The History of The Shish Kebab


The history of the shish kebab.

What was life and food like in early civilization?

Imagine yourself yearning for food to rid you of the gnawing emptiness in your stomach; hunting and gathering, discovering fire, tasting plants, and herbs for the first time.

Your discoveries are shared with generations to come.

Meals always have a story.

A story of adventure and exploration. A story of tradition or brilliance born out of practicality or necessity.

This is where the story of one of our treasured barbecue go-to’s, the shish kebab, begins.


Practicality Meets Deliciousness

One day a Turkish soldier decides to use his sword to hold small cuts of meat over an open-field fire.

This simple cooking method gave birth to one of the world’s favorite ways to cook food.

This shish kebab method was a practical way to cook in the region of Persia – modern Iraq – and Turkey because small cuts of meat cooked faster and used less fuel which was scarce in these areas.

The Turkish word for “sis” means sword or skewer. Kebab means to roast.


The Kebab Travels the Globe

The Turks introduced kebabs to Greece in the 1950’s and the people there changed it by adding chunks of tomatoes, onions, and green peppers.

Americans adapted this version and made the pieces of meat larger and began cooking them over grills in backyard barbecues.

This smart and delicious cooking technique has made its way across the globe taking on local flavors, customs, and new names.

In West Africa, people of Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger, and Ghana make a spicy kebab called Suya.

In Bangladesh, there are many versions including Tikka and Tandoori kebab.

Kebabs are called Sekuwa in Nepal where the meat is mixed with homemade herbs and spices before cooking.

In Southeast Asia, they call it Satay it is typically served with sauces including soy and peanut sauce.

The midrib of a coconut palm frond and bamboo are commonly used as skewers.

So many varieties across many countries.

I wonder what that Turkish soldier would think today of the trend he started so long ago.

White plate with a sage colored napkin lying the center tied twine and adorned with a single sage leaf. The plate is sitting on a wooden table with a fork, a glass, and a white bowl.

Never again wonder what's for dinner.

Delicious news you can use! Tasty tidbits and juicy morsels delivered straight to your inbox. 

Sign up today and you'll receive Chef Sandra's Top 10 Vegetables and Fruits for Weeknight Cooking.

Sign up below or text "COOK" to 66866.

You've made a savory choice!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Share This

The best things in life are shared!