Kababs are thought to have originated in Turkey when soldiers used to skew meat of hunted animals and roast them on an open fire. Eventually, kababs became a regular staple of Turkish cuisine.
When Turkish rulers conquered new territory, kababs travelled to the places with them. The food was introduced in the Indian subcontinent by the Mughals.
We no longer know how exactly the soldiers originally grilled it or how the ancient conquerors liked their kababs. However, tradition dictates fresh meat is a prerequisite for tasty kababs. The art of marinating and the correct amount of spices are two other pillars.
Kababs have already proven its versatility by surviving for centuries, travelling around the world, and taking on local avatars wherever it has travelled to. By the time it arrived in the Indian subcontinent, the soft and juicy Turkish kebabs took on a more burnt flavour.
Then there is the variety in kababs. You can have kababs in beef, chicken and mutton, and just about any animal that is killed for its meat. Some fish and vegetables are also used as kababs in certain local cuisines. You can have kababs from different parts of an animal – Khiri and Gurda for example – as well as Kababs differentiated by their treatment of meat and marination – such sheek, shami, boti, reshmi, shutli etc.
Without getting too much into the specialisations of cuisines, types and meats, this list was compiled based on visits to some of the best-known kabab places in Dhaka.
The Bismillah Kabab of Najirabajar often touted as one of the best in town, unfortunately, did not make it to the list as it turned out to be too greasy and unpalatable. Other notable omissions include the mightily popular Star Kabab, Kabab Ghar, beside the Army stadium and Shawkat Kabab Ghar in Mirpur Benarasi Palli. Star was beaten handsomely by the list-makers because of not just taste, but the quality of meat used. Shawkat, like Bismillah, was a bit too much on the greasy side, while Kabab Ghar barely failed to make it to the list and deserves an honorary mention.
Places like Shwarma House or Handi may not be dedicated kabab eateries. Nonetheless, they have mouth-watering kabab platters as well, and just about failed to make it to the list.
5. Kabab E Ishq (Price range Tk220-250)
Located in Wari Rankin Street, Kabab-E-Ishq serves their Kabab with raita and an onion salad. Their chicken kababs come in quite a few varieties. But for beef, they only have a beef sheek kabab.
We tried their Reshmi and Malai chicken Kabab along with the beef item. It is commendable how two chicken kababs were distinguishable from each other in flavour. Where Reshmi kabab had a distinct flavour, Malai kabab was sweet and soft.
The beef sheek kabab was full of spices and the amount of meat was commendable as well.
The reason behind putting it in the fifth place is, you may find it a little too salty, and a little too oily too.
4. Selim Kabab Ghar (Price range Tk100)
Then comes the famous Selim Kabab Ghar in our list. It is a "go-to" kabab place for many Mohammadpur residents. In fact, the entire area is a hub of kabab. Among all of them, Selim Kabab Ghar probably stands out for the freshness of its meat.
There is nothing special about the presentation. You will see your chicken tikka or boti kabab getting prepared before your eyes. They will serve it in an ordinary plate with salad and luchi. You can have a complete meal here within Tk120.
With due love to this place, we should note that the kababs of Selim Kabab Ghar is so full of flavours that one may find it overpowering and the spices might just be a bit too much.
3. Bar B Q Tonite (Price range Tk190-1300)
Bar-b-Q Tonite is located in Dhanmondi's road 27 and has been a staple kabab place in the area for almost two decades. If you want to try beef, chicken and mutton all at once, then this is the place for you. However, their most expensive kabab is chicken reshmi kabab.
The four sheek platter will cost Tk1380 and the taste is worth the price. It tastes best with rumali roti or paratha.
You can also endeavour on their boneless beef sheek kabab and mutton boti kabab. You will have a blast of tangy flavours inside your mouth and you'll be left craving for second servings.
2. The Great Kabab Factory (Price range 600-3000)
The best thing about The Great Kabab Factory is they have a kabab platter served with four kinds of sauces. Here you can taste the variety of their kababs within Tk669.
The giloty kabab (made of mutton) dipped in raita will melt in your mouth like a cube butter melts on a paratha in the morning. The tenderness of the meat will make you fall in love with the dish.
This is where you will experience a perfect balance of aroma and sharpness of the flavours and the use of spices. The Great Kaban Factory is located in Satmasjid Road, Dhanmondi.
1. Royal Restaurant (Price range Tk130-200)
Tasting kababs in so many places could not lessen the appeal of Royal Restaurant of Old Dhaka.
They have curtailed their menu due to the Covid-19 pandemic and as a result, their most delicious reshmi kabab is currently unavailable. So, we had to go with their chicken hariali kabab, known for its soft and juicy flavour. It felt like this dish has only gotten better over the years.
The chicken tikka was perfectly cooked as always. The tender flavour of beef sheek kabab grows in your mouth.
And we must admit, Royals' special Pesta Badam Sharbat with the kababs is a pair made in heaven.