Chapli kebab and the lingering charm of Pashtun cuisine: The Tribune India

Pushpesh Pants

CHAPLI KEBAB, the Pashtun kebab from the NWFP cuisine repertoire, is arguably the most popular street food in Peshawar, the border town of Pakistan. And this is the cause of all confusion. Another product of the city – the handcrafted chappals (oh so comfortable sandals) – bears the same geographical indicator. Many fall into the trap when asked about chapli kebab. They hastily reply that it resembles the shape of the sandal and bears its name. In fact, the word derives from “chapleek” in Pashto which translates to flat or flattened. The plump kebab indeed looks like a jumbo shami or a flat-pressed burger patty. It has, in recent years, emerged from the backstage to the center stage and can be found in Delhi, Bhopal, Hyderabad and even Lucknow. It is neither subtly spiced with aromatics nor melts in the mouth but has an undeniable charm of its own. In Peshawar, it was traditionally prepared with beef, but it is now also available in mutton and chicken versions.

We recently enjoyed a particularly well-turned chapli at the Sheraton’s Four Point in Delhi when chef Vickrham Vicky hosted a Dawat-e-Dastan pop-up there. What he whipped up with ease and aplomb may be hard to replicate at home, but we assure you that you can grill or fry a very satisfying succulent chapli without breaking a sweat. Keeping the temperament of the time, we had reserved it for our readers for the post-Navratri menu but in time for the iftar evenings of the month of Ramzan. Try it before it gets really hot to splurge on the food!

Chapli Kebab

Ingredients

Chop 500g

Fat 50g

Onions (small, finely chopped) two

Tomato (medium, finely chopped after deseeding) two

Garlic-ginger paste 1 teaspoon

Coriander powder 1 teaspoon

Cumin powder 1 teaspoon

Garam masala (optional) 1 teaspoon

Red pepper flakes 1 tsp

Green chiles (seeded and finely chopped) 1/4 cup

Fresh coriander leaves (finely chopped) 1/2 cup

Gram flour (lightly toasted) 2 tbsp

egg one

Salt to taste

Oil/ghee for pan frying the grill

Onion rings and lemon wedges for garnish

Method

  • Place the mince in a large bowl. Add fat, onions, tomatoes, peppers and powdered spices, except salt. Add the garlic-ginger paste, roasted chickpea flour and crack the egg into the bowl.
  • Mix well, cover and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Just before grilling, salt and knead again.
  • Divide into equal portions and form round balls the size of an orange. Press between wet palms to flatten.
  • Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed or non-stick skillet covered with a thin film of oil or ghee. Gently slide the chapli into the pan and grill over medium heat for seven to eight minutes on each side for even cooking. Serve with a garnish of onion rings and lemon wedges, accompanied by bread.

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