The secret to Dosa’s new bomb diggidy yogurt-stuffed lamb kebabs

If you’re plugged into the San Francisco dining scene, you know that it’s restaurant week in the city — a time when our already packed eateries get even more packed with deal-seeking diners hungry for good a meal. And while it may seem that for many restaurants the annual event is a time to get new customers in the door, you may not know that for others it’s a great opportunity to experiment with unfamiliar ingredients and showcase a few new creative menu items.

At least that’s the case for Dosa, arguably the city’s most liked South Indian restaurant. This year, Dosa owner Anjan Mitra has decided to showcase a few Moghal-inspired dishes from the South Indian city of Hyderabad. If you dine at the restaurant this week, you’ll be privy to all of these new additions from head chef Dinesh Kumar, including the Murg Mali Korma, a chicken dish in a spiced cream sauce, or the spiced minced lamb shikampuri kebabs stuffed with cooling yogurt, which we chose to feature on the blog this week.

As the daughter-in-law of a a very talented Indian cook, I can attest that the thought of making Indian food can be very daunting. However, once you get familiar with all the ingredients and order in which they must be cooked, Indian cuisine is actually pretty easy to do. And that’s exactly the case with Dosa’s kebabs. While they’re made up of about a gazillion ingredients, the process is fairly simple and straightforward.

These little kebabs pack a major flavor punch and are sure to impress  your next dinner guests. If you’re game, here’s how they’re done:

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First, the most daunting part of Indian cooking — gathering all your ingredients. That punch of flavor that comes most indian dishes starts with many of these, well, basics. For about 15 kebabs, you’ll need 1 bunch chopped cilantro, 1 bunch chopped mint leaves 1/4 teaspoon ground mace, 2 teaspoons fennel seeds, 2 teaspoons coriander seeds, 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, 4 dried red chiles, 6 cloves, 2 teaspoons green cardamom pods, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 teaspoons fenugreek leaves, 1 teaspoon turmeric powder, 1 teaspoon fresh curry leaves, 1 tablespoon grated garlic, 1 tablespoon grated ginger 3/4 cup ground channa dal, 3/4 cup ground roasted and ground channa dal, 2 finely chopped green onions, 1 chopped onion, 2 pounds of minced lamb, 1 lime, 3/4 cup olive oil and salt, to taste. Phew.

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The first step is to make what is essentially Dosa’s version of garam masala. Everyone’s grandmother, mother and aunty claims to have the best mix, and Dosa’s chefs are no exception.  They start their delicious and fragrant garam masala by lightly toasting the fennel, coriander and cumin seeds on the stovetop to bring out their flavorful oils and aromas. Those whole spices are then separately ground using a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle. Then the dried red chiles, garlic, cardamom, cinnamon, fenugreek are ground together and mixed in with the ground, toasted spices and the turmeric powder.

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The result of all these ground spices is a beautiful, fragrant powder that can be used to add a boost of flavor to any curry dish. But in this case, we’re using it all.

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The ground spices are then added to the rest of the ingredients, mixed thoroughly with the lamb and set aside in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to bring all the flavors together. After it marinates for a bit, the lamb mixture is then put through a food processors to grind it further and allow the ingredients to really blend in.

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Meanwhile, the yogurt stuffing is made. Dosa uses in-house hung yogurt mixed with 1/2 cup finely chopped onion, but greek yogurt or goat cheese work perfectly, as well. If using yogurt, it needs to sit in a cold fridge to tighten, which makes it easier to work with, while goat cheese should be left at room temperature to soften a bit. A little bit of ground chanda dal and coriander are sometimes thrown into the mix for added flavor, as well.

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Next comes shaping and stuffing the kebabs. This is where a little technique comes in. Dosa’s chefs simply roll about a 2-ounce portion of the cold lamb mixture between their hands to form little balls. The balls are then flattened and indented in the middle with a thumb. That creates a little pocket for the yogurt stuffing.

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The kebabs are then filled with yogurt, topped with another indented disk and tightly pinched shut so that the yogurt doesn’t’ seep out too much while cooking.

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The kebabs are then sauted in a pan with ghee or oil on medium heat for about 4 minutes on each side until lightly brown and cooked through.

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The final product is served with a little mint chutney and roasted red pepper chutney that I’ll give the recipe for soon. If you dare to make these at home, I’m sure they’ll turn out fabulously. Otherwise, let me know if you just want to head over to Dosa to try them before they’re all gone!