The contributions of Bihar, the third largest state in India by population, to the world political and cultural legacy is nothing short of legendary. Some six hundred years before the Christian era, it gave the world its first republic, Vaishali. It was the birthplace of the world’s fourth largest religion and home to one of the oldest seats of learning.
Its kitchens fed legends like Aryabhata, who introduced ‘zero’ to the world, and Vatsayana, who wrote the treatise on love, Kamasutra. Bihari cuisine was a predominantly vegetarian society, influenced by Buddhism and Hinduism. However, it broke ground in non-vegetarian delicacies under the reign of the Mughals, who introduced exotic Mughlai dishes to India. These dishes are today relished by people across the Indian subcontinent. One such dish is Bihari Kabab.
Bihari Kababs are meat strips of lamb marinated in a mix of spices, yoghurt and mustard oil for a long time before being grilled or pan fried. The result is melt-in-the-mouth, spicy and tasty meat. Raw papaya is used to tenderise the meat. And that is a hallmark of Bihari Kebabs, an attribute that distinguishes it from most other Kababs.
Though the cuisine from Bihar is traditionally vegetarian, the Bihari Kabab is a meat delight that has an infusion of mustard oil, largely used in India, specifically in Bengal and Bihar. Mustard oil not only brings a tangy flavour to the dish but is also considered one of the healthiest oils as it has an optimum ratio of omega-three and omega-six fatty acids and is low in saturated fats and high in monounsaturated fatty acids.
“The use of ‘kabab chini’ (cubeb), poppy seeds, nutmeg, mace and papaya as meat tenderisers makes Bihari Kabab remarkably tender. The secret ingredient is a generous addition of Bihari Kabab garam masala,” says the well-known Pakistani food columnist Bizma Tirzmi, in her column on Bihari Kabab in the Dawn newspaper.
In fact, it is the liberal use of these spices that makes it conspicuously delicious. The dish is best served as a wrap in a paratha with a twist of lemon juice, a pinch of chopped onions and a dash of chopped parsley. The state has imbibed the best of Gupta, Mauryan, Turk, Afghan, Persian and European style of cooking, and yet it has retained a food culture that is unique. A case in point undoubtedly is the Bihari Kabab.