Kashgar Lamb Kebabs

Kashgar Lamb Kebabs

A tangy take on the traditional kebab, these are the quintessential
spicy Central Asian street snack: sizzling skewered lamb crusted
with chilli, pepper and cumin, cooked over glowing coals.

The kebab originated in the eastern Mediterranean millennia ago. The ancient Greeks skewered meats and cooked them over coals, apparently due to a shortage of firewood. Legend has it that Persian soldiers did the same, grilling meat on their swords. Carrying this tradition east to the Uyghurs of Kashgar and across China, they took kebabs to punters from Shanghai to Sichuan, known here as yangrou chuan (lamb meat kebabs).

You'll need
500g (1lb) lamb or mutton (cut
into 2cm/¾in chunks)
1 tbs sunflower oil
3 tbs ground chilli flakes
3 tbs ground cumin
Sea salt
3 tbs ground black pepper
Skewers (wooden or metal; if
using wooden skewers soak
in water first so they don’t
burn on the grill)

Cooking Method
1 Remove the lamb from the refrigerator; these kebabs cook best if the meat is at room temperature prior to cooking. Preheat the barbecue or grill.
2 In a bowl, mix the sunflower oil, chilli flakes, cumin, salt and pepper. The mix will be quite gritty.
3 Thread five or six chunks of lamb on to each skewer.
4 Brush each skewer with the oil and spice mix, ensuring all of them are well lubricated.
5 Place each skewer on to the grill, turning only once and brushing with extra oil and spice mix if desired. The kebabs are ready after about 2 minutes on each side, or when the exterior of the meat is golden-brown with a slight crust of spice.
6 Serve the kebabs with flatbread or rice, and garnish with extra chilli flakes or salt to taste.

Tasting notes
Prepare for a sensory surround-sound experience. You’ll notice the sound and scent of the kebab stall first: the aroma of the blue smoke rising from the grill, the sizzle of muttony fat dropping on charcoal embers. Stepping up to take your turn, you’ll find your hunger mounting and your patience waning in anticipation of the moment when you’ll pull the chunks of spicy lamb off with your teeth. The exterior of each morsel is crisp and crusted with salt and chilli flakes: a sharp peppery rebuke. But chewing releases the pungency of moist lamb, an almost sweet rejoinder to counteract the fire. The flavour of the meat is at its height when piping hot, so don’t hold back.

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