Kabob Koobideh (کباب کوبیده) is made with ground lamb or beef or a combination of the two. This is one of the most popular kabobs you can find on the streets of Iran. This Kabob is usually grilled over hot coals and is served in fancy restaurants and clubs, as well as in the little shacks scattered in any given recreation park. You can also find this kabob by following your nose in search of the source of the most heavenly aroma that fills the street or the indoor bazaar.
The aroma will lead you to a vendor, or as we call “Kabobi” (the Kabob Guy) with very modest equipment that sometimes can be as simple as a small charcoal grill and a bowl of ground lamb mixed with chopped onions and spices.
He will also have plenty of lavash or Sangak (thin Persian breads) on the side to make a quick wrap with the kabob right off the grill and maybe a grilled tomato with a slice of raw onion. Believe it or not the Kabob Koobideh grilled in these tiny little grills on the street corner smells more mouthwatering than any kabob served in fancy restaurants. No matter how sophisticated a restaurant menu, good Kabob Koobideh is as popular as any kabob offered on the menu and it is usually served with Persian Steamed Rice. In some restaurants this kabob is served side by side with a skewer of Kabob Barg (filet mignon kabob) and the dish is called Kabob Soltani, meaning fit for a soltan!
In our house Kabob Koobideh is served with Persian Steamed Rice and Sangak. A piece of Sangak is used to pull the kabob off the skewer and then divided among guests to enjoy. Hot kabob juices make the Sangak quite a desirable delicacy!
My Kabobi guy is my husband who has perfected his kabobs and this is his delicious recipe and technique. The technique to making kabobs is just as important as the recipe, if not more. No matter how great a recipe if the technique is not done correctly the outcome is going to be disappointing to say the least! I will be explaining his technique step by step, but I also want to mention one simple but important device that he uses when he grills kabobs. He places two hollow square metal pipes, purchased from hardware store, across the top and bottom of the grates so the meat grills without direct contact with the hot surface.
Finely chop the onion in the food processor. Transfer to a sieve and press on it with a spoon to drain all the liquid. Discard the liquid and mix the onion pulp with the ground meats
For best results make this kabob with fresh ground beef and lamb, not previously frozen, in room temperature. Mix the meat and onion pulp with the rest of the ingredients and knead with your fingers
After kneading the mixture for a few minutes it will resemble a paste that will stick together and will not fall apart when you pick it up in your hand. Make a ball with the mixture and place a 1-inch wide metal skewer on it, then start spreading the meat on the middle section of the skewer by opening and closing your fingers to stick the mixture securely to the skewer. Leave a few inches from the tip and handle section of the skewer clear for grilling. The thickness of the meat mixture should be about 1/2 inch all around the skewer.
Press the meat between your thumb and index finger to make several indentations about 1 inch apart. Arrange the prepared Kabobs on a shallow tray with raised sides or a baking dish, so the meat does not touch the surface of the pan.
Narrow skewers work better than wide ones for the vegetables. The vegetables take longer to get ready, so if there is enough room on the grill start with the vegetables and halfway through grilling add the kabob skewers. If the space is limited, grill the vegetables first and keep them warm until Kabobs are done. The kabobs are going to take only minutes to grill. Arrange the kabobs on the grill (over the two previously mentioned metal pipes) and then right away start turning them in the order that they were placed; meaning, start turning the first skewer that was placed on the hot grill and continue with the rest of the skewers. The reason for this is that if one side of the kabob cooks through when you try to turn it, the uncooked part is going to fall off. Once the kabobs are grilled on both sides, you can turn them again until they are grilled to your taste.
Traditionally Kabob Koobideh is served with hot Persian Steamed Rice tossed with cubes of butter (room temperature) and sprinkled with Sumac. The drink of choice is usually Doogh (Persian Yogurt Drink) sprinkled with dried Persian Kakooti (an herb with a taste similar to Greek oregano or thyme that grows wild in the foothills of some areas of Iran). Persians love their Chelokabob (Rice and Kabob) with slices of raw onions (red or white) and fresh herbs (Sabzi Khordan). The golden beauties on the top right corner are pieces of TahDig which is the beloved crispy Lavash bread toasted in the bottom of the pot of Persian Rice.
