A Kebab, or Kabab as we know them in India, is grilled meat or vegetable preparation of Middle Eastern origin. Today, you can find versions of it all across the Indian sub-continent and Asia. While Kababs are generally cooked and served on skewers, it is not essential. In India, they’re largely a part of Mughlai cuisine. India makes a large variety of Kababs, many of which are vegetarian like this Dahi ke Kabab or Yogurt Kabab.
Moroccan traveler, Ibn Battuta, mentions the Kabab being made in royal Indian kitchens as early as 1200 AD. Kababs probably came to India with Afghan invaders, traders from the Middle East and the Mughals. The first vegetarian Kababs are said to have been made in Akbar’s royal kitchens Jodha Bai’s own chief cook.
The famous Dahi ke Kabab is from the Mughlai influenced Awadhi cuisine of Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh. They are crisp on the outside with a delightful melt-in-the-mouth texture. Dahi is Hindi for yogurt and these Kababs are made from thick hung yogurt. Caramelized onions, chopped green chillies, cilantro, finely chopped cashewnuts, some spices, a little chickpea flour for binding are added to create a dough. The dough is shaped into patties or balls, fresh breadcrumbs and pan fried till crisp.
Use really thick yogurt to make these Kababs. Even if you’re using Greek style yogurt I would suggest draining it for a few hours, as even the slightest amount of whey will make the Kabab dough soggy. Line a sieve with cheesecloth or muslin/ thin cotton towel and pour the yogurt into it. Cover loosely and allow it to drain for about 6 to 8 hours, preferably in the fridge. Otherwise it will turn sour which isn’t desirable. Well drained yogurt (what we also call hung curds) will have a soft, creamy cheese like texture.
While not traditional, I have added well crumbled paneer for added taste, bulk and texture. Some people make Dahi ke Kababs with some of the ingredients into a filling and stuff them. I find it easier to mix in all the ingredients into a dough and then make the Kababs. Once the dough has been shaped, refrigerate them for about 30 to 60 minutes. This makes them easier to handle when dredging them in breadcrumbs.
Serve these Dahi ke Kababs with a variety of different chutneys. A spicy green Coriander-Mint Chutney, a sweet and sour Date Tamarind Chutney and a Tomato based Chutney would be perfect accompaniments. Serve the Kebabs as appetizers, a part of a special Brunch or lunch or with evening tea.
Here are some tips which will make your Dahi ke Kababs truly delightful.
-Lightly toast the cashewnuts before chopping them fine, gives crunch and added flavor.
-Toast/ pan roast the chickpea flour till it loses the raw small but do not brown it.
-Saute the onions till they’re golden and caramelized but do not brown them too much.
-Many people add some raisins to these Kababs for some sweetness but I prefer to make them without. Chop the raisins if using as it mixes better that way.
-Make sure your dough is soft and moist but not wet. If they’re wet, they will be difficult to shape and will become greasy on pan frying. You also do not want to add more chickpea flour to counter the wetness because that will affect the texture and taste of your Kababs.
-Use fresh breadcrumbs to coat the Kababs. You can do this by removing the crust from 2 to 3 slices of bread. Tear them up and run in your mixer-blender or food processor. If you don’t have breadcrumbs, you can use fine semolina or even flour to coat them.
Dahi Ke Kabab
For the Kababs :
- 3/4 cup hung curd
- 1 cup well crumbled paneer
- 2 to 3 tbsp roasted chickpea flour besan
- 1 tsp crushed fennel seeds
- 1/3 cup finely chopped onions sautéed
- 1/3 cup fine chopped toasted cashew nuts
- 1/2 tsp grated ginger
- 1 to 2 green chillies finely chopped
- 3 cup finely chopped coriander leaves
- 3/4 tsp garam masala
- Salt to taste
For Dredging :
- 1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
For Frying :
- Start by draining the yogurt. Line a strainer with cheese cloth or muslin/ thin cotton towel/muslin cloth. Pour the yogurt in and let the whey drain out for anywhere between 5 to 8 hours depending how much whey is the yogurt. Refrigerate the “draining assembly” to prevent the yogurt turning sour.
- Put the yogurt and the chickpea flour in a mixing bowl. Lightly whisk till smooth and creamy. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well by hand to a soft and moist dough. The dough should hold reasonably well when shaped. Add a little more chickpea flour if necessary. The chickpea flour is a just a binder here and you shouldn’t really be able to taste it in the dough.
- Divide the dough into equal portions. Very lightly oil your palms and shape each portion into approximately 2 1/4-inch rounds that are about 1/2 –inch thick. Refrigerate the shaped dough for 30 to 60 minutes.
- Heat enough oil in a pan for shallow frying. The oil should not be too hot or the Kababs will burn. If not hot enough they will be greasy. Take the dough out of the fridge and dredge them in the breadcrumbs. Fry them in hot oil turning them over so they’re crisp and golden brown on both sides. Remove and drain on paper towels.
- Serve warm with spicy and sweet chutneys.
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