour and are often served with lavash bread, grilled onions, and a sprinkle of sumac.
3. Barg: Barg kebab features marinated and thinly sliced pieces of tender meat, usually beef or lamb tenderloin. The meat is traditionally marinated in a combination of yoghurt, lemon juice, saffron, and spices to enhance its flavour and tenderness. The skewered meat is then grilled until perfectly cooked, resulting in tender, juicy, and aromatic kebabs. Barg kebabs are often served with saffron rice and grilled tomatoes.
4. Joojeh Kebab: Joojeh kebab is a delicious grilled chicken kebab that is marinated in a mixture of yoghurt, lemon juice, saffron, and spices. The chicken is typically cut into pieces, skewered, and grilled to perfection, resulting in tender and flavorful kebabs. Joojeh kebabs are often served with saffron rice, grilled vegetables, and a side of creamy yoghurt and fresh herbs.
5. Shishlik: Shishlik kebabs consist of tender and succulent lamb chops that are marinated in a blend of olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and spices. The marinated chops are then skewered and grilled over hot coals until they develop a caramelised crust and remain tender and juicy inside. Shishlik kebabs are often served with aromatic saffron rice, grilled vegetables, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
6. Vegetarian/Vegan Kebabs: In addition to meat-based kebabs, Iranian cuisine offers delicious vegetarian and vegan options. These kebabs are often made with a variety of vegetables, such as mushrooms, bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, and zucchini. The vegetables are marinated, skewered, and grilled to perfection, resulting in smoky and flavorful vegetarian or vegan kebabs. These kebabs can be enjoyed with rice, grilled bread, or as part of a mezze platter alongside dips and salads.
Regional Varieties of Iranian Kebabs
Tehran: In the capital city, Tehran, you'll find unique kebab variations that reflect the cosmopolitan nature of the region. One such variation is "Kebab Soltani," which combines both Koobideh and Barg kebabs on a single plate. Another popular Tehran kebab is "Jigar," which features skewered and grilled lamb liver marinated in special spices.
Gilan: Located in the northern Caspian Sea region, Gilan offers kebabs influenced by its coastal location. "Kebab Torsh" is a notable speciality, where tender meat, often chicken or lamb, is marinated in a tangy mixture of pomegranate juice, walnuts, and herbs before grilling.
Khorasan: Kebabs from the eastern province of Khorasan are known for their distinctive flavours. One famous variation is "Torsh Kebab," where chunks of lamb or beef are marinated in a sour marinade made from unripe grape juice, herbs, and spices, resulting in a unique tangy taste.
Tabriz: The northwestern region of Iran, particularly Tabriz, offers its own specialities. "Kebab Koobideh Tabrizi" is a variation of the popular Koobideh kebab, typically made with a mix of ground beef, lamb fat, and special spices. It is served with lavash bread, grilled vegetables, and sometimes sumac for added flavour.
Grilling Techniques and Tools
Traditional grilling methods in Iran often involve open-fire cooking, where kebabs are grilled over hot coals. Skewers, known as "seekh," are widely used to thread the marinated meat and vegetables. The skewers are placed directly over the hot charcoal, allowing the meat to cook and develop a smoky flavour.
Various types of grilling equipment are employed in Iran. Charcoal grills, such as "manghal," are popular for their ability to generate intense heat and impart a distinctly charred taste to the kebabs. Flat metal grills, called "saj," are also used, particularly for flatbread and smaller kebabs.
To achieve the perfect char and tenderness, it's crucial to properly marinate the meat, allowing it to absorb flavours and tenderise. Preheating the grill is essential to creating a searing heat that seals in the juices and develops a caramelised exterior. Regularly rotating the skewers while grilling ensures even cooking. Additionally, brushing the kebabs with a marinade or oil during grilling helps maintain moisture and enhance the flavours. It's important to monitor the cooking time to prevent overcooking and maintain the desired level of tenderness.
Accompaniments and Side Dishes
Iranian kebabs are often accompanied by a variety of delicious side dishes and condiments that elevate the dining experience. Grilled tomatoes are a classic accompaniment, adding a smoky and juicy element to the meal. Saffron rice, known as "chelow," is a staple side dish with its vibrant colour and aromatic flavour. It pairs perfectly with kebabs, absorbing the meat's juices and complementing their savoury flavours. Yoghurt-based dips like "Mast-o-Khiar" (cucumber and yoghurt dip) and "Mast-o-Musir" (yoghurt with wild shallots) provide a cool and refreshing balance to the grilled kebabs. These dips often incorporate herbs, garlic, and other seasonings to enhance their taste and creaminess.
Decoding the Flavours of Persia: Diving into the Depths of Iranian Kebabs" is an article that explores the rich world of Iranian kebabs. It covers the introduction and cultural significance of kebabs in Iran, highlighting their importance in Iranian cuisine. The article delves into traditional Iranian kebab recipes, including Chelow Kebab, Koobideh, Barg, Joojeh Kebab, Shashlik, and vegetarian and vegan options. It also explores regional varieties of kebabs from Tehran, Gilan, Khorasan, and Tabriz, showcasing their unique flavours. Additionally, it discusses grilling techniques and tools used in Iran and suggests tips for achieving the perfect char and tenderness. Finally, it touches on popular accompaniments like grilled tomatoes, saffron rice, and yoghurt-based dips.
Recipe For Shashlik Kebab
Video Credit: Mr Skewer/YouTube
700 g of lamb chops
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
Lemon wedges, for serving
Grilled vegetables, for serving (optional)
In a bowl, combine the olive oil, minced garlic, lemon juice, chopped parsley, cumin, paprika, black pepper, and salt. Mix well to create the marinade.
Place the lamb chops in a shallow dish or a resealable plastic bag. Pour the marinade over the lamb chops, ensuring they are well coated. Cover the dish or seal the bag and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or preferably overnight, to allow the flavours to meld and the meat to marinate.
Preheat your grill to medium-high heat.
Remove the lamb chops from the marinade and let any excess marinade drip off. Reserve the marinade for basting later.
Thread the lamb chops onto skewers, making sure to leave some space between each chop for even grilling.
Place the skewers on the preheated grill and cook for about 4-6 minutes per side, depending on the desired level of doneness. Baste the lamb chops occasionally with the reserved marinade while grilling to keep them moist and flavorful.
Once the lamb chops are cooked to your liking, remove them from the grill and let them rest for a few minutes.
Serve the Shashlik kebabs hot, garnished with lemon wedges. Accompany them with grilled vegetables, such as bell peppers and onions, if desired.
Note: If using wooden skewers, remember to soak them in water for about 30 minutes before threading the lamb chops to prevent them from burning on the grill.
Now, you're ready to savour the delectable Shashlik kebabs with their enticing aroma and juicy tenderness!