The first time I tried chapli kebab was at a small Afghan restaurant over 10 years ago in my home town of Toronto. The restaurant was barely a few weeks old, but the owner, an Afghan native, was passionate about the food he served and insisted that we try his favourite item — chapli kebab. It was wonderfully moist, spicy and had a very distinct flavour (and shape!)
Popular in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, specifically in Peshawar a northern city in Pakistan, chapli comes from the Pashto word meaning flat.
Doing some research, I quickly realized there are a few things that are consistent in every chapli kebab recipe; anardana, crushed chilies & tomato. Traditionally, most recipes will call for ground beef, but ground lamb is popular as well.
I decided to recreate my own version using common Peshawar-style elements along with some non-conventional ingredients to give this classic a new spin.
- ½ kg minced chicken (keema)
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 3-4 stems of fresh green onion/scallions, finely chopped
- ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
- 1 tsp green chilli paste
- ½ tsp ginger/garlic paste
- 1 tbsp anardana powder (dried pomegranate seeds)
- ½ tsp dhanna powder
- 1-1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1 flat tsp crushed chilli flakes
- ¾ tsp ajwain, slightly crushed with your fingers
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 small tomato chopped
- ½ cup of sweet green pepper, chopped
- 1 medium potato, shredded on smallest size hole (not the pucker holes used for zesting), wrap in cheesecloth or paper towel and squeeze out as much of the water as possible
- ¼ cup bread crumbs or more to help bind (I use regular or Panko crumbs)
- Mix all ingredients except for the last 5 and refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes. Once you’re ready to prepare, mix in egg, tomato, green pepper, potato and breadcrumbs until everything is well blended.
- Shred the potato when you are ready to prepare and fry mix as it will brown.
- Heat a large shallow fry pan with a thin layer of oil on medium-high heat.
Tip 1: To keep the chapli kebab mixture from getting messy when forming, keep a small bowl of ice water handy. Dip your hands in ice water and then take out some of the keema mixture.
Tip 2: Fry a quarter-sized kebab to test levels of salt and spice and adjust before frying the rest!
Form a ball slightly smaller than a tennis ball. Flatten the ball with your hands so that it’s about ½” thick and then fry each side for 2-4 minutes. Here’s a method to flatten the kebab without the use of your hands:
Tip 3: Place the ball on the frying. Wait about 10 seconds and flip the ball over. Take your spatula and flatten the ball so it’s about 1/2” thick. Let this side cook for about 2 minutes and then flip once more and cook for another 2 minutes and both sides are golden brown. Remove from heat and drain on some paper towels before serving. By cooking the first side slightly, your spatula will not stick to the ball making it really easy to get a nice flat round shape with little effort and without using your hands!
Serve hot with key lime and hot garlic tandoori naan!