Sheekh Kabob Tandoori


Michael Sullivan


HIST 2390

While I personally cannot cook, I chose to order Seekh Kabob Tandoori, from a local restaurant.  Seekh Kabob Tandoori, is a traditional lamb skewer dish native to northern India and Pakistan.  The meat is generally cut very thin and cooked on a metal skewer, used to cook the meat from the inside over an open flame.  When finished, the meat has a very aromatic taste. This dish combines many of the spices most prevalent in Indian cuisine, including: turmeric, coriander, cumin, chili powder, tamarind and garam masala. Like many other Indian dishes, Seekh Kabab Tandoori, is generally served with a side of rice and naan bread.

The most important of the spices in Seekh Kabob Tandoori is garam masala.  Garam masala, which translates closely to “warm spice mix,” is known for its strong taste and is generally used to season meats.  Garam, meaning “heat”, does not mean the spice is necessarily spicy. Garam masala is more commonly known for its ability to raise the body’s temperature and metabolism.  There is not one single recipe for garam masala, which leads to variations in its taste. However, the main ingredients of cumin, coriander seeds, cardamom seeds, nutmeg, and cinnamon remain relatively universal.

Turmeric is another spice that is typically present in Seekh Kabob Tandoori.  Dating back to the as far as the Indus Valley civilization in 2500 BCE, turmeric has been a staple in Indian cuisine.  Turmeric is well known for its health benefits. In Feasts and Fast: A History of Food in India, Taylor writes, “Turmeric has been used for thousands of years in India and China to combat infection and reduce inflammation” (Taylor 25).  In the 16th century, a Portuguese physician named Garcia de Orta noted turmeric’s ability to heal diseases of the eyes and skin. Turmeric became a popular Indian export to Arabia and Persia. According to some Hindu traditions, following the death of a close relative, normal eating habits must be suspended for ten to thirteen days.  This tradition specifically prevents the use of turmeric in cooking due to its symbolism of favorable events.

Coriander is a large contributor to the floral taste of Seekh Kabob Tandoori. A member of the parsley family, both coriander’s seeds and leaves are common in Indian cooking.  Similar to turmeric, coriander is known in India for its healing properties.  Some claim that coriander can be used to ease indigestion, migraines, and arthritic pain.  While the spice is very popular in Indian cooking, it is mostly grown in the South and a small part of Central India.

Seekh Kabob Tandoori likely only became popularized in India after the arrival of the Muslims.  Lamb is a meat that is very popular in the Central Asia Muslim countries.  When more Muslims started to arrive in India around the 7th century BCE, they likely brought their affinity for the mutton along with them.  Hinduism largely discourages the consumption of meat so much of early Indian food history is plant-based.  Taylor writes, “The Manasolassa’s many meat recipes are complex and highly aromatic, belying the notion that elaborate meat dishes appeared only with the arrival of the Muslims” (Taylor 142).  Seekh Kabob Tandoori mirrors many of the Manansala’s food themes, including its complex nature and aromatic taste.

Seekh Kabob Tandoori, highlights many of Indian cuisine’s primary spices and flavors.  The dish demonstrates the region’s complex flavors and illustrates Muslim influence of Indian culture.


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