I have to admit something. I am a bit of a purist when it comes to certain things and Uzbek food happens to be one of them. See, some of my friends try to tell me that they make great kabobs and then they go into great detail telling me how they marinate it in vinegar (eek!) and that they use pork (oy!). I grit my teeth and smile and since “sounds nice”. But to me, that’s just meat on a stick. Actually, anything that deviates from the shashlik I grew up with is just meat on a stick. The recipe that follows is a little unusual, but trust me, if you make it this way, you’ll never call anything else “shish-kabob”. Actually, my friends who have tasted this divine food, are still talking about it longingly, nine years later. We don’t do this often because as you can see, it’s very labor intensive. But it’s SO GOOD AND SO WORTH IT!
But first things first. The ingredients. Shish-kabob (shashlik) is made mostly from lamb and sometimes from calf liver. I can’t remember ever eating chicken shish-kabobs, but I’m sure there are some varieties. Also, meat can be ground and then shaped around the skewer, but it has a different name then (I forgot what it is). Then you need spices (salt, cumin, coriander) and seltzer water.
1. You start with a leg of lamb in a quantity that depends on how many people you’ll feed (I’d recommend at least a pound per person). Cut up the meat and the fat into bite-sized pieces. Don’t forget the fat. It’s delicious. Trust me.
2. Marinate the meat and the fat with the spices and a bottle of seltzer water. Never use anything sour like vinegar or wine when marinating lamb (at lest for shish-kabobs) since it will make the meat tough. Be sure to turn the meat all around to make sure it’s evenly marinated. It’s best to marinate at least 8 hours, but a full 24 hours is better.
3. You need a special grill called mangal (mahn-gahl). You can use your regular charcoal grill, but it will take longer because a regular grill isn’t as large. Cook till it’s done.
4. Serve with a tomato salad or with vinegared onions (soak onions in vinegar for a few hours and sprinkle with some paprika).
So, unless your shish-kabobs are like these, though tasty it might be, it’s just meat on a stick to me. 😉