Shami kebabs: Deeply satisfying and authentically Pakistani

Shami Kebabs take us back to our homes and kitchens where we grew up.

Ambreen Malik April 29, 2016
We Pakistanis love various types of kebabs in our food; shami kebabs being one example. They are served with almost any main course on a Pakistani dinner table. Be it with daal chawal, with paratha and achaar, a shami kebab sandwich, with mattar (peas) or chicken pulao or even with our afternoon tea. In some way, directly or indirectly, shami kebabs have been an integral part of our favourite home-cooked meals. These kebabs used to be a part of the sandwich in my school lunchbox for the longest of time and were simply known as shami kebab sandwich.

Now, even when I prefer potato cutlets over shami kebabs at some point, I still love having shami kebabs with specific home-cooked meals and there are rare days when my freezer is not stocked with them. My better half is a happy man the day his dinner comprises of simple mattar pulao and shami kebab or a plain old shami kebab sandwich.

Shami Kebabs take us back to our homes and kitchens where we grew up. I do agree these are labour intensive delectable that require a bit of time, but they are deeply satisfying and authentically Pakistani. Follow the pictures and it will be easy-peasy!


Phase 1:

Beef Mince – 1 ½ kg (minced)

Chickpea lentils –  ¾ cup (soaked overnight)

Onions – 2 large (chopped)

Ginger – 2 inches (chopped)

Garlic – 10-12 cloves

Cumin – 1 tsp (heaped)

Whole coriander crushed in pestle and mortar – 1 tsp (heaped)

Black cardamom – 3 to 4

Whole dry red chillies – 6 to 8

Cinnamon sticks –  4 (1 inch each)

Cloves – 10 to 12

Black peppercorns – 15 to 20

Salt – 1 ½ tsps (adjust according to taste)

Water – 500 ml

Phase 2:

Eggs – 4 large

Mint leaves – 1 cup (chopped)

Fresh coriander – 2 cups (chopped)

Green chillies – 6-8 (whole)

Fresh ginger – 2 inches


1. In a large sieve/colander, put three to four layers of kitchen paper or a layer of chiffon cloth and place minced beef in it. Put it under running water for three to four minutes to clean it up. I cannot cook minced meat without washing it and find it rather bothersome when old aunties and grannies cook minced meat without washing it. Let the mince sit for half an hour, so the excess water drains out. The minced beef will have a slightly different colour. Now it is ready to be cooked. You will also need a food processor for making shami kebabs.

2. In a large pan add the minced beef, chickpea lentils, salt, all dry spices, chopped onions, ginger, garlic, whole red chillies along with 500 ml of water.

3. Put it on high heat to boil. Once it boils for the first time, lower the heat to medium. The aim is to cook the lentils which will take about 40 minutes. Once lentils are cooked, increase the heat to dry up the water completely.

4. Let this mixture cool completely in a large mixing bowl.

5. In a food processor, add half of the prepared minced meat mixture, two eggs, three green chillies, half ginger, half of mint and half of chopped fresh coriander. Mix it till it becomes fine but you can still see small coriander and mint leaves. Transfer it in to a large mixing bowl.

6. Now add the second batch to the food processor along with two eggs, rest of the green chillies, mint, ginger and coriander. Mix it. Remove from the food processor once finely done and add to the rest of the mixture.

7. Mix the two batches thoroughly with your (gloved) hand or spatula. Remove the cinnamon sticks and black cardamoms. They will still be chunky and easier to fish out of the mixture.

8. It’s a good idea to shallow fry one small patty to check the salt and chilly proportion. Once fried, let the patty cool down and then taste it. Adjust as per need by adding more salt and red or green chopped chillies.

9. Leave the mixture to sit in the fridge for about five to six hours so it becomes firm enough to make kebab patties.

10. After six hours, make kebabs by making small meat balls in your hand. Oil your hands to make the kebabs. Press the meat balls in to the shape of a patty. Ensure they are perfectly round by rolling them on a plate.

11. Put them in a freezer-safe box with a lid. Separate layers of kebabs with cling film. It will prevent them from sticking together. Freeze overnight or longer till the kebabs are rock solid. After 24 to 48 hours, remove the frozen kebabs from the box and put them in a zip lock plastic bag.

12. Fry them on medium heat as and when required. One and a half kg of minced beef will make around 30 shami kebabs.

13. These kebabs don’t need a coat of egg before frying. The eggs and chickpea lentils in the mixture act as the binding agents.

All photos: Ambreen Malik

This post originally appeared here.
Ambreen Malik
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

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Asad | 3 years ago | Reply | Recommend lovely and delicious. LOoks traditional pakistani cuisine. I have been looking for a promising recipe to experiment my new food processor I bought from this guide Keep sharing useful recipies like this THank you
Chill | 3 years ago | Reply | Recommend you lead a sad life if you have to discuss politics in everything. Go read some other blogs.
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