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The Food Bytes
On The Kabab Trail with Monish Gujral
1st published in Sunday standard on 1st May 2011

There are many references as to how the word Kabab was derived.? It may have been derived from the Arabic Word “Kab” which means a turning moment and “Cabob” meaning piece of meat, fish , lamb or vegetable .so the fusion of these two words lead to Kabab.
The Arabic word could also possibly be derived from Aramaic , kabbābā, which probably has its origins in kabābu meaning “to burn, char. The Persian term kabābwas adopted by medieval Arabs, and Turks as kebab.kebab is defined to be synonymous with tabahajah, a Persian word for a dish of fried meat pieces. Kebab was used frequently in Persian books of that time to refer to meatballs made of ground or pounded chicken or lamb.n the modern period, kebabgained its current meaning of shish kebab, whereas earlier shiwā` had been the Arabic word for grilled meat. Kebab still retains its original meaning in the names for stew-like dishes such as tas kabob (bowl kebab). Similarly, kebab halla is an Egyptian dish of stewed beef and onions.
The origin of kebab may lie in the short supply of cooking fuel in the Near East which made the cooking of large foods difficult, while urban economies made it easy to obtain small cuts of meat at a butcher’s shop.The phrase is essentially Persian in origin and Arabic tradition has it that the dish was invented by medieval Turkish soldiers who used their swords to grill meat over open-field fires. In India Ibn Batuta records that kebab was served in the royal houses since at least the Sultanate period, and even commoners would enjoy it for breakfast with naan The dish has been native to the Near East and ancient Greece since antiquity; an early variant of kebab ( Ancinet Greece : obeliskos is attested in Greece since 8th century BCE ( archaic in Homer`s lliad and Odyssey ] and in classical Greece amongst others in the works of A Aristophanes Xenophon and Aristotle . . The kebabs also form an important part Azerbaijan, Armenian , Afghan , Arabic, Turkish , Kurdish , Iranian , Iraqi, Pakistani , Indian, Central Asian , South Asian and some of the African cuisines.
In India ,we usually associate kababs with the advent of mughals from central Asia into India , only for the reason that it was the Mughals who popularized it. The Rajputs , for example, made Sule or smoked kabobs long before Mughal invasion .Hunting , a popular sport of the Maharajas , Game meat was the favorite, which was often cooked over an open fire in the forests. The meat was not consumed the same day but was pickled to preserve it for the next day.
The origin of kabab was probably just a hunk of freshly killed animal meat smoked or cooked over simple wooden fire with little salt and may be some chilli powder added to it. The subtle addition of flavors , textures and tastes was an art form that evolved over the period of time.
In India the the tandoor was introduced from central Asia , which was used for baking bread such as Nan , Roti , Layered bread called Parantha etc.The tandoor is a clay oven which was installed in the village center and was called “Sanjha Choolha” where the village women would collect in the evening with their doughs to bake their bread. It was Kundan Lal Gujral who turned this plebeian village Tandoor into royal form of Baking in restaurants by inventing the Tandoori Chicken and creating history or should I say creating a cuisine called “the Tandoori”.In other parts of North like Kashmir – Kashmiri Muslim Cuisine , revolves around Lamb meat , characterized by its use of delicate flavors such as cardamom, saffron, yoghurt, aniseeds.Kashmiri Tabak Maaz , is a kabob made of tender rib of Lamb is a goutment delight.
Rajasthan is also known for its kababs , specially the state of Palanpur where the Nawabs of Palanpur were of Afghan Descent who introduced kababs and pullaos in the state.
Not to forget , Hyderabad which is equally known for its fiery food made by mixing fiery spices from Andhra pradesh- Large chunks of meat kabobs unlike the Awadhi kababs such as ,Gilawat ke kabob, kakori and Shikumpur kabab etc which are so delicate hay they melt in ones month . The Moghuls bought with them their culture and cuisine .Ingredients which generally were unknown in India such a dryfuits, Fragrances like Rose water, Kewra which were brought from Turkey, Afghan etc were used forming a fusion with local foods. The culinary art of Awadh (Lucknow) was raised to fine art under the royal patronage , where various styles of cooking methods were born for example royal chefs invented methods like Zamin Doz – which imparts an earthy flavors to kaboas and cooked food , Dum Pukht – where the food is cooked under pressure (DUM) so it retains all the aromas of the spices used.
The Kababs have trailed all over the globe being invented and reinvented in terms to shape , size , texture and even the style of cooking depending upon climatic conditions, Geographical features, customs and cultures . Doner Kababs from Turkey , Tandoori kababs from India , Chapli kababs and Boti kababs from Pakistan and Afghanistan ,testi kababs from Black sea region and Chellow kababs from Iran are famous all over the world .

First chef from India to be invited to Le cordon Bleu to demonstrate in Paris. Monish is credited with the trailblazing turn-around of Moti Mahal, from being a small but iconic presence in Delhi, to becoming a multi-national corporation that is well on its way to defining how the world eats Indian food. A traditionalist, Monish has remained true to the signature dishes that made Moti Mahal a legend, while reinventing the dining experience into one that is exciting and avant garde to suit modern sensibilities.

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