You will need:
charcoal grill prepared with hot coals or a gas grill preheated to high
Ten 1-inch wide stainless steel skewers (available in most Persian or Middle Eastern markets)
Narrow skewers or metal grilling basket for grilling the vegetables
- 1 ½ pounds ground beef (80-85% lean)
- 1 pound ground lamb (80-85% lean)
- 1 ½ medium yellow onions, quartered
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sumac (An spice sold at the Middle Eastern markets)
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- ¼ cup butter, melted (for brushing over the kabobs after grilling)
- FOR THE GRILLED VEGETABLES
- 4 ripe but firm Roma tomatoes
- 1 large green bell pepper, stem removed, deseeded and quartered
- Olive oil to brush the vegetables with before grilling
- You will need ten 1-inch metal skewers.
- For best results the meat should be fresh (not previously frozen) and at room temperature.
- Finely chop the onion pieces in a food processor until very juicy. Place a fine metal mesh over a bowl and strain the processed onion by pressing it with a spatula. Discard the juice.
- Add the remaining onion pulp to a medium bowl.
- Add the ground beef and lamb, minced garlic, salt, spices and egg to the bowl. Knead all of the ingredients for several minutes until the mixture is paste like and sticks together without falling apart.
- Fill up a small bowl with tap water, this is for wetting your fingers so the meat does not stick to them when you are making the kabobs.
- Divide the meat into 10 equal balls.
- Get one of the balls of meat in the palm of your hand, place the skewer on top of it and squeeze the meat around the skewer. Once you make sure that meat is not going to fall off, start squeezing it from top to bottom and cover the middle section of the skewer. Leave the top and bottom of the skewer clear. Wet your fingers with the tap water and keep squeezing and spreading the meat evenly around the skewer. The meat should be about ½ inch thick all around the skewer.
- Set the skewer gently on a shallow baking sheet with sides, so the meat does not touch the floor of the baking sheet. Continue making the rest of the kabobs. At this point the uncooked kabobs can sit over the counter while you get the grill ready.
- To Grill Kabob Koobideh: You will need two square metal pipes that you will place parallel to each other on top and bottom of the cooking grate of your grill lengthwise. The top pipe is for placing the tip of the skewers and the bottom one is for the handles. This is so the skewers are raised and the meat does not touch the hot grate, otherwise it will stick and fall right off.
- The coals are ready when they are gray and covered with ash.
- If you’re grilling vegetables it is always better to skewer them separate from the kabobs. I use thinner skewers for the vegetables because if the skewers are too wide the turgid vegetables such as green peppers will tear and fall apart.
- The vegetables take longer to grill than the meat, so if the space is limited, grill the vegetables first and keep them warm under an aluminum foil. If there is enough grilling surface start grilling the veggies first and halfway through grilling, start the kabobs.
- Place as many kabob skewers as you can fit on the grill, leave some space between them. As soon as you are done arranging all the skewers, start turning the first skewer and keep turning the rest in the order that you have placed them on the grill. The reason for this quick turning is to cook both sides of the kabobs for a short time so the meat cooks and firms up all around and does not fall off the skewer. Do not overcook the kabobs because they are thin and tend to dry out. Turn the kabobs again until you get the doneness you desire. The kabobs should have a nice grilled color on the outside and no longer pink inside, but still very juicy.
- When the kabobs are ready, remove them from the heat and into a container lined with a large aluminum foil. Keep the kabobs covered with the foil until ready to serve.
- To serve, use a piece of flat bread (Sangak, soft lavash, or pita bread) larger than the palm of your hand. Start at the end with handle, grab the kabob and slide it off the skewer onto the serving platter. This is the easiest and safest way to pull the kabobs off the skewer. The flavorful kabob juices make the bread so delicious that everyone will want a piece.
- Brush melted butter over the kabobs.
- Enjoy Kabob Koobideh with Persian rice that has been tossed with cubed softened butter and a sprinkle of sumac. Serve it with a side of grilled vegetables, a slice of raw red or white onion and Sabzi Khordan (fresh herbs). The drink of choice is usually Doogh (Persian yogurt drink)
- This kabob is equally delicious served with grilled vegetables over Sangak or Lavash, which are both Persian flat breads.
If your KitchenAid has a meat grinder attachment try making your own ground beef from cross rib roast, chuck roast or any variety of marbleized meat at home.
Doogh (Persian Yogurt Drink) - Mix equal parts water or club soda with yogurt. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle lightly with dried Persian Kakooti (Dried Greek oregano or dried thyme make a good substitute). Serve in glasses over ice cubes.