Kebab is one of the most well-known meat dishes that the Middle-East has given to the world. But India has its own set of kebabs and Chicken Malai Kebab ranks quite high in popularity.
A kebab consists of pieces of marinated meat, on a skewer, that is grilled or barbecued. The Indian array of kebabs feature different spice and herb combos. Then they are grilled in a tandoor or on open fire on coal embers giving it the classic smoky flavour that is to die for. This is one of the best street treats you can find in India.
Malai means cream and as the name goes, Chicken malai kebab consist of succulent pieces of boneless chicken, marinated in a creamy base with a hint of spices. Once grilled, these are dripping with mouth-watering goodness. These kebabs are mild in their spice level. You can always increase the green chilli or pepper for more heat.
Which meat to use:
Quite often I hear discussion about what pieces of chicken should be used for grilling. Although the current health trend favours leaner cuts of meat, the extra fat on the thigh meat is in fact essential during grilling. As chicken can go dry pretty quick once on the heat, I do not prefer using chicken breast meat for this recipe. The last thing I would want is dehydrated chicken that tastes drab. Thus not only should you go for the thigh meat but also preserve the tags of fat that come with it; this is where the real magic lies in getting those soft, succulent pieces of meat.
Marination allows the chicken to get married with all the flavours you are coating it in. If in a hurry, 2 hours is fine but I would always suggest to plan ahead and give 8-10 hours marination time. This even tenderises the meat and the end result is always a notch higher.
Quick tip: To make matters simple, use a zipper bag and dump all the marinade ingredients and mix in the bag itself. Throw in the chicken pieces, remove the air and zip it up. Now just massage the marinade into the chicken.
That’s no mess, no fuss and 1 less container to wash!
Skewers: Bamboo skewers or satay sticks are easily available anywhere. To prevent them from burning, always soak them in water for at least 30 minutes. Or you can go ahead and use metal skewers.
Now let’s dive into this recipe.
Makes 5 skewers
- 500 gm chicken thigh fillets
- Oil for basting as required
- For the marinade
- 1/4 cup Cream cheese
- 2 tbsp thick yogurt
- 2 tsp ginger paste
- 2 tsp garlic paste
- 1 and 1/2 tsp crushed green chilli (this is as per taste)
- Pinch of grated nutmeg
- Pinch of green cardamom powder
- 2 tsp salt
- 1-2 tsp white pepper (black pepper is good too!)
- Cut rectangular pieces of chicken approximately 1 inch by 2 inch.
- Put all the ingredients of the marinade in a zipper bag or bowl and mix well such that there are no lumps.
- Add the chicken pieces, and rub the mix well. Leave this to marinate in the refrigerator for 8-10 hours, overnight is ideal.
- When ready to grill, skewer the strips lengthwise folding twice shaped like a S, such that each piece gets pricked thrice. (Imagine S to $) Most skewers should accommodate 3-4 pieces.
- Grill the skewers in whichever method you choose. (See note below.) Use oil for basting.
- Grill until chicken is cooked through, and there are beautiful char marks on the edges.
- Indication that the chicken is cooked is, the juices run clear and there are no pink bits in the centre of the meat.
Methods to grill the kebab
- If you are lucky, you would get access to a tandoor and the burning coal to get the authentic smoky kebab flavor and aroma.
- Fire up the barbie! That’s how Aussies refer to the barbecue 🙂
- Oven: Preheat to 180 ° C and then cook for 15 minutes, turning halfway in between. After that, grill or broil for 10 minutes.
- And if you are like me, with none of the above resources, it is worthwhile to invest in a grill pan. I use a cast-iron grill pan for grilling kebabs in my very own home kitchen. A non-stick grill pan is another option.
- Just a regular pan or skillet.
How to serve
- As a starter – These kebabs are so flavourful, they make for an impressive starter. Just couple it up with some mint and coriander chutney and pickled onion rings.
- In a salad – If you love your veggies and salads make up most of your meals, 2 skewers of these kebabs can be an excellent source of protein.
- In a wrap – Take any flat bread, and layer with your choice of dressings and greens. You can even use lettuce wraps for a low-carb option.
- Chicken malai kebabs are loved by kids as they are mild and creamy.
Try a vegetarian spin on this with Paneer (Indian cottage cheese) or parboiled baby potatoes.
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Fancy another version of chicken kebab that is spicier? Click here for my Chicken Tikka recipe