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Skewered !

If there is one type of street food that is universal, it is kebobs (aka skewers).  These are delectable assortments of meats, seafood or vegetables, marinated and spiced, then grilled over hot coals.  You can find them anywhere, from open-air markets to luxurious site-down restaurants around the world.  What’s makes them so unique is the simplicity of the tastes.  The meat or seafood of choice is cut into large cubes, then marinated for at least four to five hours in a marinade of choice,  This can be a simple citrus brine, or a more ornate yogurt preparation.  The marinades match the type of ingredient.  Wooden skewers when used are soaked to prevent burning, and the cubes are then pushed onto them.  Vegetables may alternate the cubes, but most kebobs are simply meat.  The skewers are then heavily spiced with curry, cumin, chillies or herbs.  When a order is placed, the skewer is placed within inches from hot coals.  The heat sears the outside and create a spicy crust.  Cooks will rotate their meals every few minutes until done. Even along streets you’ll find vendors grilling stacks of skewers for passers-by.

They are absolutely delicious.  Best of all, you don’t need any sort of utensils to enjoy them.  Just grab a napkin for emergencies and eat them right off of the stick.  Or, if you prefer, many types of skewers can be “un-skewed” and placed inside a flat bread.  A couple of squirts of chilli sauce, some pickled veggies and you have a handy wrap.  Although these tend to be a bit more of a challenge to eat on the run, the kebob wraps are a great meal, a mix of chewy bread, spicy meat and cool pickles.

Kebobs originated in Persia, yet now you’ll find them everywhere from the Middle East, China, Southeast Asia, South America and North America.  Traditionally they have been curried shish kebobs made with lamb.  But with the assortment now available, you can find beef, chicken, goat, shrimp, fish, pork, tofu, falafel and vegetable kebobs.

The traditional kebobs are the shish kebobs, in which the cubes of meat are lined up on a skewer.  Yet you’ll find the large cylinders of meat rotating in front of a electric grill.  These are the doner kebobs, also known as shawarma in the Middle East, al pastor in Mexico and gyros in Greece.  The meat continues to broil as pieces are sliced off.
In China, chuanr is a popular street food, primarily lamb with cumin and peppers.  It is broiled over small grills or deep fried then served on wooden sticks.
Kubideh are Persian style kebobs, whereas chapli and chappal kebobs are from Pakistan and are usually made with ground meat patties.  If you think all kebobs are boneless, think again.

Many types of kebobs are actually served with bones (e.g., chicken or pork) in tact, adding the flavor and challenge of eating them.
Anitcuchos found in Peru (which I had the delight in eating) are beef hearts, sliced, marinated and cooked over hot coals.  They don’t taste anything like you may think.  Instead, they are tender and beefy.  The Spanish brought cattle to Peru after the conquest of the Incas.  Yet, the indigenous people had little access to it.  Only those parts that were discarded became available and the tradition of anitcuchos survives to this day.

If you are on the streets of Beijing, Capetown, Bangkok or Cuzco, you can always find a skewer grilling with irresistible smells and spices close by.  It is one of the few foods that you can eat one-handed.  It is a perfect meal for vagabonds on the run.

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