Sweet & Sour Beef Kebabs

Shish Kebabs, to me, are the quintessential food of the 1970s. More than fondue, more than Watergate Salad, more than stuffed peppers or anything else I can think of, shish kebabs just seem like a 1970s party waiting to happen... and so it makes sense that I found a recipe for “Sweet and Sour Beef Kebabs” in the box without much searching.

I've never made a kebab (fun fact: when I was a kid, I thought I hated all food on sticks just because I happened to hate onions and peppers... and it never occurred to me that I could just eat the other things on the stick and avoid those ones), and I've never seen skewers in the store here in Scotland. This is the weird thing about living in a different country that I don't think people always understand: we've been here a year and a half, but, at least twice a month there is still something we need to buy or do that we can't figure out how to purchase or accomplish. For instance: bamboo skewers are readily available at every grocery store in the US that I've ever been to, and even more readily available at every Wal-Mart and Target. But here in Edinburgh, the grocery stores are much smaller (ours doesn't carry pie filling, gelatin, or marshmallows), so I knew getting skewers there would be a non-starter. So I headed down to a hardware store in our neighbourhood-- the same place I bought our kitchen scale, copper cleaner for our pots, soda crystals to clean our washing machine, and a whole lot of other random gadgets that no one else in town carries. Most of the times I've been there looking for a really specific thing, they've looked at me like I was crazy, but this time they came to the rescue and I am now the owner of a large bag of (very small) bamboo skewers and a set of 4 (even smaller) metal ones.

Dat maple syrup tho.

Dat maple syrup tho.

I like to imagine Eleanor smoking a cigarette, wearing a polyester dress with a loud psychedelic pattern, and mixing up a pitcher of lemonade while my grandpa Wilbur grilled up these kebabs in their backyard, but I can hear Eleanor's voice in my head, even as I type this, reminding me that it's too hot to grill outside for 90% of the year in Florida, so maybe I'm wrong about that one.

We don't have a grill here in Edinburgh (it's pretty much the only thing I miss from our house in Atlanta), so I had to make these in the kitchen... though I might bust this recipe out when it gets a little warmer: we live across the street from the largest park in Edinburgh and in the summer it's full of groups of people grilling out on tiny disposable grills they sell at all the grocery stores. This is an easy, tasty recipe that is intended as an appetiser, but we ate it as a main course one night for dinner and I REGRET NOTHING.

Some words of advice: the cut of the meat actually does matter on this one, despite the fact that it's marinated for ages in a briny mix. I accidentally bought “stew meat” the first time and it was noticeably, terribly tough. Get yourself some sirloin and you won't regret it. Also, the longer this marinates, the better-- if you can get it into the marinade in the morning, it'll be totally worth it when dinner rolls around, I promise. Any kind of onion should work, but the sweeter, the better-- if you have Vidalias, use them here! And finally: these kebabs don't reheat particularly well, so aim to make as close to the actual amount that you need as possible.

And special thanks today go to my mom, who sent this bottle of maple syrup to us as an anniversary gift because it's so hard to find over here. We think of you each Saturday when we eat crepes.

The Verdict:

4 spoons out of five. They're delicious, easy, and seriously, they come on a stick. Does it get any better?

The Recipe:

Sweet and Sour Beef Shish Kebabs

The Ingredients:

1 ½ lb boneless sirloin, cut into ¾-inch cubes
½ c soy sauce
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp scallions, spring onions, or chives
½ tsp garlic powder
2 large sweet onions, cut in chunks


Place beef cubes in a large bowl.
Pour in other ingredients, stir well to coat.
Cover and place in refrigerator at least one hour or up to all day.
Remove cubes from marinade and thread on skewers, alternating as desired with onion chunks.
Broil or grill for 5 minutes or until browned on all sides but still pink inside.
rrange on platter and serve as hors d'oeuvres, or have them as a main course with a giant green salad, like we did.