- What is a Shami Kebab? What's in it?
- How do you make Shami Kebabs?
- Do I use ground/minced meat or whole chunks of meat for Shami Kebabs?
- How do I pound/mash the Shami Kebab mixture?
- Best cuts of meat to use for Shami Kebabs
- How to freeze Shami Kebabs
- Additional Shami Kebab tips
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Other recipes you may enjoy with Shami Kebabs
The Desi urge to ALWAYS have a freezer stocked full of Shami Kebab, ready to fry on demand, is REAL.
And the anxiety when that freezer stash begins to deplete… also real.
Shami Kebabs have always been my best bud, helping me out through tough times. Most notably was through the final months of my most recent pregnancy – I made a batch of about 50 Shami Kebabs for the freezer at around 7 months and they saw us through till I gave birth. It was an absolute life saver because I was in and out of the hospital every other day for the rest of that pregnancy!
I never quite got around to making a batch for the post-partum period, and if you’re out here reading this with a baby on the way, please take my advice: MAKE THAT SHAMI KEBAB FREEZER STASH. Future you will thank you! I really missed my stash when I was back home with 2 kids and didn’t have enough hands to get all the jobs done!
Shami Kebabs are wonderful to eat in sandwiches, wraps or paratha rolls, alongside rice, even on their own with your favourite sauce and a fork. My favourite way is in a Shami Anda Bun Kebab, which is basically a Shami Kebab burger with chutneys, salad and an omelette.
What is a Shami Kebab? What’s in it?
A Shami Kebab is a kebab made out of meat and lentils. Chicken, lamb, mutton, beef – you can make a Shami Kebab out of any meat.
It also contains a variety of spices, chopped onion, fresh coriander and green chillies (if you fancy them!).
Unlike normal kebabs, which tend to be a raw mixture spiced and then cooked, the Shami Kebab is unique in that you first cook it till the meat and lentils are tender, then proceed to grind/mash, then form it into kebab-shapes, dip it into egg and then fry it.
How do you make Shami Kebabs?
So the process is a bit longer than making a regular kebab. Here’s how it goes:
- Meat, lentils and spices all go into a large pot with some water. All of this will cook on low heat with the lid on until the meat and lentils soften and begin to break apart. You’ll need to top up the water if it dries out before the meat/lentils have softened. Red meat will take longer than chicken.
- Once the meat and lentils have softened, we can evaporate/dry out any additional moisture, if there is any. Heat turned up, no lid and lots of stirring to ensure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan. While you’re at it, it’s a good time to use your spoon to also break up the meat.
- Once all the water has evaporated and the mixture is pretty dry, leave it to cool.
- Once cool, you’ll want to begin to break down the meat. I usually do this with a wooden spoon, but if you have a ‘gotna‘ that works great. For the best results, I don’t recommend you put the mixture in the food processor (I’ll talk about it more later). BUT I have heard some people report they have been able to use an electric whisk with good results! The aim is essentially to break the meat down into streaks, like pulled meat, as opposed to grinding into a paste. There will be lots of prominent bits of lentils, it’s OK! They don’t need to be broken down. It all adds to the beauty of the Shami Kebab 🙂
- Once the mixture has been broken down, stir in the chopped onion, fresh coriander, green chillies and lemon juice. Also, check for salt and adjust any spices if you need to.
- Form the mixture into disc-shaped kebabs
- Before you begin to fry the kebabs, whisk 1-2 eggs in a bowl ( how many eggs will depend on how many kebabs you’re frying at the time, but as a rule of thumb one egg is enough to coat 4-5 kebabs). Dip the kebabs in the whisked eggs, then put them immediately onto a preheated, oiled pan over a medium heat. After 5 minutes, flip and allow the other side to cook. Remove. Devour.
Do I use ground/minced meat or whole chunks of meat for Shami Kebabs?
My Instagram community who watch my stories may know my love for the PROPER authentic texture of Shami Kebabs, which only comes from using whole chunks of meat.
In authentic recipes, whole chunks of meat are used so you’re left with a pulled meat sort of texture, or ‘raisha-daar’ as we say in Urdu. This is how a Shami Kebab has traditionally been made, and what lends it it’s authentic texture and mazza (enjoyment).
Many recipes call for using ground/minced meat and I can see why – it’s quicker cooking and easier to grind. If you genuinely have a preference for the finished result of ground/minced meat over whole chunks, then you can totally use that here. But if you’ve never tried making these or are open to trying something new, I would definitely urge you to give the whole meat ones a try at least once! It’s more labour intensive but I can never have my Shami Kebabs any other way, that’s how much I prefer the texture!
