Joojeh Kabab, Persian Saffron Chicken Kebab
Joojeh Kabab is the official food of Iranian parties and gatherings. It is delicious, really easy to prepare, and can be used as munchies, making it the perfect party food. Iranians usually gather around the grill, take pieces of hot chicken, and enjoy each other’s company while preparing the kabab.
We will teach you a delicious homemade Joojeh Kabab recipe to use for your next barbecue party. Don’t forget to show off your skills on the grill (manghal) and tell a couple of Persian stories to impress the guests.
Let’s just dive into it.
Different Tastes and Marinades
Saffron Joojeh Kabab
Saffron is the main ingredient for Joojeh Kabab in every region of Iran. It’s the most popular way to make Joojeh. Saffron makes Joojeh Kabab aromatic, gorgeous, and delicious, but you have to consider that it can burn quickly on the grill and leave your Kabab raw in the middle. The Saffron marinade is usually a mixture of onion, lemon/lime juice, olive oil, and of course, saffron. Some people, especially in restaurants, add some mayonnaise to this marinade and believe it makes Joojeh Kabab shiny.
Joojeh Torsh is reasonably similar to Kabab Torsh. These recipes use local northern ingredients like Pomegranate molasses, walnuts, olive oil, and garlic, which are the same ingredients used in Zeytoon Parvardeh, except olive oil. The primary item is pomegranate molasses, which is a sweet, sour sauce that brings everything together. Small pieces of walnuts give our Joojeh a unique texture and provide natural oiliness and fat alongside our olive oil.
The name mast (yogurt) says it all. Joojeh Masti is chicken marinated in Persian sour yogurt, aromatic Persian dried vegetables like Persian rose, Pennyroyal, tarragon, and savory. You could add a touch of dried lemon to the mixture and use greek yogurt if you didn’t find Persian yogurt. Joojeh Masti is soft, moist, and can be an excellent option for exotic tastes.
What Do You Need to Make Saffron Joojeh Kabab?
Joojeh literally means chick in Farsi. The name makes so much sense since we should use a small to medium chicken(1.6-2 kg) to get good results on the grill. The chicken can be fresh or frozen, but make sure to defrost your frozen chicken and bring it to room temperature before marinating. We use almost every part of the chicken since we want to learn the homemade Joojeh Kebab and avoid waste.
You can use any kind of onion that you want. I prefer red onion since it is more fragrant and sweet. Make sure never to mix saffron when chicken is resting with onion because all your precious and expensive saffron will be absorbed by the onions and go to waste. Use a generous amount of onion to get rid of the chicken’s annoying smell, especially if you are not a huge fan of chicken or meat in general.
Lemon or Lime Juice
Freshly squeezed lemon/lime juice is a controversial one. Some people believe that it will make your Joojeh tough, and some believe it makes it crispy and delicious. The first group adds lemon juice after the cooking process, and the second one uses it in the marinating process. It’s your call; what do you think of lemon/lime juice?
Olive Oil or Mayonnaise
We know that olive oil is like running water in the north of Iran, but Mayonnaise is a new addition to Joojeh Kebab. As I mentioned before, both items satisfy the chicken’s needs on the grill and avoid a burned Joojeh on the surface, which is raw in the middle. Many Iranians think that you cannot cook Joojeh without Mayonnaise, but in my opinion, olive oil can be enough too. This is a matter of taste again, and you can choose one of them or just use a small amount of both.
Iranians adore saffron. It’s like a sacred item that has to be used properly and shouldn’t be wasted at all. Just a pinch of this beautiful dark orange powder can lift any recipe to a Michelin-star restaurant level with its luxurious aroma and taste. You can use the powder directly, dissolve it in a small amount of boiling water, or bring out its color with an ice cube in a bowl. All these techniques are common among Iranians and professional chefs.
Grill and Charcoals
I talked about grill and charcoal in our Kabab Koobideh article, and I highly recommend reading it if you haven’t already done that. You can use any charcoal, but lemon charcoal is the best, and you can use any grills, but the best grill is Manghal.
Sticks and Badbezan
You would need steel sticks with medium width, but if you don’t have that, you can use wooden or any kind of sticks that you have by adjusting the size of your Joojeh cuts. Just keep in mind that steel sticks get hot enough to cook your Joojeh in the middle, and you would have a perfectly cooked Joojeh. Badbezan or hand fan is essential for Joojeh since we don’t want hot, red charcoals to ruin and burn our Joojeh. Our Kebab should be slow-cooked to perfection, and Badbezan can adjust the temperature.
How Do You Make Joojeh Kabab?
- 1.8 kg chicken
- 2 large onions
- 2 tbsp yogurt
- 1 tbsp mayonnaise
- Two pinches saffron
- Cut the breast and thighs into medium-sized and equal pieces. You need separate sticks for breasts and thighs since their cooking times are not the same.
- Let the chicken pieces rest with salt, onion, (and optionally bell peppers) in the fridge for at least 1-2 hours.
- Then remove the onions and add your brewed saffron to the chicken for 1 hour.
- Add mayonnaise/olive oil, lime/lemon juice, salt, and pepper, depending on your taste, and let it rest for another 30 minutes.
- Place similar chicken cuts on the same sticks, breasts with breasts, and wings with wings.
- Now, you should heat the charcoal to a red hot color and let them get a little bit of ash on top.
- Place the sticks on the grill, only use your hand-fan or blower every 2-3 minutes only for 10 seconds. When you see one side getting cooked, turn your stick and let the other side cook.
In the homemade version, we use every part of the chicken. Wingette and drummete are really popular. You should put drummettes on one stick and wingette on a separate one. Cut the breast and thigh into medium-sized and equal pieces. You need separate sticks for breasts and thighs since their cooking times are not the same. You can add other parts like the neck or back to your thigh sticks that have bones. Don’t waste anything; all parts are delicious.
We talked about all types of marination, but here we go deep into the world of saffron Joojeh Kabab. All tips given here can be implemented on other types of marination. First, you need the chicken pieces to rest with salt, onion, (and optionally bell peppers) in the fridge for at least 1-2 hours. Then remove the onions and add your brewed saffron to the chicken for 1 hour. After that, you can add mayonnaise/olive oil, lime/lemon juice, salt, and pepper, depending on your taste, and let it rest for another 30 minutes. The reason behind separating the steps is to let the chicken get all the salt, onion, and saffron taste. If we add olive oil first, it will stick to the chicken and prevent it from getting seasoned.
Forming Joojeh Kabab on the sticks is relatively easy. Just put similar cuts on the same sticks, breasts with breasts, and wings with wings; what could go wrong, right? The length of your sticks should be balanced, long enough to fully cover your grill/Manghal but not too long to cause you troubles on the grill.
You should get the charcoal to a hot red color and let them get a little bit of ash on top, not too much. Put the sticks on the grill, only use your hand-fan or blower every 2-3 minutes and only for like 10 seconds. When you see one side getting shape, turn your stick and let the other side cook. Joojeh Kabab needs a lot of patience, the temperature of the grill shouldn’t be high, and you need to play with it on the grill. Just don’t burn the outside by overdoing the hand fan; the inside would be raw, and the meat would get chewy. You can have a saffron-butter sauce or any grill sauce to add a last touch on the grill based on your taste.
Put your delicious Joojeh on a flatbread or Persian rice, and Nooshe Jan!
Vegan Alternatives for Joojeh Kabab
You can use any vegetable or vegan alternative as a substitute for Joojeh Kabab, but like any other protein, Tofu is the best option. Take a look at this recipe for an excellent tofu kebab. Make sure to use olive oil on your veggie kebabs to improve the taste and cooking process.