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Jooje Kebab.jpg
Roast chicken kebab in Iran
Place of originMiddle East
CourseMain course
Serving temperatureHot
Main ingredient(s)Meat
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Jooje Kebab.jpg
Roast chicken kebab in Iran
Place of originMiddle East
CourseMain course
Serving temperatureHot
Main ingredient(s)Meat
Sturgeon kebabs being cooked in Turkmenistan
A sandwich of döner

Kebab (kebap, kabab, kebob, kabob, kibob, kebhav, or kephav) is a wide variety of skewered meals originating in the Middle East and later on adopted in Balkans, the Caucasus other parts of Europe, as well as Central and South Asia, that are now found worldwide. In English, kebab with no qualification generally refers more specifically to shish kebab (Turkish: "şiş kebap") served on a skewer.[1] In the Middle East, however, kebab refers to meat that is cooked over or next to flames; large or small cuts of meat, or even ground meat; it may be served on plates, in sandwiches, or in bowls. The traditional meat for kebab is lamb, but depending on local tastes and religious prohibitions, it may now be beef, goat, chicken or fish. Like other ethnic foods brought by travellers, the kebab has become part of everyday cuisine in many countries around the world.



Pair of firedogs with zoomorphic finials, 17th century BC, Akrotiri.

The origin of kebab may lie in the short supply of cooking fuel in the Near East. Tradition has it that the dish was invented by medieval Persian soldiers who used their swords to grill meat over open-field fires.[2] According to Ibn Battuta, a Moroccan traveller, in India, kebab was served in the royal houses during the Delhi Sultanate period (1206-1526 CE), and even commoners would enjoy it for breakfast with naan.[3] The dish has been native to the Near East[4] and ancient Greece since antiquity; an early variant of kebab (Ancient Greek: ὀβελίσκος - obeliskos[5]) is attested in Greece since 8th century BCE (archaic period) in Homer's Iliad[6] and Odyssey[2] and in classical Greece, amongst others in the works of Aristophanes,[7] Xenophon[8] and Aristotle.[9] Excavations held in Akrotiri on the Greek island of Santorini by professor Christos G. Doumas, unearthed firedogs (stone sets of barbecue for skewers; Ancient Greek: κρατευταί - krateutai[10]) used before the 17th century BCE. In each pair of the supports, the receptions for the spits are found in absolute equivalence, while the line of small openings in the base constitutes a mechanism for supplying the coals with oxygen so that they are kept alight during use.[11][12][13]

National varieties

Cağ kebabı, a related dish. Note that the meat is horizontally stacked.
A serving of pork souvlakia with fried garlic bread and lemons

In Afghanistan

The main varieties include kabob e chopan, chapli kabob, teka kabob, shaami kabob, and rudi kabob.

In Armenia

Kebabs in Armenia are referred to as khorovats (Խորոված). The choice of meats used in Armenia are pork, beef, chicken, lamb, and also include fish. With these meats many times there are additions of tomato, peppers, eggplant. The meat and vegetables are usually barbecued on metal skewers. Before barbecuing the meat, it is usually marinated and usually left to sit for 24-48 hours.

At the same time, kebab in Armenia is used to name a dish prepared of ground meat spiced with pepper, parsley and other herbs and roasted on skewers.

In Azerbaijan

Tika kabab and lyula kabab from mutton, as served in Qəçrəş, Quba Rayon, north-eastern Azerbaijan.

The main varieties include tika kabab, lyula kabab (doyma kabab in some places), tas kababy and tava kabab. The meat for tika kabab is sometimes prepared in basdirma (an onion gravy and thyme) and then goes onto the ramrods. When served, it could be adorned with sauce-like pomegranate addon (narsharab) and other condiments, and may also be served wrapped in Lavash.

In Bulgaria

In Bulgaria, the word кебап (kebap) refers to meat stews with relatively few or no vegetables. Dishes which are known in English as different kinds of "kebab" are not perceived as a distinct group of dishes. The Döner kebab is wide spread as fast food and is called merely дюнер (döner) thus not relating it to the Bulgarian кебап at all. Шиш кебап (Shish kebap) or Шашлик (Shahlik) is also common and has the same name as in Turkish.

In China

Chuan-style lamb kebab sticks sold by a street vendor.

كاۋاپ (Kawap) in Uyghur or Chuanr 串 called "chuàn" in Mandarin, often referred to as "Chua'r" in Pekingese throughout the North, is a variation of kebab originating from the Uyghurs in the Western province of Xinjiang, and a popular dish in Chinese Islamic cuisine.

It has since spread across the rest of the country and become a popular street food.

