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Kawab as in Nawab, not Kabab

A disappearing tradition of a mouth watering sun-dried delicacy.

Gosht ke Sukhe Kawab, dry (L) and cooked (R). PC:

Kawab as in Nawab, not kabab!! These hanging thin laces of trimmed beef/buff are a delicacy in a Deccan household. Kawab is thin strips of beef, gut and fat which are salted and sun dried until all the moisture has evaporated. Salt helps in longer shelf life and prevents bacterial growth during the drying process. After every Eid-al-Adha, Muslim families in the plateau hang these on ropes and wires until the shiny bright red color of the meat is turned into shades of black and maroon. These are then removed and stored for up to a year.

Sun-drying meat is one of the oldest methods of food preservation. For example the practice of curing sea protein is common among oceanic civilisations. Sun-dried fish is called ‘endu chepalu’ in Telugu, meaning sun-dried fish - the Telugu word enda means sunlight . Ancient civilizations, including those in Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Americas, practiced drying meat as a way to preserve food for times when fresh meat was not available. In North America, various Native American tribes such as the Lakota and the Apache were known for making jerky by drying strips of buffalo, elk, or deer meat in the sun or over fires. This method helped them store food for long journeys or winter months. Curing meat in salt and dehydrating it for preservation is a common practice in the Deccan plateau as well.

Cloth lines give way to Kawabs for a week every year. PC: Sibghat Khan

This age-old practice has now found a modern twist to it - like all classic recipes Kawab has also been reimagined. Now the strips are sliced in a rustic manner and marinated in raw papaya paste, turmeric, paprika, and garam masala. Modern methods of food preservation like canning and refrigeration have made sun-dried meat less widespread in many regions of the world. But because it's a healthy, high-protein snack and works well with paleo and low-carb diets, it's becoming more and more popular.

Kawab is a snack for kids and a side dish for meat lovers.  Kawab are fried in hot oil for thirty seconds and they turn golden brown. The texture is like puffed rice, and it readily crumbles as you bite into it. The Kawab goes well with 'phikki daal' (sour lentils) and is complemented with ghee. Another less known and rather more flavorful way to cook them is to place them on embers of a wood stove. This adds a smokiness and gives a charred flavor to the dried meat. It's also used as a protein element in cooking lentils like masoor dal gravy with shallots. Another crowd favorite is Kawab cooked with poppy seeds and diced shallots.

With the increase in ready-to-cook food industries many firms still manufacture sun-dried meat products according to old recipes today, particularly those where it is a staple of the local cuisine. In the city of hyderabad, places like noor khan bazar and Mir alam mandi, some retailers sell these Kawabs for the price of 2000 INR per kilogram. 

Our palettes keep changing and adapting to newer innovations in the culinary world. The tradition of Kawab has traveled a long way, from cured meat of hunted deer in the royal kitchens to our Bakhr Eid shenanigans. All said, one still needs a special set of nostrils to bear the odor of weeks long drying meat, let alone appreciate the red hanging ribbons of cattle tissue.


  • 2 kg meat (Buff)

  • 3 tbsp Salt

  • 3-4 tbsp Red Chilli powder

  • 1 tsp Turmeric powder

  • 1 tbsp Vinegar

  • 1/2 tsp Garam Masala (optional)

  • Oil for shallow frying


By Khurram Muraad Siddiquie.

Research and views expressed are author's own.

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