Bindia’s Lamb Kebab Madras is our head chef’s tribute to Southern India – and the healthiest thing on the menu.
Lamb Kebab Madras owes its name to its place of origin, namely the South Indian metropolis of Madras, today also known as Chennai. According to the legend, this dish received its name when English merchants visited the city in 1640.
In Southern India, you typically eat much more spicy food than in the North. That’s why the Lamb Kebab Madras is much hotter than our North Indian curries like our Korma and Butter Curry. As a matter of fact, the Madras curry is the strongest one in our menu.
In several South Indian states, there are many religious and spiritual communities and traditions that don’t eat meat. The most ‘restrictive’ spiritual diet is likely to be found within Jainism. This religion not only prohibits meat, fish, egg, and other animal products, but also root vegetables, which therefore excludes many otherwise common ingredients of the Indian kitchen like turmeric, ginger, garlic, and onion; the latter being a central pillar of the North Indian cuisine.
Even though it’s far from the majority that belongs to this religious minority, their ancient precepts have had a significant influence on many regional kitchens. Therefore, the South Indian kitchen focuses heavily on ingredients like tomato, coconut, tamarind, mustard seeds, mustard leaves, and, not least, curry leaves, which, despite their name, are not directly related to curry powder.
Curry leaves gives the food notes of lime, citrus, and basil, yet they are at least as known for their healing properties. These leaves are, among other things, rich in several vitamins as well as iron and calcium. That’s why they are used in Ayurvedic medicine in the treatment of a host of illnesses.
The curry tree is nicknamed “the sweet Neem”, referring to the neem tree, which has a very central and almost sacred role in Ayurveda. Everything from the leaves, seeds, fruits, flowers, roots, and bark of the neem tree is used in Ayurveda for the treatment of a host of illnesses.
As a consequence, this tree has in recent times become the focal point of modern medicine and more than 140 compounds have since been isolated from all parts of this amazing tree. While the neem tree holds an array of remedies, its leaves are generally considered too bitter for cooking. The leaves of the curry tree, on the other hand, are both applicable in cooking and preventive medicine – hence the name “Sweet Neem”.
“My mother’s father was an Ayurvedic doctor”, says Bindia’s founder and head chef Amer Suleman. “His treatments were always based on the customization of one’s diet.” The culinary philosophy of Bindia, therefore, rests on a profound respect and understanding of Ayurveda and the influence of food on one’s health and wellbeing.
”I’m very inspired by the South Indian kitchen and its vegetarian focus, and I have great respect for the culture and particularly ingredients like coconut, tomato, curry leaves, and tamarind”, says Amer Suleman. “The taste as well as the nutritiona encapsulated in these ingredients and dishes is quite exciting. My Madras is a celebration of the South Indian kitchen and the healthiest thing we serve.”
The curry leaves play a big factor in both the taste of the Lamb Kebab Madras as well as its nutritional value. But so does the asafoetida, which is a spice extracted from the plant Ferula Asafoetida.
The asafoetida has a lot of healing properties, is rich in antioxidants, and is especially used in the aid of digestion. Asafoetida is also very common in dal dishes. Furthermore, asafoetida functions as a superb savory enhancer and is therefore an indispensable part of the temperings that our Lamb Kebab Madras undergoes.
Tempering is an Indian spicing method, in which grinded spices are stir-fried in burning hot temperatures. When the crushed spices hit the boiling warm fat, they have a heat shock response, which makes them discharge their essential oils and, thereby, rich flavor.
Together with whole curry leaves, we moreover use whole and fried chilis in our Lamb Kebab Madras, which provide a richer and rounder taste than mere chili powder as well as more substance.
As the Indians don’t eat pork or beef in consideration of the country’s two largest religions Hinduism and Islam, they have instead become specialists in dealing with lamb and therefore have unique traditions and techniques for selecting the best meat and make it as delicious as possible. We therefore have clear guidelines for selecting and preparing our lamb at Bindia.
We only use meat from grazing sheep from New Zealand in our Lamb Kebab Madras, as this meat has the best smell and taste and doesn’t contain too much fat. We take measures to select for young, and therefore tender, meat, which we cut ourselves to ensure the final product is consistent with our standards.
We then mince the meat and knead it with spices like cumin, cardamom seeds and turmeric. Almost like the Turkish shish kebab, the minced meat is grilled on skewers. All done according to traditional procedures.