I am an carnivore in rehab. Many years back my friend and then boss, Martin Page, convinced me to give up eating meat. I did and miss it sorely.
One of my fondest childhood memories is eating Shami Kababs in Lucknow, India. For those of you who don’t know, the Shami Kabab is a meat patty made with either goat or beef, mixed with spices and lentils. It is either deep fried or pan fried and makes for an awesome appetizer with some green mint chutney, lemon and onion slices. The word Shami is variously attributed to “Sham” which means evening in Urdu or to “Sham” in Arabic which means Syrian. Thus depending on what you believe in, you either eat these in the evening or assume the recipe came from Syria.
I was 12 and suffering the terrible boarding school food in Lucknow every day. The one highlight of the week was the Thursdays when, for a couple of hours, we were allowed to leave the school campus and go out. We would head out to Hazratganj, the go-to place, in Lucknow and splurge on Chow Mein, Biryani, Ice Cream and Kababs. I remember a hole-in-the-wall tea stall right in front of our school, next to a mosque, that served Bun-Unda(Fried Egg with salt and pepper on a bread roll) and Bun Kababs (A kind of a no-frills burger with a Shami Kabab in a bread roll). Compared to the swill that we were fed at school, even this food was gourmet. I am pretty sure that the Kababs were mostly filler with little to no meat, considering how cheap they were, but boy, did they taste good!
Since I am vegetarian now, I have spent many years now trying to recreate the magic of those Thursday Shami Kababs from so long ago. The quest is on, the end is not yet in sight. Co-travelers are welcome, so join in and share your thoughts and recipes if you like.