Food & Drink

10 types of Persian kabobs from the streets of Tehrangeles

Persian kabob
All photos by Dan Gentile

Iran has flown many flags during its tumultuous history, but no matter how Persians feel about the Revolution of 1979, there's one iconic symbol that nearly everyone agrees upon: the kabob.

kabob grilling

The savory strips of grilled meat are as beloved, ubiquitous, and diverse as the American cheeseburger: they're sold everywhere from upscale restaurants to late-night street vendors, and there are more varieties than you could shake a skewer at.

To taste every color of the kabob rainbow, we strolled down Westwood Blvd in Los Angeles (aka Tehrangeles) and ate our way through the largest epicenter of Persian cuisine outside of Iran, stopping at Flame, Shaherzad, and Shamshiri Grill. Here are the juicy results.

Chelo kabob

Chelo kabob (Beef Koobideh)
The ground beef version is the most common, and is considered the official dish of Iran. Unlike its Turkish counterpart, the meat isn't roasted on a spit -- it's grilled on a skewer.

chicken kabob

Chicken Barg
All kabobs are served alongside a bed of saffron rice, charred tomato, parsley, onions, and flatbread. Chicken Barg features grilled thighs and tenders marinated in onion juices.

Boneless chicken kabob
Many restaurants offer a boneless version, which can be referred to as "spineless" because it lacks the flavor and juice of the bone-in versions.

Chicken Koobideh
Uses ground chicken instead of whole pieces. When served in combination with Chicken Barg, it's called Chicken Soltani, meaning "for the sultan", whose royal status makes him deserving of two kinds of chicken. Oh, you fancy, sultan!

salmon kabob

Fillet of salmon kabob
The Persians' love of slightly burned cuisine is evident when you consider these crispy, charred chunks of salmon, served alongside rice with dill.

Shrimp kabob

Shrimp kabob
The crustacean version of kabob is more rare, which is unfortunate because it really is the shish.

lamb kabob

Rack of lamb kabob
Lamb is Iran's most popular stewing meat, but the cut also makes it onto the grill in the form of small rib chops served on the bone.

filet mignon barg

Filet mignon Barg
Don't try to tell Persians that filet mignon is an overrated meat -- the premium cut finds its way onto most menus and is served seared on the outside, juicy on the inside.

Cornish hen kabob

Cornish hen kabob
This is the juiciest of all Persian kabobs thanks to its high bone-to-meat ratio.

Rainbow trout kabob

Rainbow trout kabob
Iran is one of the largest farmers of rainbow trout in the world (they produce over 60T per year), and thus, it's not unusual to see the fish filleted, lightly battered, and grilled alongside the traditional kabob accompaniments.

Dan Gentile is a staff writer on Thrillist's national food and drink team. He isn't Persian, but he's trying his best to learn. Follow him to double kabob rainbows at @Dannosphere.