Koobideh Kabab known as Cholo Kabab is one of the most famous dishes in the Iranian culture. Although many in the West admire Cholo Kabob, they have no idea how it’s prepared and are sometimes shocked when they find out cooking Cholo Kabab is very simple. By understanding the steps needed in order to make Cholo Kabab everyone can not only incorporate this delicious meal into their choice of foods but also get a peek into the history and background of the Persian culture. In order to fully understand the importance of Cholo Kabab, we must first know the history of this dish.
Cholo in the Farsi language means steamed rice and Koobideh Kabab translating to ground meat mixed with onions and other spices are the main ingredients for this dish. Cholo Kabab was first invited during the Safavi Era (one of the kings of Iran), around 500 years ago, by a Persian Chef named Nayeb. At the beginning, Cholo Kabab was made in the central Bazar of Tehran to serve people who did not have time to go to their houses for lunch and they had to eat somewhere close by. In order to meet this demand, Nayeb came up with a very delicious Kabab which was made with ground lamb meat.
This Kabab was not only very easy to make but it was also cheap that everyone could easily afford it. Nayeb was the first person who started food delivery to all the stores in Tehran Bazar. After a while of being on the market, Cholo Kabab became a very popular food among all the people in the Bazar. When other restaurants saw that Nayeb was profiting from his new dish, they started serving Cholo Kabob in their own restaurant. After one or two years of its existence in the Bazar, all the restaurants in Tehran were offering Cholo Kabab on their menu.
Today, Cholo Kabab is one of the most popular and demanded Persian dishes in the Western countries such as the United States. Whenever the topic of Persian food is brought up in a conversation, Cholo Kabab (Koobideh) is one of the choices that everybody recommends for people to try. Most of the people evaluate the Persian restaurants by their Koobideh. Usually people believe that if a restaurant is able to make really good Koobideh then they are also very capable of making other good Persian dishes.
Although Koobideh is a very simple food, there is a lot of preparation that goes into creating the dish. A successful and delicious Cholo Kabab requires great preparation with the best and freshest of ingredients. While the idea of how Cholo Kabab is constant, the ingredients vary depending upon the regions that it is prepared in. Some regions add parsley to Koobideh, others add butter, or even sumac into the ingredients in order to create what they believe is delicious Koobideh.
The most popular ingredient that is used not only in Iran but also in the states and by other Western countries is the one that we will be going over today. As mentioned before, although Cholo Kabob is easy to make, the preparation is extremely important. To make a good Cholo Kabab dish for 4 people you need around 4 pounds of ground lamb. Some people make Cholo Kabab with ground beef as well but lamb meat is recommended due to its much more profound taste.
After having the right portions of meat, the chef must also set aside two medium sized onions, one table spoon salt, two eggs, half of a tea spoon saffron, Sumac (a Persian spice), one pound of rice, any type of rice could be used but it is recommended to use either Basmati or Persian rice, a big pot, a small bowl, natural charcoal, skewers, hot boiling water, oil, drainer, and a barbeque set. After having all the necessary ingredients and tools, it is important to start with preparing the ingredients that go into the making of the Koobideh.
As stated previously, two medium sized onions are needed. Onions play an important role in this dish because they make the meat tender and juicy so that the meat in the final product is not hard to chew on. In order to prepare the onions and put them to use, they need to be cut first and then grinded down so as to they are very small pieces and can be mixed into the meat easily. At this point after the onions have been cut and grinded down, they will most likely be drenched of their own juice because excess onion juice can make the meat soggy.
Once the onions have been prepared they are set aside for the time being. While the onion are on the side, we focus on preparing one of the spices which will be used to enhance and help shape the color of the Koobideh so that it looks visually beautiful. The spice that will do all this for the dish is saffron. The preparation of saffron requires the saffron to be put into a stone dish and grinded down so that it is can be easily mixed into the meat later on. After having grinded the saffron down, we take hot boiling water and add it to the saffron.
The hot boiling water brings out the color of the saffron and allows there to be enough saffron to cover all of the meat and in the end give every piece a nice color. Similar to the onion, after having prepared the saffron it is then put aside so that it can be used in the next step. Spices similar to the use of onion help not only the look of the Koobideh but also the taste. In order to move on to the next step, we need to use the large bowl. The meat is put into the large bowl so that the spices mentioned along with the onions can be added. The onions are poured into the bowl along with one tablespoon of salt.
Salt has been used for decades in order to enhance the taste of the meat. After having added the salt and the onions, two eggs are then added into the bowl. Eggs are important because they help act like the glue in the dish and somewhat “glue” the ingredients and a spice so that they stick to the meat and the taste does not escape. It is also in this step where we include the mixture of saffron that was made and put aside. Last and not least, sumac is added to the bowl in order to not only give the meat flavor but work against the fattiness in the meat so that it is easier to digest and ultimately tender.
Once all the ingredients have been added, they must be mixed around with your hands in order to ensure that the spices and other ingredients are mixed with the meat equally. The meat along with the other ingredients must be massaged together for about 15 minutes. The other half of the dish that is as equally important as the meat is the rice. Due to the fact that rice cooks slower than the meat, the rice must be prepared before cooking the meat. Before cooking the rice, it is necessary to fully wash the amount being used in order to make sure there is no dirt in the rice.
After having washed the rice, the rice is added into a big pot of water and then enough water is added to fully cover the rice. The rice and water must cook together until the water is boiling. Similar to pasta, after the water reaches the boiling point, the rice is drained. The pot is put back on the stove, a small amount of oil is put into the pot and the drained rice is added. Under the lid of the pot, a piece of cloth is placed in order to ensure that the water from the steam doesn’t go back to the rice and it is not over cooked.
While the rice sits on the stove at a medium temperature to cook, attention is then moved back on to the meat. After having allowed the meat to marinate a bit, the next step is to cook them in the barbeque over natural charcoal. While the charcoal heats over the flames in the barbeque, the marinated meat is placed on skewers in a rectangular shape so that the meat is covering the middle part of the skewer and is about 6-8 inches long, although length varies depending on preference. Skewers are covered in the meat until all the meat is used up. Once the skewers are prepared, they are placed in the barbeque.
The skewers must be turned over every couple of minutes in order for the meat to be cooked entirely. Once all the skewers have been cooked they are set aside to be served with the rice. Koobideh can be served alongside grilled tomato, grilled onion, grilled pepper, Sabzi, which is Persian vegetable, Sumac (a Persian spice), as well as the preferred Persian drink Doogh, a yogurt drink. The way Koobideh is served and what it is enjoyed with differs from person to person; one thing that is for sure among everyone is that Koobideh when prepared right is one of the best Persian dishes!
Courtney from Study Moose
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