Small pieces of meat are skewered and either roasted or deep-fried. Common spices and condiments include cumin called "ziran", pepper, sesame, and sesame oil.

Although the most traditional form of chuanr uses lamb or mutton, other types of meat, such as chicken, beef, pork, and seafood, can be used as well.

During Chinese New Year, it is common to find fruit kebabs candied and covered with a hard candy sugar coating. At the famous Wángfǔjǐng in Beijing, it is very common to find many kinds of fruit kebabs of everything from bananas, strawberries, and seasonal Chinese fruits, as well as scorpions, squids, and various Japanese flavored kebabs all year long.

In Greece

Souvlaki is a popular Greek fast food consisting of small pieces of meat and sometimes vegetables grilled on a skewer. It may be served on the skewer for eating out of hand, in a pita sandwich with garnishes and sauces, or on a dinner plate, often with fried potatoes. The meat usually used in Greece and Cyprus is pork, although chicken and lamb may also be used.

In India

Shami kebab from Lucknow, India

Kebabs in India are more or less similar to most other kebab preparations along with their distinct taste which can be credited to the spices native to the Indian subcontinent. All the varieties such as Sheekh, Doner (known as Shawarma), Shammi Tikka, and other forms of roasted and grilled meats are savoured in South Asia. Some popular kebabs are:

In Iran

Iranian kabab

Kabab (Persian: کباب‎) is a national dish of Iran. It is either served with steamed, saffroned basmati or Persian rice (chelow) , in this case it is called "Chelow Kabab" (Persian: چلو کباب ‎)) or served with with Persian naan (bread).There are several distinct Persian varieties of Kabab.

It is served with the basic Iranian meal accompaniments, in addition to grilled tomatoes on the side of the rice, and butter on top of the rice. It is an old northern tradition (probably originating in Tehran) that a raw egg yolk should be placed on top of the rice as well, though this is strictly optional, and most restaurants will not serve the rice this way unless it is specifically requested. "Somagh", powdered sumac, is also made available and its use varies based on tastes to a small dash on the rice or a heavy sprinkling on both rice and meat, particularly when used with red (beef/veal/lamb) meat. At Persian restaurants, the combination of one Kabab Barg and one Kabab Koobideh is typically called Soltani, meaning 'Sultan's Feast.' The traditional beverage of choice to accompany kebab is doogh, a sour yogurt drink with mint and salt.

In the old bazaar tradition, the rice (which is covered with a tin lid) and accompaniments are served first, immediately followed by the kebabs, which are brought to the table by the waiter, who holds several skewers in his left hand, and a piece of flat bread (typically nan-e lavash) in his right. A skewer is placed directly on the rice and while holding the kebab down on the rice with the bread, the skewer is quickly pulled out. With the two most common kebabs, barg and koobideh, two skewers are always served. In general, bazaar kebab restaurants only serve these two varieties, though there are exceptions.

Kabab koobideh

Iranian Kabab Koobideh

Kabab koobideh (Persian: کباب کوبیده‎) or kūbide (Persian: کوبیده‎) is an Iranian minced meat kabab which is made from ground lamb, beef, or chicken, often mixed with parsley and chopped onions.

Kabab Koobideh contains: ground meat, onion, salt, pepper, turmeric, and seasoning. These ingredients are mixed together until the mixture becomes smooth and sticky. One egg is added to help the mix stick together. The mixture is then pressed around a skewer. Koobideh Kabab is typically 7–8 inches (18–20 cm) long.

Kabab barg

Kabāb-e Barg (Persian: کباب برگ‎) is a Persian style barbecued lamb, chicken or beef kebab dish. The main ingredients of Kabab Barg - a short form of this name&nbsp, are fillets of beef tenderloin, lamb shank or chicken breast, onions and olive oil.

Jujeh Kabab - An Iranian chicken kebob

Marinade is prepared by the mixture of half a cup of olive oil, three onions, garlic, half teaspoon saffron, salt and black pepper. One kilogram of lamb is cut into 1 cm thick and 4–5 cm long pieces. It should be marinated overnight in refrigerator, and the container should be covered. The next day, the lamb is threaded on long, thin metal skewers. It is brushed with marinade and is barbecued for 5–10 minutes on each side. Kabab-e Barg

Jujeh kabab

Jūje-kabāb (Persian: جوجه‌کباب‎) consists of pieces of chicken first marinated in minced onion and lemon juice with saffron then grilled over a fire. It is sometimes served with grilled tomato and pepper. Jujeh kabab is one of the most popular Persian dishes.

Kabab bakhtiari

Combination of Jujeh Kabab and Kabab Barg in a decussate form.

