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The cuisine of the Emirates is a mix of Indian, Persian and Turkish elements – the result of the journeys Arabian traders undertook between India and the Mediterranean region, often in their famous old dhows. Today, these traditional boats are seldom seen under sail on the high seas; most of them ply the waters with the aid of modern motors, like this particular dhow in the bay of Diba al Hisn (Al Fujairah).

Kabab Laham

Minced Lamb on a Skewer

According to Al-Hamad («Cardamom and Lime»), the Persians hit upon the idea of pressing minced mean over a skewer and frying it over a fire way back in the 8th century – i.e. 1,000 years before the invention of the meat grinder by Karl Drais in the early 19th century. During his mission in the United Arab Emirates, Maille relished Kabab Laham in the restaurant «Al Maskoof» in Sharja, with flat bread and «Daqous», a spicy tomato sauce.

In the Gulf, the meat used in such preparations is mixed with bread, melted butter and various spices (particularly popular is Worcestershire Sauce). Here, we provide you with a simple and ‹purer› version, which is more oriented towards the Persian archetype (Kabab kubideh).

The skewered lamb is subtly spiced, it has a fine fragrance of saffron and brings out the fine flavour of the meat. A sauce is not really essential – one can serve this kabab with some smooth parsley, fresh onions and an additional bit of Sumach. Although we are here also providing the recipe for Daqous Sauce, which is an excellent accompaniment to every type of grilled meat.

Ingredients (for 4 persons)

500 g minced lamb, as fine as possible

2 onions

½ teaspoon saffron, ground (2 of these little envelops, about 250 mg)

1 heaped teaspoon sumac

½ teaspoon ground turmeric

2 teaspoons black pepper, ground

1 heaped teaspoon salt


  1. Put the minced meat in a big bowl and let it rest outside the fridge for at least one hour. Grind the onion and slightly squeeze some of the water out - throw the water away. Resolve the saffron in 2 tablespoons of water.
  2. Mix well the minced meat, onion, saffron. sumac, curcuma, pepper and salt. knead the mass for about 10 minutes.
  3. With your hands stick the mass in the form of a sausage to the skewers. You can also form a sausage on the kitchen table and pierce the meat than with the skewers.4. Fry the skewers on a barbecue, in the oven or in a pan. Turn them frequently. Depending on the heat an the diameter of the sausage they should be done after 5 to 8 minutes.

Traditionally for this dish one would use flat skewers looking a bit like a sword. The round wooden skewers are not so suitable for this preparation as there is little surface for the meat to attach to. If you like it richer, after cooking the skewers you can daub the meat with some spiced butter.

Kabab Laham on a gas barbecue.

More about the travel adventure of Secret Agent Hektor Maille:

With every morsel of this Arabic menu, secret agent Hektor Maille bit deeper into the question of what a Lemusan water-lily from a Swedish pond could possibly have to do with the kidnapping of Professor Koslow:

  • Kabab Laham (Minced Lamb on a Skewer)
  • Jareesh (Spicy crushed wheat with vegetables)
  • Foul (Crushed Broad Beans)

First Publication: 31-12-2009

Modifications: 25-1-2011, 19-6-2011, 14-11-2011, 14-12-2011