Kebab Curry

Afghan Kebab

My Ami’s brother, my eldest Mamoo, always takes me straight to Rahat Bakery after I land at the airport in Lahore in the winter.

During my summer visits all one wants to do is go straight home and languish in the air-conditioned room, whilst slicing into the plump flesh of a mango.

But in December, when Lahore is in its element and all you need is a mere shawl twirled around your silhouette to keep you warm, we stop for treats at the bakery.

Mamoo knows I may want to select my favourite pastry from the display, maybe the lemon tart, which I don’t think is made from real lemon curd at all, but I have been devouring it for so many years that I don’t think it really matters what the ingredients are.

Or I may choose the layered rectangular chocolate pastry.

I don’t think it is made with fine cocoa, but it is the pastry my Nani Ami, my maternal grandmother and I used to love having together in the evenings sitting in front of the gas heater in the drawing room, sipping our tea.

Rahat also has the best chicken patties in Lahore (my bias, of course), and one must follow a strict method for eating these.

Just like there are methods for eating an oreo, there are even stricter methods for eating a chicken patty.  

First you gently and carefully remove the top crispy layer which reveals the softer, inner layers of puff pastry.

Only once you’ve eaten the crackly top can you dip the softer portion into sweet chili sauce and inhale it in one-two-three-bites.

My Mamoo and I leave Rahat with 12 chicken patties, encased in a box, with an orange or pink ribbon tied lazily on top in a bow.

And just for old times’ sake I will pick up a small box of Shezan’s mango juice, sultry Lahore summers in that cliched box.

I was not able to go home to Lahore this winter, to have the lemon tart or get my fingers greasy by stuffing chicken patties into my mouth.

I missed out on all the different citrus fruits which are in bloom in December, the ones we eat every morning, while the BBC news hums in the background.

I missed out on spending time with my Mamoos, the youngest one who comes into our room at midnight with his dinner on a tray after a long day at work, “Hi Bruta“, he always quips, to which I respond, “Hi Bruto“, to which he retorts, “Hi Triple Ugly“.

And there he sits with us till 2, sometimes 3 in the morning till we set the world right and talk about Sidney Poitier, one of his favorite actors.

Afghan Kebab

I missed out on Siddique our cook’s morning ritual of coming into my Ami’s room asking me what to cook that day.

My daily request for lunch, without fail is always dal with chapati.

I don’t know if Siddique puts crack in that dal, but I could eat it every day for the rest of my life.

And then the hardest part, what to have for dinner.

Some days I request a spicy mutton curry with potatoes for my meat & potatoes fix and other days just a simple chicken roast which my Nani Ami taught Siddique to make.

Afghan Kebab

And some days I yearn for kebab-e-dayg, a kebab dish prepared in a large pot; a dayg.

A rich tomato sauce is prepared with a fragrant base of caramelized onions and garlic to which kebabs are added and simmered till the sauce has seeped into each tender piece.

Mopped up with a light-as-air chapati or drenched over mounds of basmati rice, it is the taste of winters at home in my maternal grandmother, Nani Ami’s home.

I still remember the swish-swooshing of her slippers as she would come towards my door every morning to ask me, her spoilt grandchild visiting from abroad, what I wanted for lunch and dinner that day.

And some days I used to get miffed because I would want to continue sleeping rather than discussing lunch and supper menus.

How I wish for her to be there with Ami and I every morning. And not once would I get miffed with her question regarding what to prepare for lunch and dinner.

Afghan Kebab
Kebab Curry
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Kebab Curry

Yield: 4
Author: Shayma Saadat


  • parchment paper


  • (You will need green fresh chillies and herbs of your choice for garnishing the dish)

For the tomato base

  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped fine
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 28 oz can chopped tomatoes or tomato sauce (passata) or 4-6 large fresh tomatoes, chopped, skin removed
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • salt to taste

For the kebabs

  • 2 bushels scallions/green onions, (hairy ends cut off)
  • 1 large red onion (peeled, cut into small chunks)
  • 1 thumb-size knob of fresh ginger (peeled)
  • 4 whole cloves garlic (peeled)
  • 1 lb ground beef (not of the lean variety; we need some fat to help 'bind' them)
  • 2 tbsp (heaped) besan (gram flour, found in all Indian or Pakistani grocery stores)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp (heaped) cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp salt (or more to taste, remember, the tomato sauce they are poached in will also be salted)
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder


For the tomato base

  • Place a large pot (at least 8-in diameter) on medium heat.
  • Add oil, onions and garlic.
  • Sauté till golden brown, then add tomatoes and cayenne pepper.
  • Cover pot and turn heat to low. Allow to simmer for 20 minutes.
  • The mixture will have reduced slightly and darkened in colour.
  • Add salt to taste and set aside while you form the kebabs.