In the Levant

Döner kebap in Istanbul

Shawarma and other varieties of kebabs can be found at most restaurants representing this region. The preparation of Shawarma consists of chicken, turkey, beef, veal, or mixed meats being placed on a spit (commonly a vertical spit in restaurants), and being grilled for as long as a day. Shavings are cut off the block of meat for serving, and the remainder of the block of meat is kept heated on the rotating spit. Although it can be served in shavings on a plate (generally with accompaniments), shawarma also refers to a pita bread sandwich or wrap made with shawarma meat.

In Norway

In Norway, the kebab was introduced by Turkish and Arab immigrants during the 1980s. It soon became a very popular meal after a night out, gaining a cult status among young people during the 1990s[citation needed] . The kebab has become a symbol of immigration from the Muslim world, and speaking Norwegian with an Arab accent or with a lot of words and expressions borrowed from the Turkish, Arabic, and Persian languages is sometimes referred to as "Kebabnorsk" (Kebab Norwegian).

The kebabs in Norway are served in a variety of ways, commonly in fast-food shops selling both hamburgers and kebabs. The kebab roll has become increasingly popular, with the kebab not served in pita bread, but rather wrapped in pizza dough (making it look like a spring roll) for easy consumption. The most "Norwegian" kebab to date is probably the whalemeat kebab sold at the Inferno Metal Festival. As of 2008, the average price of the kebab in Norway lies around 65 kroner, or about €8. In Bergen the average price of a kebab is around 50 kr. In Bergen kebab is most commonly served in the dürüm variety, with two types of sauces, one standard and one optional hot chili variety.

The Norwegian Food Safety Authority in 2007 issued a warning about cheap kebabs. According to Verdens Gang they estimated that more than 80% of kebab shops in Oslo use illegally produced meat. It was warned that such meat could be dangerous to eat because it could contain salmonella or other bacteria, and that it could be connected to organised crime.[14]

In Pakistan

Pakistani-style seekh kebabs being grilled on a skewer

Pakistani cuisine is rich with different kebabs. Meat including beef, chicken, lamb and fish is used in kababs. Some popular Kebabs are:

In Malaysia

Kebabs in Malaysia are generally sold at pasar malam (night markets) and in shopping mall food courts. Normally the meat, after being cut from the spit is pan fried with onions and hot sauce then placed into a pita bread pocket before being filled with condiments such as tomatoes, mayonnaise, onion and lettuce.[citation needed]

In Turkey

Before taking its modern form, as mentioned in Ottoman travel books of the 18th century,[15][16] the doner used to be a horizontal stack of meat rather than vertical, probably sharing common ancestors with the Cağ Kebabı of the Eastern Turkish province of Erzurum.

In his own family biography, İskender Efendi of 19th century Bursa writes that "he and his grandfather had the idea of roasting the lamb vertically rather than horizontally, and invented for that purpose a vertical mangal". Since then Hacı İskender is known as the inventor of Turkish Döner Kebap.[17][18] With time, the meat took a different marinade, got leaner, and eventually took its modern shape.[16] The Greek gyro, along with the similar Arab Shawarma and Mexican Tacos al Pastor, are derived from this dish.[19]


Shish kebap ("Şiş", pronounced shish, meaning "skewer" is a Turkish word.[20][21]) is a dish consisting of meat threaded on a skewer and grilled. Any kind of meat may be used; cubes of fruit or vegetables are often threaded on the spit as well. Typical vegetables include tomato, bell pepper, onions, and mushrooms.

In English, the word "kebab" usually refers to shish kebab.[4][22]


İskender kebap, the original döner kebab with yoghurt and tomate sauce, invented in Bursa, Turkey.
Slicing "döner kebap" off a rotating vertical spit.

Döner kebab, literally "rotating kebab" in Turkish, is sliced lamb, beef or chicken, slowly roasted on a vertical rotating spit. The Middle Eastern shawarma, Mexican tacos al pastor and Greek gyros are all derived from the Turkish döner kebab which was invented in Bursa in the 19th century by a cook named Hacı İskender.[23] Döner kebab is most popularly served in pita bread, as it is best known, with salad, but is also served in a dish with a salad and bread or French fries on the side, or used for Turkish pizzas called pide or "kebabpizza". Take-out döner kebab or shawarma restaurants are common in many parts of Europe. Döner kebab is popular in many European countries, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.

In parts of Europe 'kebab' usually refers to döner kebab in pita. Australian Doner Kebabs are usually served in wraps which are toasted before eating.

