Throughout the sphere of Persian Arab influence, including northern India, a kebab or kofta can be meat or fish, ground or in chunks, shaped, impaled or not, and either fried, stewed, or grilled. For Parsis, the Gujarati word kavab signifies a mixture of meat, fish, or vegetable shaped and then stewed, fried, or cooked on a griddle. In Bombay, the meat of choice is usually lean kid; my preference is for chicken or turkey. Supermarket ground lamb can be too fatty for Parsi tastes, but there’s no reason for an American cook not to use the leanest possible hamburger or, for that matter, ground pork.
In traditional Parsi everyday menu planning, there’s usually something in a category known as a sukki vani: a dry dish, usually ground meat, fried as a kavab or as a katles, pronounced “cut-lace,” a pan-Indian adaptation of British cutlets. Like a kavab, a katles can be a malleable mixture of anything. What distinguishes it is its shape, a flattened oval. This basic recipe can be easily adapted to make cutlets. It is enough for about a dozen small kavabs or six to eight katles. Cold or room-temperature cutlets make an excellent sandwich filling.
Shaped around skewers and brushed with oil, the kavabs can be roasted or grilled, in which case they are called sikh (stick or skewer, not to be confused with the religious community) kavabs.
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