For the kebabs

  • Place scallions, onion, ginger and garlic in a food processor and pulse till all the ingredients are minced finely.
  • Transfer into a mixing bowl.
  • To this, add ground beef, gram flour, egg, cayenne pepper, salt, coriander and cumin powders.
  • Mix to combine well.
  • Form kebabs in your hands by placing a tablespoon and a half of the mixture in your palm and curling your fingers onto them. They should be wide and round in the middle and tapered on both ends.
  • Place each kebab on parchment paper as you continue to shape them.

Final Step- poaching kebabs in the sauce

  • You will need to keep boiling water handy.
  • Place pot with tomato sauce on medium heat, when it starts to bubble, add 1 cup boiling water.
  • Gently place each kebab into the tomato sauce with a slotted spoon. Make sure you don't overcrowd them or they will break. Do not stack them on top of each other. Depending on the size of the pot you are using, you may have some kebabs leftover which will not fit in the pot. You can freeze these.
  • Replace the lid and turn the heat to low. Allow the kebabs to poach in the sauce for 30 minutes.
  • When the time has elapsed, allow kebabs to rest for ten minutes before serving, otherwise they may crumble.
  • Serve with basmati rice, chapati or naan.
  • Garnish with green chillies, mint, coriander or any other fresh herb of your choice.

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  1. My mouth started watering too:-) Need to make it this week. Thanks for brining all these wonderful to life. They all remind me of my childhood. Yum!

  2. Shayma,

    You’re right, Rahat HAS the best chicken patties in Lahore – my bias too 😉 Wonderful post as always.

  3. You didnt mention the legendary rahat coffee and vanilla icecream cones, that was our after dinner ritual most summer evenings when we would go to lahore for our hols.

  4. Wow, looks great…I can almost taste it sitting here and reading it…we have something similar in Iranian cuisine with tomato sauce,called “Kabob deegee”,Deeg meaning pot that you cook it in…

  5. @Sara @Maggie @Gastrogeek Thanks, lovelies. x s

    @AJQ I was expecting someone to say that Shezan’s are better! tee hee Thanks for the comment.

    @Tanya I know, love the ice cream from Rahat- this was a Rahat winter goodies post 🙂 so, next time. x s

    @Bahareh Thank you- it’s the same word in urdu- dayg x s

  6. Reading your post is like taking a walk back home…endearing and lovely! I want to have this dish with some roomali roti.

  7. Lovely story about the rituals of going home to Lahore. I’m sorry that you couldn’t make it this December. The kabobs look absolutely delicious.

  8. wanna do Lahore with you!!! 🙂 Shayma sweetheart, you did it again…your writing makes it all come alive…i can taste, smell, hear this Lahore of yours. such rich fluid and emotive. brava bella!

  9. I want to dig into the plate right now, looks amazing! Kebab curry and koftay are favorites in my house. 🙂 When in Lahore we go to Rahat for “valeeeena” cone. hehe.

  10. Hearty and comforting. This is just what will perk the miserable weather. With steamed rice I cant think of a better meal. Infact I made kofta biryani over the weekend. Its lunch time Shayma and I might just eat my screen! x

  11. I love the pictures! And being hungry while reading this entry makes them even more alluring. In my family my mother and aunts do another kabab saalan ( with khara tomatoes, onion rings, green chillies spiced with salt, crushed red chillies, cumin and coriander seeds). This version is also cooked but not as much.
    And next time in Lahore, skip Rahat and go to Jalal Sons main market. They started a bakery in their store relatively recently and have got every other foodie in Lahore raving about their goodies. I myself am partial to their chicken patties, french hearts, snickers cake and bran bread. Best thing they bake fresh 😀 (the ovens are right in front of the customers) and their prices are significantly lower than their high end bakery/deli competition ala CTC etc.