In Australia and the UK, kebabs (or döner meat and chips) are most popularly eaten after a night out, representing a large part of nightlife culture. As a result, many kebab shops (and vans) will do their main business in the hours around closing time for local pubs and clubs (usually from 10 pm to 4 am). The same applies for Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland, Ireland, New Zealand, Canada, Scandinavia and Italy. It is therefore not uncommon to find similar late-night kebab vending shops in holiday-clubbing destinations such as Ibiza and Thailand.

Health concerns about döner kebab, including unacceptable salt and fat levels and improper labeling of meat used, are repeatedly reported in UK media.[24][25][26] The German-style döner kebab was supposedly invented by a Turkish immigrant in Berlin in the 1970s, and became a popular German take-away food during the 1990s, but is almost exclusively sold by Turks and considered a Turkish specialty in Germany.


Adana kebabı (or kıyma kebabı) is a long, hand-minced meat kebab mounted on a wide iron skewer and grilled over charcoal. It is generally "hot". A version "less hot" is generally called Urfa kebabı.

Steam kebab

Steam kebab (Turkish Buğu kebabı) is a Turkish kebab dish which is prepared in an earthenware casserole. The casserole's lid is sealed with dough in order to cook the meat in its own juices. The dish is prepared with pearl onions, garlic, thyme, and other spices. In Tekirdağ, it is served with cumin; in Izmir, it is served with mastic.[27]

Testi kebabı

Testi kebab as served in Goreme, Turkey

A dish from Central Anatolia and the Mid-Western Black Sea region, consisting of a mixture of meat and vegetables cooked in a clay pot or jug over fire (testi means jug in Turkish). The pot is sealed with bread dough or foil and is broken when serving.[28][29]

Other variants

Left to right: Chenjeh Kebab, Kebab Koobideh, Jujeh Kebab in an Afghan restaurant.

Kebab Kenjeh کباب کنجه

Kenjeh is a popular meat dish in the Middle East. It originated in Iran and was later adopted in Asia Minor. Kebab Kenjeh is now found worldwide. Lamb is traditionally the meat used in this dish. The ingredients include lamb, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. It is usually served with rice, grilled tomato, and raw onion. There are also local variations in the pronunciation of Kenje Kebab کنجه کباب.

Kebab Halabi

Kebab Hindi from Aleppo

A kind of kebab served with a spicy tomato sauce and Aleppo pepper, very common in Syria and Lebanon, named after the city of Aleppo (Halab). Kebab halabi has around 26 variants[30] including:


Kakori kebab is a South Asian kebab attributed to the city of Kakori in Uttar Pradesh, India. There is much folklore about this famous kebab that takes its name from a small hamlet called Kakori on the outskirts of Lucknow.

One such story says that the kakori kebab was created by the Nawab of Kakori, Syed Mohammad Haider Kazmi, who, stung by the remark of a British officer about the coarse texture of the kebabs served at dinner, ordered his rakabdars (gourmet cooks) to evolve a more refined seekh kebab.

After ten days of research, they came up with a kebab so soft and so juicy it won the praise of the very British officer who had scorned the Nawab.

The winning formula his rakabdars came upon included mince obtained from no other part but the raan ki machhli (tendon of the leg of mutton), khoya, white pepper and a mix of powdered spices.[31]


Chapli Kebab served in a Birmingham Balti restaurant

Chapli kebab is a patty made from beef mince,[32] and is one of the popular barbecue meals in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The word Chapli comes from the Pashto word Chaprikh which means flat. It is prepared flat and round and served with naan. The kebab originates from Mardan and is a common dish in Pashtun cuisine. Mardan is famous for chapli kabab not only locally but also internationally. Chapli Kebab is made of minced meat or chicken, onions, tomatoes, green chilies, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, salt, black pepper, lemon juice or promegranate seeds, eggs, cornstarch and coriander leaves.


Burrah kebab is another kebab from Mughlai Cuisine, fairly popular in South Asia. This is usually made of goat meat, liberally marinated with spices and charcoal grilled.


Kalmi Kebab served with onions and cabbage in Delhi, India.

Kalmi kebab a popular snack in Indian cuisine. The dish is made by marinating chicken drumsticks and placing them in a tandoor. Various kinds of freshly ground Indian spices are added to the yogurt used for the marination of the chicken. When prepared, the drumsticks are usually garnished with mint leaves and served with onions and Indian bread.


Galouti Kabab as served in Lucknow, India

One of the more delicate kebabs from South Asia, made of minced goat / bison / buffalo meat. Legend has it that the galawati kebab was created for an aging Nawab Wajid Ali Shah of Lucknow who lost his teeth, but not his passion for meat dishes.

‘Galawati’ means “melt in your mouth” and was perfect for the toothless Nawab who continued savouring this until his last days.

