Meat on skewers - what's your name for it?

There’s a current thread on the New Jersey board about “kabobs” which starts out by acknowledging there are different spellings. Not wishing to hijack that thread, I thought I’d raise the subject here.

Now, I have to say, that I’d always just assumed that “kabob” was how Americans spelled what we Britons call a “kebab”. But, now I’m curious. Are there regional American differences in spelling? What are the national differences? Does spelling depend on the ethnicity of the meat on a skewer? What are the different spellings

And, for the benefit of Britons reading the thread, it would be remiss of me to pass up the opportunity of the classic joke. As in - “What’s a Wigan kebab?”. “That’s three pies on a stick”.



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For this binational person, it’s definitely kebab. Though Turkish restaurants in Germany sometimes spell it as kebap.

Kebab in France.

Way before Thai restaurants became ubiquitous – at a dinner with coworkers tnlikely to fraternize but that work necessitated, one said “the meat on a stick here is delicious.”

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I grew up with kebabs in New Zealand too and they were mainly from Middle Eastern restaurants or Mediterranean inspired flavourings. These days however they often get called skewers, perhaps to reflect different ethnicities - satay skewers or honey soy skewers for example. Never kabobs.

Food on skewers for the Japanese is Yakitori, usually meat, but can be just vegetables too.

Kebab is for Greece, Turkish or middle eastern type of pieces of meat on a skewer or a spit.

Brochettes de viande for the French style skewers.

How I say it is sounded exact as it looks;


Growing up in the US in the 70s in a neighborhood not known for its ethnic restaurants, when mom speared beef and vegs on those scary steel swords of hers, she always called them shish kebabs. Reflecting back, it now strikes me as odd that a woman of her age/background would even be cooking this dish for her family. She probably bought the skewers and then went to the library to research what they were and for what they were used. (Remember those pre-www days when we had to actually go to the library?)

Purely out of habit I still call them kebabs.

I’ve always called them kabobs. My father learned about satay from one of his film trips to Indonesia in the early 1970s, and since then, a kabob with peanut sauce is always called satay. :slight_smile:

And the Turkish ones (that I had in Turkey not Germany) were ground meat not solid chunks.

In Ontario it’s most commonly “kebab”. But this excellent Afghan restaurant spells it “kabob”.

To me a kabob should always be preceded by shish. Shish kabobs are those alternating pieces of onion, pepper, mushrooms and marinated meat that you barbecue on the weekend. Kebabs are usually meat only and come from Turkey and further east. As you leave India, they’re called satay, then yakitori before returning to the land of the shish kabob.

Thanks to that other site, I learned to put the non-meat items on separate skewers as they take longer to cook than the meat. As I mentioned above, the Turkish ones are ground lamb that are then formed around a skewer.

AFAIK, the term for a kebab made with ground meat rather than strips/chunks, is kofte.
Kofte refers to the mince/mash texture. There are vegetable kofte, too.

When we were in Turkey the terms were pretty much interchangeable. And in no case that we had were they “strips/chunks.” I made them once when we got home and should do it again as we have a half lamb in the freezer.

To me kofte/kofta are meat balls. Sometimes deep fried.

In the UK, descriptions like shish/doner/kofta generally precede “kebab”.

In eastern Mediterranean cooking, minced meat kebabs would often be called “kofta” but, by the time they’ve reached Pakistan and India, they’ve become seekh or shami kebabs.

Kebab in my house, but kabob is very common usage around here, too. Also kofta for ground meat skewers.

Well, I think when you’re phonetically translating a word of foreign origin there’s probably no real wrong way of spelling it–as long as it’s approximately the sound of that word as closely as possible.

I think of kofte as meatballs, so they don’t necessarily need to be on a skewer and, like Hal said, can be fried or baked or prepared any way one would prepare a meatball. Adana kebab is also minced, but it’s definitely grilled on a skewer like other kebabs.