While kabobs are somewhat familiar in larger American cities with significant populations of Middle Eastern residents, Kabob.a.Licious recognizes that taking the concept to a national level might require a little explanation. To offer a lighthearted look at the culture and customs behind the kabob, the company is developing a promotional program dubbed KAL (Kabob.a.Licious) U that will produce point-of-sale videos, brochures, and other printed and visual materials for customer enjoyment and education.
Kabob.a.Licious owner Kochai Farhad puts her own bicultural twist on this culinary genre, combining her mother’s beloved recipes with traditional Mediterranean-spiced marinades and sauces. She describes her flavor profiles as “a little spicier than Iranian and a little milder than Pakistani.”
Neither Safari nor Javan is a stranger to the workings of the American fast-food segment. Both developed their initial quick-service chops at McDonald’s as in-store employees shortly after their arrival to the country.
But it was from the Middle Eastern homelands of their founders that all three chains got their distinctive flavor profiles and cooking techniques. Blends of spices and long, slow marinades impart flavor with little or no fat to the meat. Grilling allows for quick cooking (averaging about seven to 10 minutes). And sauces for on-grill dabbing and on-the-side dipping add even more versatility to the cooked kabobs.
Generally, the term kabob brings to mind chunks of lamb, beef, or chicken. But at Kabob.a.Licious customers can also choose a kind of kabob called koobideh, ground sirloin spiked with grated onion or a variation made with ground chicken. Moby Dick’s calls the dish kubideh. At the Amazing Kabob House, the ground beef kabob bears no exotic moniker but is fired up with a blend of tangy “secret spices,” fresh tomatoes, green onions, and cilantro, to become the Chaplee kabob.
Seafood is a specialty at the Amazing Kabob House, a fact that is reflected in its skewered shrimp and salmon selections. Moby’s also takes a sea faring spin with a boneless swordfish kabob.
A vegetarian variation at Kabob.a.Licious stacks alternating chunks of tofu and red and green pepper on a skewer. At the Amazing Kabob House, kabob entrees come with a skewer of mixed vegetables.
Exhibition grilling is a big part of the concept appeal at Moby Dick’s and Kabob.a.Licious. Not only is the aroma of on-the-spot cooking enticing, grilling as a cooking technique has a definite halo of healthfulness.
Both Moby Dick’s and Kabob.a.Licious emphasize the healthfulness of their low-fat fare on their menus and in their promotional materials. Farhad believes that flavoring through spices rather than with fat is a concept that increasingly health-conscious Americans are sure to embrace.
“People are often surprised when they taste our food for the first time,” she says.
Because of the thickness of the meat chunks and the need to cook them to order, traditional kabobs are not good candidates for drive-thrus focused on speed. At Moby’s, for example, the average cooking time is about seven minutes. At Kabob.a.Licious it’s closer to 10, “but our goal is seven,” Safari says.
Moby’s marinates its meats for an average of two days at its central commissary. A long marinade increases the moisture level of the meat so it retains its juiciness when cooked over high heat. Moby’s pre-skewered selections are delivered fresh (“never frozen,” Javan emphasizes) to each restaurant twice a day, once in the morning for lunch service and again in the afternoon for dinner. Though uncooked and refrigerated, product is not held over from one meal to another, he says, to ensure that strict freshness standards are maintained. Rice and bread are made on-site at each restaurant.