Traditionally, green papaya is used to make it tender. After being mixed with a few select herbs and spices (great chefs rarely reveal what they are exactly), the very finely ground meat is shaped into patties and fried in pure ghee until they are browned.

The original recipe that brought many a smile on the Nawab’s face, albeit toothless, and many a sigh of satisfaction, is supposed to have more than 100 aromatic spices.

The Galouti Kebab is part of the "Awadhi Cuisine". Along with the Lucknowi biryani and Kakori Kebab, this is one of the outstanding highlights of the great food tradition from the Awadh region in Uttar Pradesh, India.

Many leading Indian hotel chains have taken to popularising the Awadhi food tradition, with the Galouti Kebab being a Pièce de résistance.

The home of this kebab is Lucknow. It is most famously had at the almost iconic eatery "Tundey Miyan" at Old Lucknow.

Similar dishes

See also



  1. ^ Gil Marks (2010). Encyclopedia of Jewish Food. John Wiley and Sons. pp. 296.
  2. ^ a b Wright, Clifford A. (1999). A Mediterranean Feast. New York: William Morrow. pp. 333.
  3. ^ Achaya, K. T. (1998). A Historical Dictionary of Indian Food. Delhi: Oxford University Press. pp. 115.
  4. ^ a b Davidson, Alan (1999). Oxford Companion to Food. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 429.
  5. ^ ὀβελίσκος, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
  6. ^ Homer, "Iliad" 1.465
  7. ^ Aristophanes, "Acharnians" 1007, "Clouds" 178, "Wasps" 354, "Birds" 388, 672
  8. ^ Xenophon, "Hellenica" HG3.3.7
  9. ^ Aristotle, "Politics" 1324b19
  10. ^ κρατευταί, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
  11. ^ Prehistoric souvlaki of Santorini, To Vima (in Greek), 6-2-2011 (picture 2 of 7)
  12. ^ Thera’s Akrotiri site soon to get shade ekathimerini
  13. ^ Krateutai (firedogs) from Santorini
  14. ^ Ivar Brandvol (2007). "Advarer mot billig kebabmat" (in Norwegian). Retrieved 27 October 2007.
  15. ^ "Döner Hakkında – Dönerin Tarihçesi" (in Turkish). Dönercibaşı- Özbilir Grup. Retrieved 3 March 2009.[dead link]
  16. ^ a b İskenderoğlu, Yavuz (2008). "Yavuz İskenderoğlu-Kebapçı İskender Tarihçesi" (in Turkish). Kebapçı İskender. Retrieved 3 March 2009.
  17. ^ Kenneth F. Kiple, Kriemhild Coneè Ornelas, eds., Cambridge World History of Food, Cambridge, 2000. ISBN 0-521-40216-6. Vol. 2, p. 1147.
  18. ^ İskenderoğlu, Yavuz (2008) (in Turkish). Yavuz İskenderoğlu-Kebapçı İskender Tarihçesi. "Yüzyıllardır yerdeki ateşe paralel olarak pişirilen kuzuyu, dik mangalda ayağa kaldırma!": Kebapçı İskender. Retrieved 3 March 2009
  19. ^ Kenneth F. Kiple, Kriemhild Coneè Ornelas, eds., Cambridge World History of Food, Cambridge, 2000. ISBN 0-521-40216-6. Vol. 2, p. 1147
  20. ^ Glenn Randall Mack, Asele Surina (2005). Food culture in Russia and Central Asia. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 83–84.
  21. ^ Internet dictionary of Turkish Language Association]
  22. ^ Prosper Montagne, ed. (2001). Larousse Gastronomique. New York: Clarkson Potter. pp. 646. ISBN 0-609-60971-8.
  23. ^ Kenneth F. Kiple, Kriemhild Coneè Ornelas, eds., Cambridge World History of Food, Cambridge, 2000. ISBN 0-521-40216-6. Vol. 2, p. 1147.
  24. ^ Guardian Health — Kebab anyone?, The Guardian.
  25. ^ How unhealthy is a doner kebab?, BBC News Magazine, 21 January 2009
  26. ^ UK study reveals 'shocking' kebabs, BBC News, 27 January 2009
  27. ^ Kebab aux petits oignons, Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism
  28. ^ Testi kebab: a general description. Retrieved on 22 May 2009
  29. ^ Testi kebab: a specialty of Cappadocia. Retrieved on 22 May 2009 (scroll to the bottom of the page)
  30. ^ Kuwait News Agency (KUNA)
  31. ^ Classic Cooking of Avadh - Google Books. Retrieved 2 January 2010.
  32. ^ The multicultural cookbook for students - Google Books. Retrieved 2 January 2010.