Dahi kebab, a snack from the royal kitchen of mughal emperor akbar
During my adulthood, I lived in Delhi in a huge government flat. The front and back doors were always open, allowing us to run in and out of our neighbours’ houses. Our friends Rajini, Renu, Kumud and Ajay lived opposite.
My brothers Kartik, Murali and I shared a close bond with them. Kidwai Nagar in Delhi saw a lot of fun activities thanks to us. Lata and her brother Mohan, who stayed opposite completed the gang. Every evening, we all met at our terrace and the water tank was the space for our round-table meetings. We made plans for outings from there. But making money was one of the biggest challenges, as we needed cash for all our teenage wants — be it clothes, food, trinkets or cards. Buying books and cards were a big thing those days. Birthday cards were presented with great joy along with an affordable gift. The innocence and unconditional acceptance are what made our friendships so strong and we remain friends even after 45 years.
Rajini and Lata were so special to me. The three of us had a secret club and we devised a plan to make money. We decided to organise a fun fete on our common grounds and to raise money for a library for the colony. We roped in Ashok from the colony to organise a jam session in the common storeroom on the ground. Jam sessions were a craze during those days and we organised it during the daytime so that it was easy to get permission from parents. Beatles, Elvis and Cliff Richard were the favourites. Booths were planned with Rajini becoming the fortune teller and Lata manning the handicrafts, which were all second-hand stuff we collected from everywhere possible. The food stall took great importance and by popular demand, we set up a chaat stall and a south Indian dosa/idli stall. Rajini’s mother came up with the brilliant idea of having a stall with heritage food like khandvi, dokhla, and different kebabs. The boys manned the food stall with one or two pieces disappearing into their mouths now and then. The jam session was a big hit as we darkened the room with a black cloth. We pasted colour papers on the bulbs to give a disco effect. The whole event was a great hit. Dahi kebabs that were sold at the kebab stalls had a huge demand.
In Ibn Sayyar al-Warraq’s tenth-century Baghdadi cookbook Kitab al-Tabikh, there were descriptions of kebab as cut-up meat, either fried in a pan or grilled over a fire. The method of cooking smaller chunks or slices of meat on skewers has a long history in the kitchens of Persia and Turkey and when the Mughals and previous invaders introduced it in their cuisine in India, it became popular all over. From the original arose the innovative vegetarian kebabs and it was in the royal kitchens of Akbar that the dahi kebab was first introduced. It was an innovation by Jodha Bai’s chief cook. Today, I am sharing the recipe of dahi kebabs that is made with hung curd, paneer, besan (kadala mavu) and basic spice powders.
DAHI KEBAB RECIPE
seeds: 2 tbsp.
coriander seeds: 2tbsp.
Besan: 1 cup
Onions, 1 chopped fine
3 chillies chopped fine
Ginger, 1 tsp. Chopped fine
Cashew nuts: 9
Salt: to taste
Paneer:1 cup grated
Hung curd: 2 cups.
Red chilli flakes: 2 tsps.
Coriander leaves:2 tbsp
Bread crumbs: ½ cup.
Cumin: 1 tbsp.
- Take a pan and dry roast black pepper, cumin and coriander seeds together
- Grind them into a powder.
- Roast chana dal/besan in a pan for a while on low flame.
- Take a bowl, add chopped onion, half green chillies, chopped ginger, raisins, broken cashew nuts, half the spice powder and salt.
- Add half grated paneer to this mixture and mix them thoroughly.
- Place the hung curd in a bowl, add salt, roasted black pepper, coriander powder, red chilli flakes, remaining green chillies, coriander leaves, grated paneer, and roasted bean.
- Mix all the ingredients together to make a dough
- Now, pull out round pieces from the dough and put the prepared filling of onions, cashew nut, paneer etc, in the centrefold and make a flat cutlet or round ball.
- Spread the breadcrumbs on a plate and immerse the balls in them, so it is totally covered.
- Take a heavy bottom pan and pour oil in it for frying.
- Fry the round pieces in a pan until golden brown.
- Serve the hot dahi kababs with mint chutney or tomato chutney/sauce.
— Chef Ramaa Shanker is the author of ‘Festive Offerings to the Gods: Divine Soul Recipes’