My most epic sandwich moment happened near Petra in Jordan, years ago. I was determined to hike around this ancient city with my tour group in 100 degree heat. One of my friends on this trip, John, was perpetually hungry, regardless of the blistering hot weather. He saw a lonely shawarma stand off the side of the road, and made our taxi stop so he could buy a few wraps. Seeing that the stand sold 3 shawarma wraps for about 1 dinar (under 2 American dollars) I decided to buy 3 wraps as well to fuel my impending hike. The wraps were on the small side, about the circumference of a Mexican flauta. Nestled inside the soft flatbread was some spiced tender lamb, crispy cucumber yogurt salad, pickled onions, and a nutty creamy tahini sauce. I didn’t realize I was hungry until I took my first bite, and then I just couldn’t stop myself, devouring all three wraps in one swoop. Hence, my obsession with shawarma began. Even now whenever I see a shawarma stand my mind gets flooded with blissful memories of that day in Petra. Fast forward to today, and this sandwich has reached cult status in nearly every Middle Eastern country and beyond. Shawarma is timeless, globally popular, and vogue, sort of like the Madonna of wraps. I knew I had to recreate shawarma at home so I could have it anytime I wanted–with ingredients I could feel good about.
The word shawarma comes from the Arabic word “shawi” which means to grill. Usually lamb, chicken, or beef are placed on a vertical spit roaster and can be slow cooked for as long as a day. Hard working dudes shave the meat off the block, and the remainder of the meat is kept heated on the rotating pit. The plus of making shawarma yourself is you can customize how you serve the meat to your specific dietary needs. For instance, you can serve the meat on a salad for a low carb option, on a plate with rice and salad for heartier fare, or in a wrap as a fast food or picnic lunch. And for vegans out there ( I never forget you 🙂 sub out the meat all together if you’re a vegetarian, using the same marinade for tempeh, seitan, or even portabella mushrooms. You can get really creative with the wraps. Feel free to use any kind of flatbread–like pita, tortilla (flour, sprouted or low carb), Armenian lavash,or Persian Sangak bread. For roasting the chicken, I realize most people don’t have a vertical spit roaster, so you can either roast the meat in the oven–or just grill the chicken outdoors for an extra smoky flavor. The tahini sauce for the shawarma is called “tarator” sauce, which has no relation to American tartar sauce. Instead you have a tahini based sauce spiked with lemon and garlic. If you’re doing some summer entertaining, trying making a shawarma bar. Guests can assemble the meats, wraps, condiments and sauce as they wish to make a customized wrap. You can marinate the meat, marinate the onions, and make the tahini sauce the day before. All you have to do the day of your party is grill the meats and assemble the cucumber tomato salad. How easy is that? For the tutorial video check out the link below, and please subscribe if you haven’t already!
Here is a Shawarma Shopping list, now you can watch the video and work your magic, drop me a line to tell me how it went!
Salt and Pepper
1 pound Chicken thighs
Wraps (low carb, gluten free, wheat, whatever you like)
vinegar (rice or red wine)
5 cloves garlic
1 large tomato
1 Persian cucumber