Food sytlist, Waheed Ghilzai
My first memory of eating chaplikebab was when I was in my 20s at the home our good friend Jawade Khan who is from Pakistan. The burger patties were juicy and very flavorful, and tasted amazing with challaw. I was hooked.
A chapli kebab in Afghanistan, and in much of the middle world, is essentially a small amount of ground meat formed into patties, and then grilled. While most kebabs are cooked and served on skewers, these chapli kebabs are not. Chapli means sandal in Dari, so a chapli kebab is meant to be as thin as the sole of a sandal. This is not exactly an appetizing image but someone must have thought it a good description.
Jeja (my mom) is not big on making kebabs. But, my sister Nabila is a great cook with many traditional as well as innovative Afghan-inspired kebab recipes. I have always made chapli kebab using the recipe that Jawade Khan shared with me, which calls for tomatoes. But Nabila informed me that an Afghan style chapli kebab does not use tomatoes. I took advantage of her visit during mother’s day so she could share her chapli kebab recipe with me.
I am always nervous about feeding Jeja my Afghan dishes. She usually points out one or two things I could have done differently. Fortunately she LOVED this chapli kebab. Not only did she rave about it, she asked for the recipe and asked me how to cook the meat; a high compliment. So, if it’s good enough for Jeja, you all must try this recipe for your warm weather barbecues.
Juicy Afghan Burgers
2 lbs. ground beef (no less than 20% fat)
1 ½ cups finely diced green onion (both white and green parts)
1 cup finely chopped cilantro (stems are fine)
1 ½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. minced fresh ginger
1 tbsp. ground coriander
½ tbsp. finely chopped garlic
½ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
Pinch of ground cinnamon (optional)
Fire up the grill until it’s nice and hot.
In the mean time mix all ingredients in a large bowl and mix by hand for at least 5 minutes. Pretend it is bread dough and knead the meat. Set the timer so you won’t cut the time short. It’s very important that all the ingredients are mixed well and the meat takes on a smooth texture.
Divide the dough into eight pieces and roll into balls. Pat the meat to form burgers that are about 1/4-inch thick and 4 inches in diameter, or larger if you like. Cook each side on your BBQ for about 5 minutes or until its cooked all the way through and juicy. While there is no “medium rare’ in the Afghan vocabulary, be careful not to overcook them. If you don’t have a bbq, no worries, simply cook the kebabs in a lightly oiled skillet for about 5 minutes per side.
Serve with warm pita bread, salad and a dollop of yogurt.
Makes 8 patties
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