As a kid I really thought Bun Kababs were made out of beef. Now while some are, the quintessential Karachi Bun Kabab is a daal only creation. Apparently, Bun Kabab as we know them today were a product of frugality. Street vendors who could not afford the price of meat created these patties where the daal is spiced in the same meaty manner as a great Shami Kabab, to create a dish avid carnivores would love. Well, they had me fooled.
What Goes in a Bun Kabab?
Now some people make Bun Kababs wrapped in a proper omelette, others layer theirs with coleslaw, some with cucumbers and tomatoes. Some put ketchup along with chutneys, some people make theirs with one chutney. One chutney appealed to me, but when I suggested the idea my foodie friends on Instagram were overwhelmingly against the idea. Subsequent taste testing has led me to believe they were right.
That said if you are going to make one I'd make the imli chutney!
What Goes in These Bun Kababs
So here I present to you what goes in my Bun Kababs and you can adjust to taste, capiche?
- a nice soft bun, I use Pav Bhaji buns, but you can use any bun you like
- imli chutney
- a green yoghurt based chutney
- a lentil patty, dipped in an egg wash and fried
- red onions - soaked in water to tone them down
Imli Chutney for Bun Kababs
I tried several iterations of tamarind chutneys to get this one right. It had to have some body, the right amount of tartness, a note of sweet to balance the earthiness of the daal kabab. I found that the combination of tamarind, mint, cilantro, a little brown sugar and some spice made for a balanced chutney that didn't make the bun soggy (very important!).
Green Chutney for Bun Kababs
This one I kept simple with green chilies, cilantro, garlic, yoghurt and salt. Why mess with perfection you know?
pro tip: anytime you are making a yoghurt based chutney only blend a portion of the ingredients with the yoghurt. Whisk the remaining yoghurt in after so your chutney doesn't become too watery.
The Lentil Patty aka Daal Kabab
The lentil patty in this recipe is made out of only daal. I loved the substantial (dare I say meaty one more time?) heft of the patty when made this way. I have heard of mashed potatoes etc. being added in, but I kept it as easy as possible.
The daal is soaked and boiled with ginger, garlic, spices and then dried out. From there on it goes into the food processor to become a thick paste and after that all you do is stir in some fresh herbs and onion.
Why I Used the Instant Pot (And never will again)
On the day I was filming this video I was multitasking, i.e my other hob was busy working on recording a video for these Box Patties with a white sauce filling. The Instant Pot, a huge favourite of mine seemed like the logical choice. Patience should have been.
While the IP softens the daal quite beautiful when it came to drying the daal out it was quite the endeavour. Apparently nothing compared to cleaning it later.
The Coating of the Daal Kabab
In terms of the battering of the kababs, I tried several approaches. With the making an omelette and wrapping an egg in it I didn't love what it did to the flavour of the kabab. Also omelettes cool fast and aren't my favourite. Many recipes advocated dunking the kabab in a meringue, but that again seemed to fussy and not worth it. Instead, I whipped two egg whites and one full egg together with some enthusiasm, dunked and fried.
The two KEY elements of a great Bun Kabab
1.) Crunch. However you get it, a Bun Kabab needs it. I opted for some red onion spirals, and took the aggressiveness out of the onions by soaking them in cold water for 15 minutes.
2.) PAN TOASTED BUNS: Is capitalization here excessive? I think not. To get that amazing traditional Bun Kabab flavour and prevent your bun from getting soggy, you must pan fry BOTH sides of your bun. I know this is a lot of caps, but trust me on this.
Now you can butter your bread and then give it a few minutes on each side, or you can go old school and let a little oil do the trick. Up to you.
What do you serve with Bun Kabab?
Masala fries and some cold coke. Nothing else needed. True story.
- 1 large pot for boiling the daal
- mini blender/ food processor for chutneys
- food processor for making the daal kababs
- 1.5 cup chanay ki daal (gram lentils) (soaked for a few hours)
- 2.5 cup water
- 1 tsp garlic paste
- 1 tbsp ginger paste
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp chili powder (cayenne)
- 1 tsp chili flakes
- ½ cup diced onion
- 1 small onion
- 1 green chili
- 5-6 mint leaves
- ¼ cup cilantro
- 2 eggs plus one white, whipped together for battering (optional)
- ⅓ cup imli paste
- 1 tsp red chili flakes
- 1 tsp chaat masala powder
- 1 tsp roasted cumin powder
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- ⅓ tsp salt
- 1 green chili
- ¾ cup chopped cilantro
- ½ cup mint leaves
- ¼ cup mint leaves
- ½ cup cilantro leaves
- ½-3/4 tsp salt
- ½ tsp roasted cumin powder
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 +2 tbsp plain yoghurt
- 1 green chilies
- a squeeze of lemon juice
- 16 buns
- 2-3 red onions sliced into thin rings, submerge in cold water
- Combine all the ingredients from the Daal through to the ½ cup onion in a pot, bring to a boil and simmer until the daal is cooked through. This takes 35-45 minutes but requires no active cooking.
- Turn up the heat and dry the daal up until the moisture is completely gone.
- Run your onion, chili, cilantro, and mint through a food processor (or chop finely)
- Remove the herby mix and replace it with the daal, pureeing until a thick shapeable mixture forms.
- Add the chopped mix from earlier, a squeeze of lemon juice, pulse a few times and adjust for seasoning.
- Shape into 16 kababs or according to the size of your buns.
- Whip your eggs well to give them some body, dip each kabab in the eggs and fry for 1.5-2 minutes on each side on medium heat, pressing lightly.
- Blend all the ingredients in a blender, adjust for seasoning.
- Blend all the ingredients (but only 2 tbsp yoghurt) in a blender. Once it's combined whisk the other two tbsp in with a fork, adjust for seasoning.
- Heat your bans on a hot pan on both sides, lightly greasing the pan if needed
- Place a dollop of imli chutney on the bottom bun, place the kabab, then the onions, then the green chutney and the top bun.