Torshe Kabab (Persian Sour Chicken Stew)

In the past week, I've had a weird craving for sour food. Shuffling through my memory, I came across this simple dish I made a long time ago called Torshe Kabab. This particular dish, though, is cooked only in northern Iran and should not be confused with Kabab Torsh which is a style of grilled beef. In fact, because its primarily stewed, I don't even understand why they call it kabab to start with?!

Any way, as with most Persian food, there was only one problem: excessive use of oil for frying ingredients before Stewing. This is a nightmare for fans of Persian cuisine in general, but especially for those who are on low-calorie diets or whom want to stick to healthy lifestyles. So, thinking critically about the recipe, I decided to modify it a bit. I cut down on the oil by frying less and using water to replace oil in some parts (shallow blanching/ steaming, so to speak).

The technique is simple: when frying eggplants, for example, use a maximum of a tablespoon of oil in a hot frying pan. Sear both sides of the eggplants with the hot oil. When the oil is all sucked in by the eggplant, add 1/4 cup of water and cover the pot. Occassionally, add more water to compensate for evaporation. This way, you'll get a nice sear on surfaces without the need to saturate the eggplant with oil. In the end, you'll find that cooking with water also makes the eggplant very soft and juicy--perfect for this dish.

The overall result was some great tender chicken in a thick sauce, with no extra layer of oil floating on the plate. The lack of use of oil didn't compromise the flavour at all (note that, ye Persians who insist that such is impossible!) There was an added bonus to cutting down on the oil: it was extremely easy to wash all the dishes after finishing the food! hehe

Ingredients (Serves 2)
3 chicken drumsticks
2 medium sized potatoes, peeled and cut into long chips
1 large eggplant, peeled and cut into palm size pieces
1 medium onion, cut into 6-8 pieces
4 tbsp tomato paste
3 limes' juice
1 tbsp turmeric
3-4 tbsp cooking oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

  1. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a frying pan. Fry each side of the chicken drumsticks for about 3 minutes, or until golden.
  2. Put the chicken and onions in a saucepan. Add 4 cups of water, 2 tsp turmeric, and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes. 
  3. Add tomato paste and simmer, covered, for another 20 minutes.
  4. Remove the onion chunks and add lime juice.
  5. Meanwhile, fry the eggplants with 1 tbsp oil. To reduce the oil take up, you can sprinkle a pinch of salt on cut eggplants and leave them for at least 15 mins so that their moisture comes out.
  6. When the oil is all sucked up by the eggplants, add 1 cup of water (in 4-5 batches) and cover. Repeat a few times if the water evaporates, until the eggplants are soft and cooked through.
  7. Combine the potatoes with 1 tsp turmeric and a maximum of 2 tbsp oil. Cook until potatoes are crisp and golden, but cooked through.
  8. Add the fried eggplants and potatoes to the sauce and simmer for another 10 minutes. Serve hot with cous cous (or rice).

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