Comparative Gastronomy: Skewers – Food on a Stick

Meat roasted on a spit. Bite-sized morsels with a convenient handle, plate optional. It doesn’t get more basic – and some would say more delicious – than that. Cuisines throughout the world have taken this simple way of preparing food and personalized it through marinades and spice rubs, elevating it from a mere cooking method to a unique cultural dish.

Maybe that’s why we were given the korban Pesach with very specific instructions on how to prepare it: on a single shaft made of pomegranate wood, without so much as a sprig of parsley for garnish.

As cuisine progressed through the ages, the portion sizes became more manageable than the entire animal, as a matter of convenience for the eater, although spit-roasting a whole animal remained popular. Greek art shows men working over grills, Homer mentions it in The Odyssey (Book III), and the Roman general Livy refers to skewers. Firedogs were portable cradles used in open fires for the skewers. Portable by slave, that is. Eventually vegetables and fish were skewered along with (or instead of) meat. And nowadays, what cookout would be complete without roasted marshmallows?

Although the method is obviously ancient in origin, the source for the modern style is often given to the Turkish kebab. In my opinion kebab has more than a passing etymological relationship to the word “kubiah”, referring perhaps in Aramaic to the square shape the meat is cut into, or perhaps “kupad” which is a piece of meat (from the Yerushalmi Talmud masechet Peah). And, while I’m at it, “shaft” (a long, thin rod) and “shipud” aren’t that far off either.

The technique is the same: thread a portion of whatever it is you want to cook onto a long, thin metal or wooden skewer. This is the perfect job for little helpers, who need only to be taught not to impale themselves on the pointy end. If using a thin skewer, try to weave the piece of food onto the skewer so it doesn’t come loose during cooking. Set the skewers over heat source and cook, turning so that all sides of the food are exposed to the heat source evenly.

Anticuchos (South America) – traditionally, beef heart marinated in vinegar and spices
Arrosticini (Italy) – mutton skewers flavored with sheep fat
Brochette (France) – no particular culinary preparation, with the exception of fondue
Churrasco (Brazil) – meal consisting of various meats grilled on skewers
Corn Dog (United States) – hot dogs dipped in a thick cornmeal batter and deep-fried
Kofte (Persian) – ground lamb and herbs
Pinchitos (Spain) – chicken marinated in olive oil, served with lemon and bread
Satay (Indonesia) – marinated, grilled, and served with a sauce, traditionally peanut sauce
Shipudim (Israel) – various cuts of meat served on skewers
Shashlik (Russia) – cubes of meat marinated in acid overnight and grilled
Sosatie (South Africa) – cubes of lamb and vegetables marinated overnight
Souvlaki (Greece) – small cubes of meat and vegetables grilled and eaten in bread
Suya (West Africa) – dry-spice rubbed meat
Yakitori (japan) – a highly refined dish with distinct specialties such as chicken skin, tails, hearts, etc.

If you don’t want to start with anything too exotic (although if that’s the case, why are you reading this?), try this simple spice blend; you probably have everything you need in the spice cabinet.

Posted December 11, 2011 by Marc Gottlieb
This simple spice blend can go on grilled meat, chicken or vegetables to give it a flavorful kick.

Posted in : Cuisines :
  • Ready Time : 0 min



  • 50 grams paprika
  • 30 grams garlic powder
  • 5 grams salt kosher
  • 3 grams black pepper
  • 1 gram cayenne pepper


Mix all of the ingredients in a jar. Sprinkle on grilled meats or vegetables.





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