What Is a Bun Kebab?

Eugene P.

A bun kebab is a type of sandwich that is served in Pakistan as a fast snack or a lunchtime meal. It closely resembles a hamburger on a bun, although the patty traditionally is mixed with a number of ingredients other than meat and may contain no meat at all. In many instances, a bun kebab patty is made from crushed lentils, eggs, cumin and chili powder. These ingredients are paired with a main ingredient such as beef, chicken or potatoes that usually makes up a little more than half of the patty. The patty is fried and then served on a lightly toasted bun, sometimes topped with chutney or lettuce and tomato.

A bun kebab goes well as an accompaniment to dal.
A bun kebab goes well as an accompaniment to dal.

In some of the busier cities in Pakistan, a bun kebab can be purchased from street vendors and fast food restaurants. It is meant to be a snack, although the size of the buns and patties can vary greatly from cook to cook. As some Western fast foods gained popularity in Pakistan, the composition of a bun kebab started to evolve to the point where a few vendors who sell them started constructing the patties out of much more meat than is traditional, making the snack nearly identical to a hamburger.

Bun kebabs are one of the many street foods sold at outdoor markets in Pakistan.
Bun kebabs are one of the many street foods sold at outdoor markets in Pakistan.

One ingredient that is in nearly all recipes for a bun kebab are lentils, also called dal. The lentils are cooked in water until soft and then mashed into a paste with some egg. Spices, mainly black and white cumin, black pepper, chili powder and, sometimes, ginger, coriander and onions are all added to the mashed lentils to create a thick, spicy base for whatever the main ingredient will be.

In many instances, the main ingredient is minced meat. This is usually beef, chicken or lamb. Potatoes — boiled and then mashed — also are popular. Whatever the main ingredient is, it is incorporated into the lentil base until a thick dough forms. At this point, the patties can be formed and grilled or fried in butter. One unique way to prepare a bun kebab is to place a hot coal in the center of the mixture before it is formed into patties, allowing the ingredients to take on a roasted flavor before they are cooked.

Once the patties are done cooking, they can be served on a bun or roll that has been cut in half and fried quickly in the same pan. Traditional hamburger toppings such as ketchup, lettuce, tomato and onion can be placed on top of the bun kebab before it is served. Toppings that are more common to Pakistan include mint, chutneys, yogurt and cucumber slices.

Kebabs typically feature minced meat.
Kebabs typically feature minced meat.

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