Aug 30, 2016

The Origin of Kofta & Kebabs and How to Make Healthy Variants

Admin | Chicken, Cooking Tips & Tricks, Mutton, Recipes

Food History: The Origin of Kofta & Kebabs

Dishes such as koftas and kebabs were brought to India through means as diverse foreign invasions, colonialism and trade relations. The resulting interaction between a multitude of cultures and groups led to a diversity of flavours and cuisines. Some of the produce that found their way into India thus include potato, breadfruit and chillies.

Kofta is the name given to a family of meatloaf or meatball dishes commonly found in Middle Eastern, South Asian, Central Asian and Balkan cuisines. In their simplest form, Koftas are essentially minced or ground meat missed with onions and spices and shaped into balls. The meat may be beef, chicken, lamb or pork.

In the Middle East as well as South Asia are found Koftas that are usually made from beef, mutton/lamb and chicken whereas Cypriot, Greek and Balkan food cultures may use pork, lamb or beef to prepare theirs. Even a mixture of these three meat types may be used to make Koftas in the latter case.

Indian variants include  shrimp and fish koftas which are commonly found in West Bengal and South India and also vegetarian ones such as those made from paneer, potato, calabash or banana and are commonly served cooked in a spicy gravy or curry and consumed with steamed rice or the variety of Indian breads.

In Iran, Iraq and Azerbaijan, koftas are served with a spiced gravy, as dry variations are considered to be kebabs. In Europe, Kofta is served as a fast food, in fact often as a Kebab variant.

Now, what is a Kebab?

Kebabs have a history that goes longer back than Koftas, thanks to the ancient culture of cooking meat on sticks, which is typically how kebabs are prepared for consumption. In fact, the word Kebab itself translates as ‘to roast’. The term, the earliest mention of which can be found in a Turkish script ofKyssa-I Yusuf in 1377, can also mean a meat patty mixed with spices.

Kebabs are popularly seen to have originated in Turkey, where hundreds of variants are found. In particular, Turkish soldiers were known to grill chunks of freshly hunted animals, skewed on swords and cooked on open field fires. In time, the method of cooking has obviously been refined to a fine degree and kebabs have found pride of place in several modern day cuisines.

In Asia, Kebabs are usually served with salad and rice, or one of the various types of bread that are common to the region.Now lets see how to make a simple kofta with Chicken.

How to make a simple, healthy chicken kofta (non-fried)



For the Chicken Ball/Meat Ball (List A)

  • 350gm Minced Chicken (Keema)
  • 1 Tablespoon Ginger Paste
  • 1 Tablespoon Garlic Paste
  • 1 Teaspoon Red Chili Paste
  • 1 Teaspoon Red Chili Powder
  • ½ Teaspoon Garam Masala Powder (Cinnamon, Cardamom, Cloves)
  • 1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
  • 2 Tablespoons Cilantro (Coriander) leaves chopped
  • 5 Tablespoons Onion Chopped
  • 1 Teaspoon Coriander Powder
  • 2 Tablespoon Maida (All Purpose Flour)
  • Salt (as per taste)

For The Gravy (List B)

  • 6 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 3 Whole Dry Red Chili
  • 3 -4 Pieces of Cinnamon Stick
  • 4 Pieces of Cloves
  • 4 Pieces of Cardamoms
  • 3 Tablespoons Fried Onion Paste (See Notes)
  • 2 Tablespoons Onion Chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon Green Chili Paste
  • 1 Tablespoon Garlic Paste
  • 1 Tablespoon Ginger Paste
  • 1 Teaspoon Red Chili Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Turmeric Powder
  • ¼ Teaspoon Cumin Powder
  • ¼ Teaspoon Coriander Powder
  • 1 Medium Size Tomato
  • 2 Tablespoons Tomato Purée
  • 2 Tablespoons Yogurt/Curd
  • ½ Teaspoon Garam Masala Powder (Cinnamon, Cardamom, Cloves)
  • ½ Teaspoon Lemon Juice
  • Salt (as needed)
  • Sugar (as per taste)


  1. Put minced chicken (keema) in a bowl and add all the spices listed in List A.
  2. Mix them well and make medium sized balls with the chicken and keep them aside.
  3. Now take water in a bowl and heat in medium to high flame. Once the water starts boiling, drop the Chicken balls one by one. Let the chicken ball be cooked until they start floating on the water.
  4. Heat a skillet/cooking pan in a medium flame and put 3 Tablespoons of Vegetable Oil and shallow fry all the chicken balls.
  5. Take 6 Tablespoons of Vegetable Oil in a skillet and heat over medium flame.
  6. Once the oil is hot, add Bay Leaves, whole Dry Red Chili, Cinnamon, Cardamom, Cloves (whole).
  7. When the aroma of the spices starts to come out, add fried Onion paste, chopped Onion, Green Chili Paste, Ginger & Garlic Paste. Sauté them for 3-5 mins.
  8. Add the Red Chili Power, Turmeric Powder, Cumin Powder & Coriander Powder. Sauté them for 2-3 mins.
  9. Then add the chopped Tomato, Tomato puree, Salt & Sugar. Stir them until the chopped tomato has been cooked.
  10. Next, add the Yogurt and stir until the gravy starts extracting oil.
  11. Now finally add the Chicken Balls and mix them well for few mins.
  12. Add half Cup of warm water, reduce the flame to low-medium and cover the skillet with a lid for 2-3 mins.
  13. Now your Chicken Kofta Curry is almost ready.
  14. Add ½ Teaspoon Lemon Juice & ½ Teaspoon Garam Masala Powder before serving.

How to make Mutton Shaami Kebab

Mutton shami kebab

image credit

Ingredients for Mutton Shaami Kebab Recipe

  • Mutton mince 250 grams
  • Deep fried onions 3 tablespoons
  • Caraway seed (shahi jeera) powder 1/2 teaspoon
  • Ginger chopped 1/2 inch pinch
  • Garlic chopped 2 cloves
  • Dried red chillies broken 2
  • Split Bengal gram (chana dal) soaked for 1/2 hour 1 tablespoon
  • Salt to taste
  • Egg 1
  • Fresh mint leaves 1/4 cup
  • Fresh coriander leaves 1/4 cup
  • Deep fried onions 1/2 cup
  • Lemon juice 2 teaspoons


Heat 2 tbsps ghee in a non-stick pan. Add caraway seeds, ginger, garlic, red chillies, keema and drained chana dal. Mix well and sauté for 2 minutes.Add salt and mix well. Cover and cook on medium heat till the moisture dries up and the dal is cooked. Break the egg in a bowl and whisk it well.

Add lemon juice and grind to a coarse paste. Heat remaining ghee on a non-stick tawa. Divide mutton mixture into 8 equal portions and shape them into flat kababs.

Dip each kabab in whisked egg and place it on the tawa. Shallow-fry, turning the side once, for 3-4 minutes or till both the sides are evenly cooked. Serve hot with green chutney.

With so many different types, variants, shapes and styles, Koftas and Kebabs are among the most versatile dishes that Asians and non-Asians can enjoy together, without worry to their health.

Pick up the key ingredients for your kofta or kebab at

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