Shashlyk is considered to be one of the very first dishes humans invented and most likely hails from the place the first modern human likely appeared – the area covering Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, and the Caucasus.
Почему он так называется?
The word “шашлык” was adopted into Russian in the 18th century. It may have come from Crimean Tartar. In that language “шыш” means “piece” and “шышлык” means “in pieces.”
However, it may also have come from Turkish where “шыш” is a skewer and “шышлык” is something on the skewer.
Interestingly, both languages are related to Persian, from where English adopted the phrase “shish kabab.” From Persian, this translates to “pieces of roasted meat.”
Шашлык was eaten in Russia before the 18th century, but was most often called “верчёное мясо” which basically means “rotated meat” and was called so because it was usually roasted на вертеле (on a spit). Today, шашлык is most often cooked on skewers, which Russians call “шампуры.”
There is evidence to suggest that “шампур” is related to the word “шомпол,” or “ramrod,” as that is what soldiers would often use as skewers to cook their meat in the field.
Как правильно есть шашлык?
Шашлык is most traditionally made from lamb. The best cuts to use are нога барана (leg of lamb), печень (liver), and почка (kidney). Говяжья вырезка (beef tenderloin) and телятина (veal) are also considered traditional. However, today шашлык is most often made from свинина (pork), probably because it is naturally сочная (juicy) and relatively недорогая (inexpensive).
Шашлык is a national tradition in Russia and its cooks can be as passionate as barbequers in the US.
Шашлык is occasionally made from more exotic meats such as птица (poultry) or рыба (fish). To better enhance the flavor, лук (onions), помидоры (tomatoes), баклажаны (eggplants), and/or грибы (mushrooms) are sometimes cooked on the шампуры with the meat.
For many people in Russia, шашлык is not just a dish, but an event. Шашлык is best prepared and eaten на улице (outside) or на природе (outdoors, such as when camping) with family and friends and especially on occasions such as birthdays or holidays. It is usually prepared by men who, as a rule, are reluctant to entrust the important process to women. While the шашлык is being cooked, those gathered talk, joke, and wait for it as the “grand finale.” Usually there is bread and салаты (salads) as well, usually prepared by the women. The meal proceeds slowly with toasts and conversation that can last well into the night.
Drinking a lot of alcohol with шашлык is not recommended; it is best with немного сухого или полусухого вина (a little dry or semidry wine) or немного водки (a little vodka). Пиво (beer) is not recommended by aficionados as it can overpower the taste of the шашлык. A lot of vodka is also not recommended, as после этого, никто ничего не чувствует (after that, nobody feels anything).
Как правильно готовить шашлык?
The meat should be свежее (fresh), never замороженное (frozen). Ideally, the meat should still be на кости (on the bone). Шейка (neck meat), ребра (ribs), and корейка (brisket) are generally good choices.
For beginning шашлык makers, try шейка or курица (chicken). Both of these are fairly forgiving, cook quickly and generally stay tender.
Cut the meat into cubes of about one to two inches. Мясо нужно мариновать (the meat needs to be marinated) от двух часов до суток (for two to 24 hours).
First, пересыпать мясо крупной солью (sprinkle the meat with coarse salt). This will absorb the excess juices and add flavor. Now, пересыпать крупными размятыми горошками перца (sprinkle the meat with coarsely ground pepper), and then finally add onion slices. If the meat is fresh, this will suffice for the маринад (marinade).
You can also then add almost any кислые жидкости (acidic liquids) as additional маринад. Вино (wine), лимонный сок (lemon juice), гранатовый сок (pomegranate juice), and кислое молоко (sour milk) are some good choices.
Never marinate in an aluminum pot: the aluminum oxide the meat absorbs from the pot can be toxic.
Шашлык should be cooked on a fire made from лиственных пород деревьев (hardwood). Виноградные лозы (grapevines) can also be burned to make excellent шашлык. Much of the street шашлык in Russia is cooked over уголь (coal – not charcoal), which is also delicious.
There should be no fire under the meat, only white-hot embers. Allow the fire to burn through the fuel, then stir the embers to evenly spread them (and the heat). Now, place the meat above the heat, at a distance of about six inches.
Rotate the шампуры frequently, but keep them close together so that the meat traps the smoke underneath.
See below for a free recipe for Kulebyaka. See also the free videos online. If you are interested in cooking from Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, and other places in Eurasia, make sure to see our other resources! You might also be interested in the following specialized cookbooks we’ve enjoyed:
|Шашлык классический||Classic Shashlyk|
*tkemali sauce is a traditional sauce from Georgia made with cherry plums, pepper, and spices. If you can’t find any, spicy ketchup can also be used.
|Шашлык из курицы с острым соусом||Chicken Shashlyk with Spicy Sauce|
*Adjika is a traditional Georgian sauce made with tomatoes, peppers, and spices. If you can’t locate any, try Frank’s Red Hot or a smooth salsa.
Our Favorite Шашлык Videos
An excellent way to make shashlyk – from an English-speaking woman from Latvia.
This Persian-style shashlyk goes a bit more exotic on the spices…
Galileo, a Russian popular science show, investigates the science of making good shashlyk.
By Andrei Nesterov
with Josh Wilson