If you have lived or experienced the cuisine from the sub-continent, you will notice the BBQ culture that is predominantly found in the region. When roaming the markets, you will be greeted with sizzling sounds and hot amber coals lined with metal skewers and filled with different beef, lamb, and chicken variants. As they are roasted over the scorching heat, the streets are filled with rich smells of meat that would make your mouth salivate like a broken fire hydrant.
Of these BBQ restaurants and food carts, the one thing you will find common is that most of them are run by an Afghan descendant. They have brought their rich BBQ culture, which shines across the many favourite BBQ and kabab dishes found across the Subcontinent, such as Afghan Chopan Kabob/Kabab.
What is Chopan Kabob?
Chopan kabob is a dish that will take your taste buds on a journey to Central Asia. This skewered meat dish is a staple in Uzbekistan and Afghanistan and for good reason. Small pieces of meat are marinated in a blend of spices and herbs that will leave your mouth watering. The meat is then grilled to perfection over an open flame, giving it a smoky flavour that is hard to resist.
The meat used for chopan kabob can vary, but it is typically lamb, beef, or a combination of the two. The skewers are often served with a side of rice, naan bread, and a variety of vegetables, making it a complete meal that is both satisfying and delicious. If you want to add international flair to your dinner table, chopan kabab sometimes spelled chopaan kebab is the perfect choice.
Afghan Chopan Kabob
Hailing from the Pushtun cuisine, which is heavily dominated by the use of different meat and dairy products due to low vegetation in the region. Chopan kabob can be considered their speciality, and they have mastered the art of roasting lamb. The use of some simple chopan kabob ingredients with salt, ginger, garlic, and yoghurt complement the gamey and nutty flavours of the lamb that is laced with fat, giving you a burst of flavour as you bite into the meat.
Unlike other kebab recipes, we use the juices of onion rather than the heavy use of grounded spices. Marinating the meat in the onion juices would not just add to the flavour but also would give the lamb chopan kabob a little bit of colour and also help it tenderize it as the enzymes present in the onion and yoghurt would help in breaking down the protein and give you a more juicy and tender bbq. Additionally, you eliminate adding in the pulp that would most likely burn during the roasting process, giving a biter an unpleasant flavour.
Selecting The Right Meat For Chopan Kabob Afghanistan
Selecting the right part of the meat is what makes these chopan kabob special. The Younger the Lamb is, the more tender the meat would be, but most of the time, it would be difficult to know the animal if you buy your meat from the supermarket unless you buy it from a butcher shop.
So, the best cut for BBQ or slow roasting would be shoulder, load, and belly. For Chopan Kabab, I love to make it with Lamb Shoulder and Shoulder chops slowly and at low heat. They may not be moist, but they’re not tough and have the good meaty flavour you want in your kababs. It’s better to roast it slowly until it reaches an internal temperature of 180°F/82°C. Though it would be time-consuming, the result would be worth it. To reduce cooking time, cut meat into small pieces. You can also use the same recipe for making chicken chopan, but the cooking time will be less.
Afghan Chopan Kabob Recipe
3 Kg Lamb Shoulder and Ribs with bone and fat, cut into 2-inch
1 large Red Onion, 2-inch cubes
1 Tbsp Garlic paste
1 Tsp Ginger paste
100 Gram Yogurt
1 ¼ Tbsp salt
½ Tsp White pepper
Coriander Chutney & Naan
- In a juicer, add red onion so the juice is separated from the ground pulp. Alternatively, you can blend the onion in a blender. Place a strainer over a large bowl. Drape either cheesecloth or a thin dish towel over the bowl. Pour the blended onion into the cheesecloth. The juice will drain and be collected in the bowl below, and the onion pulp will be caught in the cheesecloth. Save the juice that will be used for marination.
- Marinade: Take a bowl, add yoghurt, and whisk it smooth, ensuring no lumps are left. Then mix the onion juice, salt, white pepper, garlic, and ginger paste in yoghurt well until everything is combined.
- Place your meat and the yoghurt marinade in an airtight container, and mix the lamb well to ensure the marinade completely covers the meat. You can store it in the fridge for at least 4 hours, up to 24 hours, allowing the marinade to penetrate the meat, enhancing the flavour, and tenderizing it for cooking.
- Before you begin cooking, thread the meat onto skewers. Ensure the skewers are compact, and let them rest at room temperature for an hour before cooking.
- Charcoal BBQ: Arrange all the charcoals on one side of your BBQ grill and light them. Once all the charcoal is lit and covered with grey ash, and the heat radiating from it cools down a bit, spread the coals slightly, but do not cover the entire surface (we will be cooking over indirect heat). Place the cooking grate in position, cover the grill, and allow it to preheat for 10 minutes. Oil the grilling grate.
- Grill the skewers on the open BBQ, on top of the grill surface with less heat, as we will be cooking them over indirect heat. This will extend the cooking time but result in a more tender and flavorful chopan kebab, as the low heat causes the fat to melt, enhancing the flavour.
- Cook the chopan kabobs until browned on all sides, approximately 10 to 12 minutes per side. Transfer to a platter, let them rest for 5 minutes, then serve immediately.
Remember life’s too short for bland meals. Spice it up with Chopan Kabobs – because ordinary kebabs are just a missed opportunity for greatness!