Archives for posts with tag: Pakistan

Nights when I’m lazy and don’t know what to make I always turn to Pakistani food.  I don’t have to think about it and it just comes naturally.  Even though seekh kebabs might be daunting for some, they are so simple and you don’t need a hoard of ingredients for them as is the case with most Pakistani dishes.

I am not creative with Pakistani food or add my own twist to it.  I keep it as it is, in my mind it needs no alterations.  There have been occasions when I see people, bloggers and others who add something to a Pakistani dish and make me think, “not such a great idea.”  Yes, I know food is relative to each person and flavors are as well.  But, somehow I can’t bring myself to do it.  Plus, no need for me to be judgmental when I probably corrupt other cultures’ food to no end.  This makes me recall my recent trip to Marrakech, I told the cooking instructor, Lala Nazha, that I add nuts and herbs and dried fruits to couscous and she sort of looked at me with disdain, sort of like, “that’s not authentic.”

Seekh Kebabs are usually something you eat at a tandoori restaurant, but here in Kingston I don’t have any Pakistani restaurants and have to fend for myself.  Well, there is one, but my husband tried it before I moved here and said it’s not good, so I’m taking his word for it.  I usually get my fix when I visit my in-laws in Toronto because if you can say one thing about them, it is that they LOVE to barbecue.  (Of course that’s not the only good thing to say about them.)  When I say LOVE, I mean the strongest form of the word.  Chicken tikkas and seekh kebabs (beef) are served by the tray-ful, full of smokey charcoaly flavor.  Plus, my in-laws’ food is so good that they don’t like any Pakistani restaurant in Toronto.  I recommend some and then they never like them.  Their standards are quite high.  If I cooked like them, I wouldn’t need restaurants either.

Usually, I make my seekh kebabs out of chicken, mainly for the health reasons.  Authentic beef seekh kebabs have a great deal of fat.  Extra fat is added into the meat grinder, just so they stay moist.  I use ground chicken, but if you have a meat grinder, by all means by whole pieces of boneless white and dark meat chicken (or beef) and grind the spices and vegetables/herbs all together in the grinder, sort of like making a sausage.  These kebabs are amazing with naan, green chutney, and salad.

Chicken Seekh Kebabs

Makes 7-8 Kebabs


1 pound ground chicken (white and dark meat), or ground beef

1/4 yellow split peas (roasted on a dry pan until they start to become slightly browned and slightly cooled, then ground in a spice grinder)

1/2 a red onion, chopped

1/2 a cup packed cilantro, chopped

10 mint leaves, chopped

2 green chilies, chipped finely (use less or omit seeds for less spicy)

2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely

2 inch piece of ginger, grated finely

1 tablespoon garam masala (freshly ground, if possible)

2 teaspoons cumin powder

2 teaspoons coriander powder

1/2 a teaspoon red chili powder, or to taste

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

some canola oil or butter for basting the kebabs


Combine all the ingredients, except the oil in a food processor (or by hand) and pulse until well combined, about a minute or two.  When combined, form the meat into approximately 6 inch sausages, not too thick though.  If you have thick metal skewers use those and form the meat onto the skewers.  The skewer method will only work on an outdoor grill.

If you are able to let the kebabs marinate with the spices for at least an hour before cooking.

Cook the kebabs on a grill pan on medium heat (or outdoor grill) for about 6 minutes per side, or until completely cooked through.  While cooking, keep basting the kebabs with butter or oil, so that they develop a sheen or glisten.

*If your meat is very lean add some oil or melted butter so that the meat does not dry up when cooking.

*Wet your hands with water while shaping the kebabs, this way the meat won’t stick to your hands.

*As many of you know Pakistan has been ravaged by floods, the international response is severely lacking and innocent people are suffering.  Hold back any preconceived notions you may or may not have about Pakistan and look at the human suffering that is occurring there.  Please donate, many organizations are taking funds.  My family has gone through Unicef.

Also, see Shayma’s (The Spice Spoon’s) poignant call for help here.