How do I pound/mash the Shami Kebab mixture?
Once the meat and lentils have softened and dried out, we proceed to pound/mash everything into a mixture we can form into kebabs.
So in some parts/houses in Pakistan, the mixture is then pounded in what resembles a giant pestle and mortar. Sounds neat, but I own nothing of the sort, therefore rely on my good ol’ wooden spoon and the power of my own two hands. Lol. I know, it must sound awfully long to many of my readers. But I feel like being awfully long here is worth the lovely, textured feel of the Shami Kebabs. Plus, maybe it’s just me but I find that if the mixture has been cooked enough to make the meat genuinely really tender and falling apart, it doesn’t ACTUALLY take so much time and effort. But then, maybe that’s just me *nervous laugh*.
Many recipes calls for grinding the mixture into a paste using a food processor and hey, if you want to do that, that’s cool too! But a food processor will greatly diminish that pulled meat feel. It still tastes good, though! 🙂 Just not my preference recommendation.
PS: though I’ve not tried it, I’ve heard using an electric whisk whilst the mixture is still warm works to break down the mixture without losing that pulled meat texture! Only if the meat is SUPER tender, though!
You can watch my Shami Kebab YouTube video to see what sort of texture your mixtured should look like ideally!
Best cuts of meat to use for Shami Kebabs
You’re all in luck, I’ve managed to pin my husband down to help me with this part of the post 😉 My husband has worked for 7 years in the meat industry (he only left recently). He KNOWS all the ins and outs about what cuts are best for what and he’s just generally awesome at meat, lol. I personally know very little about meat. I just tell him what I want and he gets it for me and I know it’ll be awesome lol, mA.
Here are the cuts he recommends:
- Chicken: a combination of chicken thigh and breast (he recommends 60% thigh, 40% breast), however if you must choose one, then thigh.
- Beef: topside
- Lamb and mutton: leg
He recommends using less fattier cuts of red meat because the fat content may cause the kebabs to break as they fry (this doesn’t apply to chicken because chicken thighs aren’t as fatty as red meat).
The smaller you ask them to cut the meat for you, the quicker it’ll become tender as it cooks.
How to freeze Shami Kebabs
Shami Kebabs are the OG Pakistani freezer-friendly food. They freeze beautifully and are really so so convenient to have to hand, require such little prep to have them ready to eat from frozen within minutes!
Line them up on a tray or container lined with greaseproof paper and place the kebabs next to each other, avoiding too much overlapping as they may stick together. Don’t put Shami Kebabs on top of each other. If you haven’t got enough space on the tray, add another sheet of greaseproof paper over the first layer of Shami Kebabs and then lay the rest of the Kebabs on there.
Cover with a lid, foil or clingfilm before placing into the freezer for about 24hrs, or till whenever they’re frozen solid.
Once they’re frozen solid, you can remove them from the tray and then place them in an airtight container or ziploc bag. They won’t stick together if they touch, don’t worry 🙂
To defrost/cook from frozen
To prepare frozen Shami Kebabs, pop them in the microwave for about a minute or allow them to thaw slightly – you just want to bring the temperature down so they’re no longer frozen solid.
Then proceed to dip the kebabs in egg and fry them as you usually would. Check one kebab before taking them all off the pan to ensure it has thawed through and is hot in the centre.
Additional Shami Kebab tips
- I usually make a big batch of Shami Kebabs whenever I do, so the recipe I’m sharing today is usually doubled. Sometimes even tripled if I feel like taking on a challenge. When I make such a big batch, I find it really worth my time to dry roast and grind my own spices myself. It really adds a huge amount of depth to the flavour and again, I find it worth it for when I’m making a big batch.
- If you choose to grind your own spices, use the same amounts of the spice powders listed in the recipe for the whole spices. E.g., for 4 tbsp coriander powder, use 4tbsp coriander seeds
- If you are making Shami Kebabs from beef or mutton but don’t want them to be too meaty, my Father recommended to use a mixture of 15% chicken thigh and 85% beef/mutton – this will help reduce the meatiness and he also says this makes the Kebab tastier too.
- I have absolutely no qualms with ketchup, but my absolute favourite chutney to serve with these is a green coriander and mint chutney and to date, the best recipe I have found is here, from Chai and Churros! The recipe for the chutney is in the recipe box alongside the bun kebab recipe.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Why does my Shami Kebab break/crumble when I fry it?
