Aubergine Meatball Wraps (Islim Kebabi) is one of those traditional Turkish dishes mainly known and loved by the regular households in Turkey. It is not a landmark dish widely representing the Turkish cuisine abroad such as Döner kebab. However, it is an oriental dish that is extremely flavorful and delicious combination of meat and vegetables. You need to try these aubergine meatball wraps especially if you enjoy the Mediterranean cuisine in general and looking for an authentic and delicious dish.
Islim Kebabi is comprised of the amazing combination of thinly sliced fried aubergines, juicy meatballs and tomato sauce. If it sounds (or looks) delicious to you, keep reading to learn how to make this traditional Turkish dish!Jump to Recipe
How to Make Turkish Islim Kebabi?
Making this dish may seem a bit complicated at first glance. However, the instructions are pretty straightforward and there are a few tips and tricks that you should follow to achieve the best results.
- Picking the right aubergines – The aubergines that you will use in this recipe will make a huge difference. It is better if you are making this recipe when aubergines are in season (usually from July to September). If not, you should soak the aubergine stripes in salt water for at least 30 minutes before frying them. Don’t forget to pat them dry well with a paper towel before frying. Soaking them in salt water will help to get rid of the bitter taste of the aubergines. Another important point here is the shape of your aubergines. Try to pick the longer aubergines as it will allow you to make longer stripes. It is necessary to form a wrap around meatballs easily.
- Don’t over fry the aubergine stripes – You should be careful when frying your aubergine stripes. They are very delicate and cook quite easily. If you over fry them, you may end up with soggy and soft stripes which will make the process of assembly very difficult, if not impossible. Keep in mind that the aubergines will further cook in the oven, so don’t worry if they don’t look fully cooked after frying. It is enough for them to slightly turn golden. Usually frying each side of the aubergine stripes for 2-3 minutes is sufficient.
- Fat to meat ratio of the minced beef is important – It is important to have at least 30% fat to meat ratio minced beef to achieve a juicy and flavorful meatball. If you make the meatballs with minced beef that has lower fat ratio, you may end up with dry and chewy meatballs. If you can’t find this sort of minced beef, you can increase the amount of olive oil you put in the meatball mixture.
- Mixing well is important for the meatballs – Make sure you mix the ingredients very well when preparing the meatballs. Use your hands, as if you are kneading a dough. It will take around 4-5 minutes for all ingredients to completely combine. Also make sure you chop the onions and garlic very finely. Otherwise, the pieces of onions and garlic will burn when frying the meatballs, and give an unpleasant taste to the dish. Use a food processor or a grater for chopping the onions and garlic, unless you have very good knife skills!
Islim kebabı is a great dish for special occasions as it is not the easiest and quickest recipe. But it is an extremely indulgent and rewarding dish you and your family & friends will enjoy. If you decide to try out this dish, make sure you serve it with delicious buttery Turkish Rice Pilaf which is the best companion of many Turkish dishes and islim kebabı is no exception.
I hope you enjoy the process of making the islim kebabı as much as you would enjoy eating them! 🙂
Bon appetite! / Afiyet olsun!
Aubergine Meatball Wraps (Islim Kebabı)
- 4 aubergines (medium size, preferably long ones to create long stripes)
- sunflower oil (amount depends on the pan that you will fry the aubergine stripes)
- 500 g minced beef (30% fat to meat ratio is ideal for juicy meatballs)
- 1 egg
- ½ cup breadcrumbs
- 1 large white onion (finely chopped, preferably with a food processor or a grater)
- 2 tbsp olive oil (plus 1 tbsp for frying the meatballs)
- 3 cloves of garlic (preferably finely diced with a food processor or a garlic press)
- 1 TSP ground black pepper
- 1½ TSP salt
- ½ TSP cumin powder
- ½ TSP sweet paprika powder
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 300 ml warm water
- 1 handful of fresh parsley leaves (finely chopped, for garnish)
- 5 cherry tomatoes (sliced into half)
- 3 green Spanish padron peppers or Turkish chilies (sliced into 2 cm cubes)
- Wash the aubergines and dry them with a paper towel.
- Peel the aubergines vertically in zebra pattern. Do not completely peel them.
- Slice the aubergines vertically. Make sure each aubergine stripe is dry before frying them to avoid oil splashing. Set them aside.
- Heat the sunflower oil in a frying pan.
- Fry each side of the aubergine stripes until they get slightly brown.
- Place the fried aubergines on paper towels to get rid of the excess oil. Set them aside.
- Place the minced beef, egg, breadcrumbs, olive oil, onion, garlic, salt, black pepper, cumin powder and paprika into a deep mixing bowl.
- Mix them with your hands until all ingredients are well combined, knead for about 5 to 6 minutes.
- Divide a little piece from the mixture and roll them into a meatball in size of a walnut (these meatballs should be able to fit into aubergine wraps. Depending on the size of your aubergine stripes, you can make the meatballs slightly bigger or smaller).
- Heat a frying pan with a splash of olive oil.
- Fry the meatballs in the pan until they turn into slight golden color (you don't need to make sure the meatballs are completely cooked at this stage as they will cook further in the oven. Few minutes in the pan should be enough at this stage).
- In a bowl or glass mix the tomato paste and the water until well combined. Set aside.
Assembling the Aubergine Stripes and Meatballs
- Place 1 piece of padron green pepper or Turkish chili and half of a cherry tomato on each toothpick and set them aside. We will be using these toothpicks to secure our aubergine wraps.
- Lay 2 fried aubergine stripes on top of each other to form a cross and place one meatball in the middle.
- Bring first one end of the aubergine up to the top and then in turn the other three ends to form a wrap. Secure them with a toothpick. Repeat the same process until you finish all ingredients.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C .
- Place the aubergine wraps in a baking dish.
- With a table spoon gently pour the tomato sauce on the aubergine wraps. Do not pour the sauce directly on the wraps as this will cause them to fall over in the dish.
- Place the baking dish in the oven until cherry tomatoes and green peppers look cooked. It will take around 20 minutes depending on your oven.
- Give 5 minutes to cool down before serving. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve with buttery Turkish rice pilaf.