Chicken tikka is ubiquitous with South Asian cuisine.  It is a popular takeout item, but is just as easily prepared at home.  Making this dish in a tandoori oven would be ideal but my apartment kitchen could not handle such advanced apparatus.  I actually prefer my homemade version to *some* restaurant versions because in many restaurants I have been to, the chicken is practically dyed an ungodly red color.  That food coloring or whatever it is that they use, really turned me off chicken tikka for a while.  To me, this look is as unappealing as an over peroxidized bleached blond.  (I do not have anything against bleached blondes, just a comparison in dying methods ;). )

Another issue I had with chicken tikka was that I became dependent on Shan Masalas in order to prepare it.  If you do not know of Shan masalas (there are many other brands that produce similar spice mixes) are prepared spice mixes for any Pakistani dish you could dream of.  When I say any, I MEAN any.  They are 99 cent wonders for some.  Throw in some onions, ginger, and garlic and your xyz Pakistani dish is made.  Though, there is a convenience factor to these masalas, there is the inevitable fact that everyone’s food started tasting the same.  The authenticity of the cuisine was gone.  For a while I couldn’t tell you what went into Biryani, it was all in the Shan Masala for me, why would I need to know?  Now, I steer clear of  these prepared masalas as much possible.

Oh no, I made them sound like the most evil thing on earth didn’t I?  They’re not that bad (though they are laden with sodium, but that’s another issue.) At least, they encourage people who wouldn’t normally cook, to actually go into the kitchen.  Also, I must admit, I do add just a bit of the prepared chicken tikka mix because of the nice color it adds.  (Not the unnatural mutated red color as previously mentioned.)

Chicken tikka is so easy to prepare and yields delicious results.  I freshly grind all my spices to produce even more flavor, but if you don’t have a spice grinder, powdered ones will work great.  Also, I have noticed that South Asian spices in regular markets can be exorbitantly expensive.  Do check out Indian/Pakistani groceries where the same spices will be of better quality and at lower prices.  South Asians have reached all corners of the globe, so I’m sure there will be an Indian/Pakistani grocer somewhere near you.  I’m originally from Rhode Island aka the smallest state, and we have at least 3 South Asian grocers there.  Enjoy this dish, it’s definitely a crowd pleaser and great for large gatherings!

Chicken Tikka

Serves 2-3


4 chicken leg quarters skin removed and separated into leg and thigh portions, and using your knife make 3 slits on each piece of chicken so that the marinade can penetrate into the meat, (if you get your chicken directly from a butcher ask him or her to remove the kidneys as well)

7-8 cloves of garlic mashed in a mortar and pestle with 1/4 cup of water

1/2 inch piece of ginger mashed on a mortar and pestle (mixed with the garlic)

juice of 1 lime

2 teaspoons laal mirch powder, I believe this is similar to cayenne pepper but in Indian/Pakistani grocery stores it is called red chili powder.  I do not like to say chili powder because some may get confused with Tex-Mex Chili.  I prefer using Mehran brand red chili powder.

1 tablespoon cumin powder

1 tablespoon coriander powder

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

1 pinch of ajwain (carom) seeds

1 teaspoon Shan Chicken Tikka Masala

1 teaspoon salt

1 heaping tablespoon of yogurt

1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil

sliced onions, limes, green chilies, and tomatoes, cilantro, for garnish


Put the chicken into a large bowl.  Mix all the spices together and add the lime juice, ginger/garlic paste made in the mortar and pestle, oil, and, yogurt (I forgot to add my yogurt until the end that is why you can see it separately in my pictures, but it really does not make a difference.)  Combine these ingredients until they form a paste.  Slather this paste over the chicken and rub it into the slits.  Marinate in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours, if you are pressed for time, at least 1 hour.  After marination place the chicken on an oiled baking tray and bake at 425 degrees for about 40 minutes or until the chicken in cooked through.  Then, turn the oven to broil and allow to broil for about 5 minutes or until the chicken gets a little charred.  Serve with hot naan and the garnishes.

*This chicken is also wonderful on the grill in the summertime!