A little Google-fueled research and I discovered that the word ‘seekh’ is Persian for skewered meat and ‘kabob’ literally means meat cooked over a charcoal fire. So the seekh kabob is skewered meat cooked over a charcoal fire. Admittedly, I created the hollows of my kabobs using chopsticks and my ‘charcoal fire’ is precisely 450 degrees Farenheight in the oven.
I try to make modern South Asian cooking less fussy (skipping the Mughal-level opulence) and more an attempt to keep our grip on the depth of flavors that make it special.
Pakistani-style seekh kabobs are perked up with onions, garlic, ginger, green chili peppers and garnished with fresh cilantro, mint, and spices.
Though these are baked, I like to pan-sear them after baking. You could also use a skillet grill. This gives them that irresistible extra oomph and color. Of course, you could just broil them in the oven (I’ve included the instructions), but my broiling is usually a little uneven so I stick to browning them on the stovetop.
And now…a little Seekh Kabob Q&A:
1. What type of beef should I use?
For this recipe, I recommend using regular ground beef (not lean). This will help your kabobs stay tender and moist because of the extra fat.
2. Should I rinse the meat?
I don’t know if it’s “normal” to rinse your meat (some say it’s unsafe), but I always give my meat a little rinse. I’ve tried making these kabobs without rinsing the beef, and it makes them easier to handle. I’d say if you normally rinse your meat, then go for it. Just don’t overdo the rinsing and make sure to squeeze out any excess water.
3. What if I don’t have skewers on hand? Are they easy to shape?
High five! I didn’t have skewers either. I just used chopsticks to shape them. Shaping them can be tricky at first, but just work with it gently and swiftly. I’m not too meticulous about the shape, but feel free to make them longer, thinner, or more hollow as desired.
4. What should I serve these with?
Yogurt raita or my green chutney (pictured here is a must-try fig chutney from my friend Shahla’s blog) are an ideal accompaniment to these kabobs. Its cool creaminess contrasts with the intense, meaty flavor of the beef. Naan, rice, and crunchy vegetables also go wonderfully with these.
5. Why 2 pounds of meat?
These are crowd-pleasers, so I generally make a 2-pound batch for guests. If not, I like to freeze half the batch for later. (They last for months and perfect to serve to company for an afternoon chai.) After baking, only sear the amount you want to have immediately. Then seal the rest in an airtight container and freeze for later.
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If you like this, I recommend:
Pan-Fried Pakora + Simple Green Chutney (which goes wonderfully with these kabobs)
Baked Pakistani Seekh Kabob (Ground Beef Skewers)
These Baked Pakistani Seekh Kabob are made with ground beef, onions, garlic, ginger, green chili peppers, and spices. Naturally gluten-free!
- 2 lb regular ground beef not lean
- 2 medium onions peeled and cut into wedges
- 2 green chili peppers such as Serrano cut in half
- 1/4- cup cilantro leaves
- 1 tbsp mint leaves
- 1/2 tbsp crushed garlic
- 1/2 tbsp crushed ginger
- 2 tbsp butter melted
- 2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tsp each of black pepper, cumin powder, coriander powder, and red chili flakes
- 1/2 tsp garam masala
- ¼ tsp red chili pepper or cayenne or more to taste
- 2 1/8 tsp salt
- 1 large egg whisked
- Rinse briefly (if desired) and strain any excess moisture from the ground beef. Place into a large bowl.
- Cut the onions into wedges and add to a food processor. Finely chop them using the pulse function. Remove the onions, squeeze out the excess moisture between your hands, and add to the ground beef.
- Finely chop the cilantro, mint, and green chili peppers in the food processor and add to the beef mixture. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well to combine.
- Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour.
- When ready to shape the kebabs, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Take a large piece of the meat and form into a hearty roundish shape. Run the kebab skewers through the meat and use your hands to envelope around the meat form a sausage-like shape around the skewer. If you want to make the traditional seekh shape and do not have skewers, use chopsticks to help shape them and slide the kabobs onto the baking sheet.
To test a piece for taste, heat a small pan over medium-high heat. Add a small amount of oil and place a piece of the beef mixture on the pan to cook, turning over as needed. Taste and adjust salt and seasoning if desired. Place the shaped kebabs on the baking sheet and bake for 14-15 minutes, gently turning them over mid-way.
Remove them from the oven. (See notes for broiling instructions.) If you want to freeze half the batch to serve later, do so after allowing them to cool.
In a shallow pan, heat a 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Using tongs, pan-sear the kebabs to get a deep golden finish on all sides. Add more oil as needed, and continue until all kabobs have been seared. Serve hot.
Makes a dozen medium kebabs.
*To broil: After the kabobs have baked, switch the oven to broil in high (or at 550 degrees). Broil for 2 minutes on each side, or until nicely charred.