Cooking food skewered on a stick probably dates back to the days of early hunters using their spears to hold pieces of meat over their campfires.
Today we generally call food cooked on skewers ‘kebabs’, from the name of an Arabic dish consisting of pieces of fried meat. Skewered food has certainly been popular all over the Middle East since ancient times, and Turkish shish kebab, Greek souvlaki, or shashlik as it’s known in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, readily come to mind when we think of skewered foods.
Many cuisines however enjoy cooking small pieces of meat, poultry or seafood on skewers. The French call it ‘en brochette’ (literally ‘on a spear’), while the Spanish make ‘pinchos’ (spikes). Japanese grilled foods, called ‘yaki’, are usually cooked on wooden skewers.
Apart from being cubed, long thin strips of food are sometimes threaded onto skewers for grilling. This is typical seen in the satays of South East Asia, which also gave rise to the Cape Malay sosaties of South Africa. Food can also be minced and wrapped around skewers as is seen in the ćevapčići of the Balkan states, Indian seekh kebab and Middle Eastern kofta kebabs.
Tips for cooking skewered seafood:
- Soak wooden skewers in water for an hour or so before using to prevent them burning.
- Shape mince onto flat metal skewers so the mixture doesn’t slide around.
- Skewers make easy finger food for parties:
- skewer peeled marinated green prawns from the head end through the body to the tail;
- cut squid into long thin strips and weave onto a skewer.
- Experiment with different types of skewers, such as branches of woody herbs like rosemary or strips of sugar cane often used with prawn mince in Vietnam.
- When cooking cubes of fish on skewers, ensure all four sides come into contact with the pan or barbecue.
- Thread pieces of onion, capsicum, or herb leaves between the pieces of seafood to add colour and flavour.
- Baste kebabs with olive oil, butter or a marinade while they cook, to keep them moist and add flavour.
Try one of our skewer recipes, or improvise by threading the seafood in the below dishes onto skewers before barbecuing (cube fish fillets, weave cuttlefish strips along a skewer or push a skewer through the length of each prawn - one prawn per skewer):