Confession time: I have a weird addiction to street food. Given the choice between a fancy shmancy restaurant where scented foam will inevitably be involved, and a greasy, delicious meal from a street cart, I'll be the one standing in line with the drunk club-goers, taxi drivers, and nighttime security guards waiting for hot dogs, tacos, and street noodles. A few years ago when the hubster and I were in New York while I was taking the bar exam, or "the time that shall not be mentioned," I ate the lamb and rice plate from the 53rd and 6th food cart every day.
I blame my inability to appreciate fancy food on Pakistan. Yes, I'm now blaming entire countries for my idiosyncrasies. See, when you grow up in a developing country where great street food is sold on every block, it's hard to get swept up in the white linen tablecloth craze. My favorite Pakistani street food? Sweaty man kebabs. Allow me to explain. Growing up, my favorite food came from a bald man with a Charlie Chaplin mustache who used to run a tiny, roadside stand where he stood behind a giant griddle over a propane stove cooking up all kinds of delicious kebabs. The aforementioned man wore a dingy grey, sleeveless undershirt that I'm certain was white eons ago. And he'd go about cooking his kebabs, shouting orders at his minions and serving the ever growing line of customers with ruthless efficiency. And as time passed, he'd grow sweatier and sweatier. Sweat would drop off his bald head, off his forehead, off his nose, and God knows where else, on to the pan. And he'd continue on cooking his kebabs. Delicious kebabs, I might add.
Now before you freak out, keep in mind that the dough for naan is traditionally kneaded by a sweaty, hairy man, marching barefoot in a giant vat of dough. And I'm guessing the people dancing around in giant vats of grapes to make wine didn't wash their feet all that thoroughly either. So really, sweaty man kebabs weren't that big a deal.
It's been a few years since I've been to Pakistan and I'm told the Sweaty Man has upgraded his roadside stand to an actual restaurant. He now wears an undershirt that is actually white. And frankly, I'm not sure how I feel about this. So, I have to try and replicate the kebabs at home. Truth be told, these taste nothing like sweaty man kebabs. They aren't dripping with grease or served with a side of sweat. But they are delicious and dare I say, almost healthy. Ground turkey, generally milder than ground beef, really lets the flavor of the spices and herbs shine through. Traditionally made and grilled on skewers or seekhs, the kebabs taste just the same molded in kebab shapes minus the skewers. And if you make a bunch and freeze 'em raw, they grill up perfectly well in a pan for a quick and tasty dinner.
All in all, they're kebabs that'd make even the sweatiest man proud.
1 1/4 pounds of ground turkey
1 onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon ginger, grated
1 jalapeno, finely diced
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cayenne
2 tablespoons lemon juice
A good handful of cilantro, chopped roughly
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
Oil for pan frying
Spray a cookie sheet with nonstick spray.
In a bowl, combine aromatics and spices and mix thoroughly into the ground turkey. Take a teaspoon of the mixture and fry it in a pan as a taste test. Adjust spices if necessary.
Take 2 tablespoons of the meat mixture and mold it in kebab shapes. If you find the mixture is too moist, add some breadcrumbs to dry it out. Alternatively, if you find the mixture is too dry, add a beaten egg. I've generally found ground turkey has the perfect amount of natural fat and doesn't need breadcrumbs or an egg.
Complete rolling the rest of your kebabs and line them on the greased cookie sheet. Pan fry if eating right away or freeze for later use. Once the kebabs are frozen, you can take them off the cookie sheets and freeze them in a Ziploc bag. They keep for months (not that they'll last that long).
Yields approximately 18-20 kebabs.