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Shashlik is the Central Asian equivalent of shish kebab, made from cubes of lamb grilled over open coals. Native to Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and the rest of the high plains between Turkey and India, shashlik is a preparation almost as old as cooking itself! What makes it distinctively different is the way its tart, acidic marinade complements the rich lamb.


  • 2 lbs. boneless lamb shoulder or leg
  • 2 medium yellow onions
  • 3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • ½ tsp. ground cumin
  • ½ tsp. ground coriander seed
  • ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper


  1. Cut the boneless pieces of lamb into 2” cubes. Trim away any loose pieces of fat, but leave the rest in place. Shashlik requires well-marbled meat to achieve the right texture, and most of the fat will cook out anyway before it's done. Drop the pieces into a large, heavy resealable freezer bag.
  2. Grate the onions coarsely on a box grater, or shave them very thinly with a sharp knife, then chop them. Add the onions to the bag. Measure the remaining ingredients into the freezer bag as well, and squeeze out any excess air. Zip the bag shut and massage it to thoroughly mix the meat and the marinade.
  3. Refrigerate the meat for a minimum of 4 hours, but preferably overnight, kneading it periodically to ensure that the marinade penetrates the meat evenly. If you'll be using bamboo skewers, place them in cold water now to soak thoroughly.
  4. Heat your grill to a medium-high cooking temperature, approximately 400°- 450° F. Remove the cubed lamb from its marinade and blot it dry on paper towels. Divide the lamb pieces between four long or eight shorter metal skewers, so the pieces touch each other throughout their length. If you don't have flat, Central-Asian style metal skewers, use two bamboo skewers instead for each portion of shashlik. You'll need to turn them as they cook, and they'd simply spin in place if you used a single bamboo skewer.
  5. Line up the skewers on your grill. Cook for 40-45 minutes, turning frequently, until the lamb cubes are well browned on all sides and internal temperature reaches 145° F. Serve hot with flatbread or plain rice, and your choice of side salads or other vegetable dishes. Refrigerate any leftovers.


If you're not a fan of lamb, you can use the same technique with beef, pork or chicken. If you opt for chicken, keep the marinating time to 6 hours or less rather than overnight, and use thighs rather than breast pieces. With beef or pork, use a well-marbled shoulder cut.

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