Sumayya Usmani's recipe for bihari kebabs

A Pakistani dish that originates from Bihar, India, these flavoursome kebabs are a great early-summer BBQ go-to

Summers Under The Tamarind Tree beef kebabs

Serves 4-6

Preparation time 90 mins

Cooking time 30 mins

A history lesson for you: "Bihari kebabs found their way into Pakistani cuisine through the migration of Bihari Muslims from the north Indian state of Bihar when Pakistan formed in 1947," says Usmani of this fantastic dish. You can make them with fillet or chuck steak, after which they're “tenderised using raw payaya, then infused with coal smoke using a method called dhuni. They're eaten with rice and lentils by Biharis, and with paratha flatbreads by most other Pakistanis."


  • 200g whole plain yogurt
  • 1 red onion, ground into a paste
  • ½ red onion, cut into half moons
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp ginger paste
  • 1 tbsp raw papaya paste or papaya powder
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp ground, dry-roasted cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp ground dry-roasted coriander seeds
  • Salt, to taste
  • 2-3 tbsp mustard seed oil
  • 1kg chuck or fillet steak, cut into bite-sized cubes

To garnish

  • ½ red onion, thinly sliced
  • Handful of coriander leaves, chopped
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges

For smoking

  • 1 piece quick-light charcoal
  • 1 small piece of ghee


  1. Put the yogurt into a large bowl and add all the other ingredients, except the beef.
  2. Whisk together with a fork to combine, then add the meat and turn until it is coated in the yogurt mixture.
  3. Cover the bowl and allow to marinate in the fridge for 1 hour.
  4. Soak several wooden skewers in water. Light a barbecue, if using, or preheat a griddle pan.
  5. Thread the meat on to the soaked skewers and either barbecue or cook on the griddle pan for about 10 minutes until cooked.

To smoke (optional)

  1. Put the skewers into a large saucepan with a lid, put a piece of bread, some tinfoil or an onion skin in the middle of the pan, then put the coal on top and pour a tablespoon of ghee over the top.
  2. Heat the pan and as soon as it starts to smoke, cover with a lid and allow the smoke to infuse for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Serve with sliced onions and garnish with chopped coriander and lemon wedges. 

Summers Under the Tamarind Tree by Sumayya Usmani is published by Frances Lincoln. Photography by Joanna Yee. £20;