Category Archives: The Quest

The search for the perfect vegetarian Shami Kabab recipe.

Attempt #4 at a veggie shami kabab

Veggie Shami Kababs – Attempt #4

As many of you know, I have been at this for a while. Ever since I quit eating meat, Shami Kababs are something I have sorely missed. For the uninitiated, Shami Kababs are an extremely popular appetizer in North India and Pakistan. They are typically made with beef or ground goat meat, bound with Chana Daal and spices. The belief is that Mughal invaders introduced this dish to the Indian palate and that these came over with Syrian cooks that the Mughals brought with them (the Sham in Shami, refers to Syria).

I had not attempted these in a while and then when my mother made the Chickpeas Veggie Patties recently, it rekindled a desire to try and make Veggie Shami Kababs again. The reason being that Veggies Patties, made with Chickpeas, had a taste profile that intersected quite heavily with the taste of Shami Kababs. To add the meaty texture I once again relied on the trusty Morningstar Meat Crumbles (Soy-based meat crumbles). I sauteed the meat crumbles in a little oil with some salt and red chili powder and then mixed them into the veggie patty mixture (see recipe here). I then pan fried the veggie patties with a little oil on both sides.

I am happy to report that this attempt was successful. The veggie kababs were flavorful and had a great texture. The best part was I didn’t need to use the dreaded Shami Kabab Masala, whose proportion I never seem to be able to get right.

I hope you try these with some leftover Cholle. They make a wonderful hors d’oeuvres and are very easy to make. Serve them with some green chutney and you will be in appetizer heaven.



Filed under The Quest

Attempt #3 at a veggie shami kabab


OK. Here we go again. Attempt number 3. This time I am going to use Chana Dal (Split Peas) and Veggie Crumbles (a Ground Beef Substitute). I think this is the closest I have come this far to the magical taste. But darn, the Shan Shami Kabab masala got me this time too! Just when I thought everything was good, the masala added way too much salt to the mix. To compensate I had to add more of the potato/dal mix and that threw the balance off. The end result was a perfectly pleasant veggie kabab, just not quite what I was going for though. Will try again.

P.S. I used the leftover mix to make Veggie Burgers today. They turned out to be kickass Burgers!

Veggie Shami Kabab v3.0

INGREDIENTS (for 12-16 kababs)

1/2 cup Chana dal (Yellow Split Peas)

1 medium potato

1 1/2 cup water

Cooking Oil

1/4 onion finely chopped

5 oz Morningstar Veggie Crumbles

1 tsp minced ginger

1/2 tsp minced garlic

1 Tbsp Shan Shami Kabab Mix


1. Pressure cook the Chana Dal, Potato with the 1 1/2 cup water.

2. Drain the water from the cooked dal.

3. Peel the potato and mash with the dal. Set aside.

2. Chop the onion, garlic and ginger.

3. Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a frying pan.

4. Add onion to hot oil till it was transparent. I used moderate heat because I did not want caramelized onions.

5. Add veggie crumbles, and let it cook for 1-2 mins.

6. Add ginger and garlic and mix it together

7. Add the Shan Shami Kabab mix.

8. Add the potato/dal mix and mix everything together. NOTE: I added only half of the Potato/Dal mix to start off and everything tasted great except the masala was overpowering with its salt and heat. So then I added all of the Potato/Dal mix which threw the texture of the kabab off.

9. Add a little water and cover the pan.

10. Let the mix cook for about 6-7 minutes.

11. Let it cool.

12. Roll into balls and flatten into patties about 3 inches in diameter.

13. Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a frying pan and pan fry.

14. Serve with slices of lemon and chopped onion with Tamarind and Green Chutney.

1 Comment

Filed under Indian, Recipes, The Quest

Attempt #2 at a veggie Shami Kabab

I crashed and burned the last time I tried it. The Kabab was way too spicy. I had used a combination of boiled potatoes, garlic, onion and chana dal (split peas) along with Shan (a Pakistani brand)  Shami Kabab mix. For those of you who haven’t tried it, be careful with the Shan mix. It is very tasty but is high in salt and very hot. You have to experiment with the amount you want to use.

The opportunity presented itself when I was making some Black Bean Chili for dinner. I figured, I may as well try and make Kababs with the leftover Black Beans. So I went off again. This time it was a combination of Black Beans and Potatoes (the recipe is below). The result? A little better. A little more edible, but no cigar. It still doesn’t even come close to what I have in mind.  But what I found is that Chana Dal is probably needed, as is Besan (ground Split Peas Flour) for a binder perhaps? Anyway, will need to try some more variations. In the meantime, here is the experimental recipe.


1 Tbsp Oil

½ tsp minced garlic

¼ onion finely chopped (one of the mongo American Yellow Onion, though perhaps Red Onions might be a better choice)

1 medium sized boiled potato

½ cup cooked black beans

½ tsp Shami Kabab Masala (I used the Shan brand) – careful, this is STRONG stuff

1 slice bread (used as a binder, entirely optional)


1. Fry onion in hot oil

2. Add garlic when the onion is starting to brown

3. Saute for 1-2 mins

4. Add black beans and the Shami Kabab Masala and cook for 4-5 mins. Add a little water if the mix is too dry. You want it so you can make patties out of it.

5. Cool

6. Mash with one slice of bread soaked in water and then squeezed to get as much water out as possible.

7 The mixture should be pretty easy to handle at this time.

8. Make four balls and flatten into patties.

9. Heat about 1 Tbsp oil and pan fry the patties.


Filed under The Quest

The elusive vegetarian Shami Kabab

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.

1 Comment

Filed under The Quest