  12. I have not had the pleasure of tasting this dish nor visiting Lahore but your post was a very satisfactory substitute (for now!). Great photos, very appetizing.

  13. @Soma @Monique Pamela @Nadia @Maunika @Corina @Joumana Thank you for the kind words, all. x s

    @Nairy I am still waiting for you to come with me to Lahore, but first, some lamb roasted on vine leaves in Spain, first. x s

    @Lizzie The spring onions really give it that heady kick. x s

    @Umair I have had chicken patties from Jalal Sons and sorry, but they don’t hold a candle to those from Rahat, at least for me 😉 Besides, Rahat is en route to my Nano’s home from the airport. I have asked my parents to check out the French Hearts and report back- thanks for telling me about them.

  14. How funny – I made the Italian version of this today, a long simmered tomato sauce with meatballs. And now I’m keen to try your Pakistani version!

  15. Ah, you make me nostalgic for all the attention and spoiling I used to get from my grand-parents! My Dadi used to run around making us roohafza in milk or lemonade when us kids would come in from the heat in Lahore. I used to wonder at her stamina and willingness to hop on one foot for us. I too wouldn’t complain about anything if she was still with us!

  16. Hi Shayma,
    MashAllah! I am so impressed and inspired by you and you true expression of your culture. My mom makes the same dish a little different she keeps the onions and tomatoes a little whole 🙂
    I love your blog.

  17. Shayma – just deliciously mouth watering! This look like Turkish Kofte’s. I love the stories you share.

  18. What a delicious looking treat, and as always, your photographs are beautiful. Coriander, cumin, cayenne….fabulous! – S

  19. Looks amazing! One question: so the kababs are completely raw when you put them in the sauce?

  20. It seems as if you have written down everything that I feel! The fact we are both from Lahore and both away from home in another continent (Australia in my case) is the common bond I am sure 🙂 Nothing beats the lemon tarts, chocolate pastries and patties from rahat/shezan – not even the finest yes ofcourse the dewar wala samosas opposite Capri Cinema. Love your style it comes straight from your heart, right into ours 🙂

    1. @Moiza Thank you so much- yours is the first comment I read when I woke up and it is has made my day. I miss the patties from Shezan and the chaat from Chatkhara. I cannot wait to go back to Lahore. Have a lovely day.

  21. oh my shayma, this is looks scrumptious. just a question, I have a can of crushed tomatoes that’s been hanging out in the fridge for a while and I’m dying to get rid of it, can I use it in this recipe instead of the chopped tomatoes?

  22. I just want to let you know that I made this recipe and it was sublime! As an American woman trying to wrap her cooking style toward Pakistan, and learning spices I never grew up cooking with, or eating, cooking East Asian food well has been a challenge. But I’m getting there. I cooked the kebabs precisely as you instructed, and after poaching in the sauce, the kebabs had that silken texture akin to a good Italian meatball. I added garam masala and cumin to the sauce for an extra punch of flavor and heat. My Pakistani husband who grew up in the KP not eating highly spicy foods, declared the entire dish as “awesome”. He was especially drawn to the sauce. Thanks for the awesome recipe!

    1. @Dmills Thank you for your kind message. It is so cheering to read a message from someone who is interested in cooking Pakistani food. Thanks to you and your husband!

  23. I have googled it but am unable to find a clear answer. What is a bushel of scallions?

  24. Thank you so much! If turned out delicious…can’t wait to try more recipes!!!

  25. I have bookmarked this page and cooked it many times; its’ really a wonderful dish and easy to make.

  26. The way you present your dishes makes my mouth water:) Your recipes alone are brilliant, but your presentation takes them to another level. Its wonderful. Also I really enjoy reading each individual anecdote behind the recipes, I feel like I’m back in Karachi. Pure Nostalgia…My favorite recipes thus far are the Chicken Curry in the Pakistani manner and Chicken Sliders with Mint Aïoli. You put so much love and thought into each recipe and story. I always look forward to more posts.

  27. You write so beautifully. I can almost taste all the food you described above. One small request: can you change your grey font to black, so that it is darker, larger and more readable? I was having a hard time reading. Thanks and keep up the good work.

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