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“Шашлык” or Shish Kebab Russian Style

By Natalia on June 20, 2011 in Recipes

We get together on different holidays celebrating different things, but most importantly we meet to socialize with our family and friends and to enjoy some good food! In America, many holidays are synonymous with barbeque. Can you picture celebrating the 4th of July without barbeque and fire works? Can anything really beat getting together with your family and friends, firing up the grill, drinking cold beer or aromatic wine, cooking steaks, burgers, sausages, vegetables, etc. and socializing with everyone while enjoying the outdoors?

While barbeque is popular in America, shish kebab (from Turkish “shish – “skewer” and Persian “kebab” – “roasted meat”) is popular throughout former Soviet Union. The dish that originated in Persia became a part of Russian food culture. It even received its own name – shashlik.

After a cold winter, many Russians enjoy spending time outside. Some spend their holidays and vacations camping out near lakes or in forests and parks. Needless to say, shashlik is a campers’ favorite when it comes to cooking outdoors. There are no grills at the camping areas in Russia, so people have to gather dry wood and build their own fire. When the fire begins to die out, it is time to start cooking! The meat that has been marinated for at least 12 hours is placed on skewers and then slowly roasted over the coals.

Every avid camper in Russia will tell you that he or she has the best recipe for making shashlik. Some may tell you that the trick lies in the marinade, while others will stress the importance of roasting the meat slowly over the skorchingly hot wood coals. While all these nuances play a valid part in cooking shashlik, the truth is you don’t have to be a chef to prepare it, nor do you have to build a fire, you can simply use your grill! Also, it is fun to try different marinades and learn which ones you like the most!

Today, I am going to share with you a recipe which I heard over the radio during one of my trips to Belarus. It is very simple as it only asks for 4 ingredients, and it works very well with pork and chicken. Here is what you will need:

– your choice of meat/poultry (pork, beef, chicken, etc.)
– onions
– tomatoes
– mayonnaise
– salt and pepper to taste (about 2-3 hours before the grilling)

Preparations: Cut your choice of protein into 1″ (or a little larger) cubes. Slice your onions in half, then cut each onion half into 1″ inch squares. Do the same thing with tomatoes. Put all ingredients into a large pot, add mayonnaise, mix carefully trying not to tear the tomatoes. Place the pot into your refrigerator for at least 12 hours. You can let everything marinate for as long as 24 hours. If you are running short on time, make shashlik with chicken, because you can marinate it for as short as 4-6 hours. However, in my opinion, the longer you marinate the meat/poultry, the better it’ll taste once cooked. Salt and pepper the meat/poultry 2-3 hours before you are ready to grill it.


Proportions: When cooking, Russians often measure ingredients approximately or “на глаз,” so writing down Russian recipes becomes quite challenging. They basically know when it looks right or what they need to add to adjust the recipe proportions. Having said that, the person who shared this recipe on the radio did not list the proportions. He simply named the ingredients, and I approximated everything as I prepared the marinade. If you purchase 4 pounds of pork or chicken, get about 2 pounds of tomatoes and 2 pounds of onions. Use enough mayonnaise to coat each piece evenly. Add salt and pepper to taste to the marinade about 2-3 hours before you start grilling, mix everything well. Add a generous amount of salt, but remember you can always add more salt after the meat/poultry is cooked.


Grilling: Place the meat/poultry squares on skewers alternating them with the tomatoes and onions. You may choose to grill the meat/poultry separately from the vegetables. You may also choose not to grill the vegetables at all. When I make shashlik using chicken, I usually alternate chicken squares with tomatoes and onions, because chicken cooks quickly and the vegetables do not burn. It usually takes about 15-20 minutes to cook chicken depending on the size of the chicken squares and your grill’s heat settings. Pork or beef will take more time to cook. You can always try cutting through one meat/poultry square to see if it’s done to your liking. If you only grill the meat/poultry, leave some place between the pieces, so they will cook more evenly.

Приятного аппетита! – Enjoy!

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