A. Very likely because the mixture hasn’t been dried out enough. OR it could be because a greater quantity of lentils was used than optimal. If you are experiencing this, my advice would be to add in 1-2 mashed potatoes – it will help the mixture bind better. My husband says using a cut of meat which is too fatty may also cause breaking Kebabs.
Q. Do I need to coat them in egg before frying?
A. Ideally, yes – that’s what gives it the characteristic feel and look. I have tried frying them without the egg coating and I found it more difficult to flip them over. I also found they didn’t look quite as good. I’d say try one out and see how it goes – if it works for you, great! Omitting the egg won’t impact the flavour.
Q. Can I make Shami Kebabs in an Instant Pot?
A. Absolutely! I personally don’t own an Instant Pot so I cannot comment on cook times. But there’s absolutely no reason why this won’t work as long as you really sauté out all the moisture.
Q. Can I air-fry Shami Kebabs?
A. Yup! Dip the Kebabs in egg and airfry them for about 4 or so minutes on each side – you may need to adjust this according to your airfryer.
Q. How can I make the process quicker?
A. If you have a pressure cooker, using that will be the surest way to get these babies done quicker. I can’t give you exact cook times because I’ve never done it myself. But there’s no reason why it won’t work so long as you dry out all the moisture.
Q. How long can these keep in the fridge and freezer?
About 3-4 days in the fridge and about 6 months max in the freezer, if stored airtight.
Q. Can I use any kind of daal?
A. Shami Kebabs are made with yellow split lentils (chana daal) and I don’t believe any other daal would have that sort of structure to them to be able to hold shape the way this daal does. I’ve never tried any other daal, but I really don’t think it’s worth taking the risk trying another!
Other recipes you may enjoy with Shami Kebabs
Enjoy, with love x
- 700g meat of choice (I highly recommend using chunks of meat as opposed to minced/ground meat)
- 160g split yellow lentils (chana daal)
- 1 bulb garlic (doesn't need to minced)
- 1tbsp minced ginger
- 2-3tsp of salt (depending on your taste - please check before frying!)
- 3.5tsp cumin seeds
- 5tsp coriander powder
- 3.5tsp coarse black pepper
- 2tsp chilli flakes
- 1tsp chat masala (optional)
- 1 large piece cinnamon stick
- 3 black cardamoms
- 0.5tsp whole cloves
- 10 green cardamoms
- 1 bunch fresh coriander, chopped
- 1 large onion, diced finely
- 3-4 green chillies, chopped finely (optional)
- Juice of half a lemon
- 2-3 eggs, for frying
- Oil, for frying
- Add all the ingredients into a deep pot EXCEPT FOR THE LAST 6 INGREDIENTS. Add lots of water, bring to a boil, cover and turn the heat to low and then cook the mixture down until the meat and lentils become very tender. Chicken will need around 3 cups of water and around 1.5hrs, lamb/beef will need around 5-6 cups of water and 2hrs +, mutton will need around 8 cups of water and 3hrs+. Please take these timelines as a rough guide - the cook time will depend on how large the chunks of meat are and what cuts you chose. You will need to keep an eye on it, adding water if the meat isn't still tender.
- Once the meat has become very tender, falling apart much like pulled meat, you can turn the heat to high and begin to dry off the excess moisture. Keep stirring, ensuring nothing sticks to pot whilst also breaking down the meat with your spoon. Keep drying out the mixture until it becomes very dry.
- Allow the mixture to cool slightly before proceeding to pound the mixture down, breaking the meat. You can use a wooden spoon (if the meat has become very soft this may be enough), but you may need to use your hands. I don't recommend using a food processor for Shami Kebabs as it doesn't lead to best texture, but if you must then you can.
- Once the mixture has been mashed into a textured, pulled-meat like consistency AND has cooled down completely, add the fresh coriander, onion, green chillies and lemon juice. Stir, and then make one final check to ensure the salt and spice is to your liking.
- Shape the mixture into kebab-shaped discs
- Heat a bit of oil in a pan over a medium heat when you're about to fry the kebabs
- Whisk the eggs in a bowl. Dip the kebabs one by one into the egg, then place them into the pan. Allow them to cook undisturbed for about five minutes, then flip over and allow the other side to cook. Avoid overcrowding the pan too much, and adjust the cook time as much/as little as you need to get the colouring of the kebabs just right.
- Serve hot!
You can either grind the whole spices into a powder before adding them to the mixture to cook, or you can discard them as you are shaping the kebabs. I prefer to grind them.