Cooking over fire was humankind’s first culinary technique and remains our most universal.
It’s primal and naturally celebratory, whether watching the flames of an asado burn on the hillsides of Argentina or sitting on a beach in the Arabian Gulf eating cardamom and black pepper-marinated mishkak with tangy tamarind hot sauce.
The easiest way to enjoy barbequed foods is to skewer your meats or vegetables before grilling, thus eliminating the need for plates or cutlery.
This idea originated in the Middle East, where smaller bits of meat were skewered and cooked for casual meals when a whole-animal feast wasn’t in the cards. Centuries later, in medieval Turkey, soldiers would use their şiş (swords) to skewer and cook dinner in the field, giving rise to the common moniker “shish kebab.”
Good ideas tend to travel, and as Muslim pilgrims and traders carried their cookery techniques with them around the world, the kebab took on regional variations that are still popular today.
ln Indonesia, thin ribbons of chicken satay are served with savory peanut sauce, while in the Punjab region of northern India and Pakistan, chicken tikka (pieces) are marinated in yogurt and chile before being grilled in a clay tandoor oven.
In Beijing, the Muslim Uighur population are famous for their cumin-heavy lamb kebabs, while in Japan, yakitori might be the ultimate drinking food. Made with every part of the chicken, from the feet to the skin, they’re the perfect accompaniment to cold beer and sake.
On street corners in West Africa, you’ll find grills filled with suya, a spicy meat satay encrusted with ground peanuts and hot chile, while in Iranian streets, foot-long flat skewers of koobideh kebab are hand-formed from a succulent mince of freshly grated onion and lamb.
Steckerlfisch, a whole grilled fish on sticks indicates it’s Oktoberfest in Munich, and in Portugal, espetadas are made with everything from squid to pork daily.
In America, we like to skewer vegetables and meat together on our shish kebabs (never mind that in Turkey the meat and veg are skewered separately to allow for the different cooking times).
That’s the great thing about grilling—no matter what combination of flavors or ingredients, this ancient strategy is forgiving, endlessly customizable, and just plain fun from assembly to eating.
The Edible SD recipe team developed a lineup of seasonally inspired, stick-grilled recipes to enjoy on balconies and beaches from Fallbrook to Imperial Beach, and we encourage you to tweak, substitute, and make them your own.
MAKE THE RECIPES: Shrimp / Stone Fruit/ Halumi