Posted by: Jeffsayyes | September 21, 2010

Kabab King in Jackson Heights Makes It Big… by Joseph Aranha

Here is Joseph Aranha with a wrap-up of his Pakistani Ambassador Program. It was our biggest ambassador ever. This program aims to satisfy the Ambassador’s food and culture dreams for a group dinner. For Joseph, I believe his was to lead a huge room of people eating great food. It happened. He did a great job telling us about the region and the food – he even brought maps of South Asia for each of us. For me, the food was so good because it came straight from the tandoor, rather than from the steam tables. The meat was sooooo tender. —Jeffrey Tastes

quail kebab tikka (2)

As one steps off the 7 Train at 74th Street and Broadway one can discern a faint pleasing aroma in the air and as one enters 74th Street this meledy of aromas becomes stronger. This street and the adjoining streets are a bright mixture of sari and salwar kamizez shops, jewelry stores, and restaurants and grocery stores. Everything Bangladeshi, Indian, Pakistani and even Nepali and Tibetan can be found in these four blocks.

Bangladesh, India and Pakistan were one country before the partition took place by the British whose policy was to “divide and rule”. Christians, Hindus and Muslims and other religions lived together as one group. There were, and are quarrels which are quickly sorted out, but as we say in the sub-continent “oh even amongst families there are quarrels”.

 KK outside shot

Kabab King located at the corner of 73rd Street and 37th Road is a Pakistani restaurant who has grown over the years to become a giant among Pakistani restaurants in New York City. The food and their flavors are close to the original as possible and the four brothers led by Wazir Ali who own this place run a tight ship.

The place is a 24 hour joint and there is a continuous relay of some of the most authentic dishes served with naans, chapathis and parathas, served straight from the clay oven/tandoor. The tastes in this restaurant stirs the soul and brings back memories of home and mama’s cooking, while others who flock to this restaurant are treated to tastes they won’t get anywhere else. While the ground floor is for the ones who want a quick bite or a cup of masala tea, the second floor is meant for families and those who want to be served in style.

Recently the “Ambassador Group” led by Jeff Orlick in collaboration with the Asian Arts and Cultural Council conducted one of it’s programs at the Kabab King. Members who attended were treated to special robust meaty dishes and others with delicate aromas and flavors. There was Haleem – a dish of succulent lamb cooked to perfection with lentils in a sauce blended together using various spices. There was also brain fry, roasted quail, fried liver, and for those of the faint of heart goat biriyani and also lentils, salad and potato stuffed parathas. The dinner drew to a close with gulab jamans (one of many deserts) and spiced/masala chai/tea.

Hover over pictures to see the name of dish

lentils (2)

liver fry (2)

haleem (2)

mutton biryani (2)

brain fry (3)

galub jaman

 Close up of the plate with kabab and quail.

Chef Tan Zeel at the Kabab King traces his lineage back to the Chefs who prepared cuisine for the Mughal emperors centuries ago. These ancient recipes without any dilution or change makes the Kabab King a unique place to have a memorable dinner or a quick snack. During the entire evening of the Ambassador program the diners were literally pampered by a team of waiters and waitresses. Two managers kept an eye on things and the program was a tremendous success.
Chef Tanzeel with a plate of kababs and quail.

Chef  Tanzeel with potato stuffed paratha and a bowl of lentils

Spices used in the sub continent is probably as old as civilizations itself. There are spices to flavor your food and specific spices which are also used in food to help in the control or cure of medical ailments.

Basically most cooking starts with a mixture of onions, garlic and ginger as it’s base. Then depending upon which curry one cooks various spices like cumin, mustard seed, fenugreek, coriander, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, pepper, turmeric and chillies, to mention a few, are added. These spices in correct combinations make different curries like kurmas, sambhar, and vindaloo are also used in preparations to make samosas, tandoori chicken, various kababs (shami, gola, bihari and chapli), chicken makani and other such dishes. Curries used with rice generally have a thinner constituency while those prepared to be used with any of the breads (naan, chapathis, parathas and pooris) are generally thicker.

group shot.


Recipe for HALEEM
Ingredients needed are – 750 grams of minced lamb, 150 grams of yellow split pea, 115 grams of lentils, 80 grams of oatmeal, 4 spoons of jeera, one large yellow onion, 4 spoons of garam masala, shallots, lemon, salt and pepper and coriander.

Preparation – Boil the split peas and lentils with salt for about 30 minutes. While this is boiling mix the lamb with salt, pepper and ginger. Slice the onion and while frying it slowly add in the minced beef. Let the meat and onion fry till all the water has completely evaporated from the mixture. As the cooking progresses add the jeera and garam masala to the mixture. When the dhal (split peas and lentils) is soft add the lamb to it and then boil it in a pressure cooker with two liters of water for about 30 minutes. While this is being done add the oatmeal to a glass of water and stir well. Then add this to the mixture in the pressure cooker and stir well till everything blends together.

When this has been done, the haleem is ready to be served.. .

Please note that the amounts of salt, pepper and garam masala are to be added according to the taste of the gathering.

GARAM MASALA/hot spice mixture – Garam Masla is usually used in various preparations
and since this concoction of spices induces perspiration, it also helps in keeping the body cool.

Spices used to make Garam Masala

Depending upon a family’s tastes the amount of various spices in this mixture can be adjusted. The spices usually used are one spoon of black peppercorn, three bay leaves, a three quarter inch cinnamon stick, one spoon each of black and green cardamom, one spoon jeera (cumin seed) one spoon of cloves and three or four medium sized red chillies.

All these spices are then ground together into a fine powder in a stone mortar.
Please note that the spices used and their quantities may vary from region to region and from family to family. —-Joseph Aranha

Sara Under the 7’s wrap-up.


  1. So glad this dinner was a success! The food looks amazing. I had a cab driver bring me here once and I didn’t have a very good experience with the food. Maybe I should give it another try.

  2. All the photos of all these glorious dishes are making me sooooo hungry (and it’s only 10 a.m.!). I loved going into Jackson Heights when I lived in New York – all the colours of the sweets and sari shops, and all the gorgeous aromas from the restaurants and cafes. I wasn’t into Hindi cinema back then, but I am now – what I wouldn’t give to be back there now, so I could buy Hindi film DVDs to my heart’s content, and soundtracks, and magazines filled to the brim with my favourite ‘filmi’ actors like Shah Rukh Khan and Emraan Hashmi.

    I’m delighted that the Ambassador program and dinner was a huge success. Fair play to Chef Tan Zeel, and to the Ali brothers, and to you Jeff, for leading the way to all this amazing food at Kabob King. If I ever get back to New York, I’m definitely going to check the Kabob King out for dinner.

    Great feature and writing style – hats off to Joseph Aranha for sharing this with us.
    Looking at the photos again, I no longer have any desire for cereal at this moment – I want naan and chicken curry and samosas! Yum!

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