Old World Tuesday: Shashlyk Burritos, a.k.a. Lyulja-Kebab

May 18, 2010 § 1 Comment


I am so very thrilled to share this with you. This is my take on the traditional ljulja-kebab – a dish where spiced ground lamb is patted around thick, long metal skewers and cooked over hot coals on a special grill called mangal, resulting in an oblong “sausage” once the skewer is removed. They are then served alongside other varieties of kebab, accompanied by grilled potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, and the traditional flatbread called lavash. What you do next is form burrito-like packages, where you wrap the above into a sheet of lavash, along with such condiments as narsharab (a tarter version of pomegranate molasses) and sliced onions tossed with salt, chopped herbs, and a spice called sumakh, or sumac for you.

Myself, I prefer to shape lyulja by hand (as a result, mine come out both shorter and plumper than the original), since, unlike mangal, a more modern kettle grill features a grate and doesn’t require skewers to suspend the meat over coals. Note that I grill, and now also smoke, exclusively on a charcoal grill, since gas grills don’t deliver quite the same flavor and, in my opinion, are not nearly as easy to clean and maintain.

I also use beef instead of lamb, since that’s what we raise, and I also like the taste of beef better.

I find that the best way to start a charcoal grill is by using a chimney starter. If you are not familiar with it, a step-by-step pictorial instructions are to come in one of the following posts. For now, let’s just focus on ljulja-kebab.


To make lyulja, I simply mix ground beef with some grated onion (a microplane grater works great for this – we want onion grated and not chopped, since we don’t want to have onion chunks in our meat, but rather a juicy onion-puree), a pressed clove of garlic, some chopped cilantro (you may also add some dried dill or other herbs of your choice), salt, and black pepper. I then form them with my hands as in the picture above.


Heat your coals until they are still glowing-red but are covered with a layer of white ash. Remove the grate away from fire and oil it well. Place the lyulja on the grill, perpendicular to the grate. Cover the grill, leaving the holes in the top open, and grill until nice and red (somewhat charred is OK) on the bottom (see the picture below the next one).


To turn these delicate buddies, you are going to need a spatula and a pair of tongs. Use the spatula to loosen them from the grill, then use the tongs to flip them over.


Grill on the other side, covered, with the holes in the top of the grill open, until they look like this on both sides (some burned, but I don’t mind that at all).



Now because we are not in Kansas anymore, and the old rules don’t apply, I prefer to use flour tortillas in place of lavash, especially when I am in a hurry to get to blogging. I like to warm them up briefly on a grill by placing them directly onto the grate, then turning them over with tongs almost momentarily to avoid burning them. All you wanna do is heat them up.


This is really one of Jacob’s favorite meals.


I like to serve these shashlyk burritos, as Jacob has dubbed them, with Russian fried potatoes and yogurt-garlic sauce (traditional to Azerbaijan but not normally used in this context, as far as I can remember). Yogurt-garlic sauce is nothing but a clove of garlic pressed into some plain yogurt. This would also be good with some chopped tomatoes and the sliced onion/cilantro/sumac mixture mentioned above (or skip sumac if you can’t lay your hands on it), but this time we just had it with fresh garlic (immature garlic plants dug up this time of year and eaten whole minus the roots – they are so mild and sweet, and a true Old World treat).

Tasty for me!

§ One Response to Old World Tuesday: Shashlyk Burritos, a.k.a. Lyulja-Kebab

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