Chicken Shawarma is basically an Arabic dish from Lebanon, and since I have worked in hotels in Syria, Lebanon and Egypt, I have been lucky to sample the authentic thing — the way it is made on the streets and hotels there. It can be made with chicken, lamb or beef.
Essentially, Shawarma is a roadside dish and is best eaten there! But to get it really authentic in your kitchen, there are sometimes ingredients that are a little difficult to procure here, such as the right kind of Tahini paste. What one serves here is basically a lime-flavoured, garlic-based paste.
Also, to marinate it, one traditionally uses something called Labneh (strained yoghurt, which is mildly sour and thick), but we marinate it with normal yoghurt, which gives it a slightly different flavour. Authentic shawarma is also served with the right accompaniments, i.e. pita bread. Here, we often replace this with kathi rolls.
There are several evident diversities in Indian and Arabic cuisine. For example, they use a whole lot of this sort of dried lemon powder called lumi and a curry powder called saluna, while we use a lot of nutmeg and they don’t!
On the streets of the Middle East, you also easily find Mezze, which is like Tapas in Spain, as well as a whole lot of other small things like Baba Ghanoush, Fatoush, Hummus and Tabouleh.
Accompaniments to these are different in different places, like in Syria, you could be served this cauliflower pickle. Another interesting dish from there is called Ouzi, a kind of biryani of baby lamb. The whole succulent lamb is cooked and served in a bed of flavoured rice, which is all together served in a baked phyllo.
As told to Sapna.Sarfare@timesgroup.com)
Shawarma Dajaj (Chicken Shawarma)
|Pics: Nikhil Ghorpade
• Chicken: 4 kg, whole boneless with skin, cut into two pieces
• Lemon juice: 3 tbsp
• Corn oil: 4 tbsp
• Salt: to taste
• White pepper powder: 15 gms
• Paprika powder: 25 gms
• Mint: 100 gms, chopped
• Hung curd: 750 gms
• Onion: 250 gms, chopped
• Roasted cumin powder: 10 gms
• Marinate the chicken by mixing together all the ingredients
• Refrigerate for around six hours, then remove the chicken from the refrigerator
• Layer the chicken on a shawarma machine rod, or a grilling rod
• Again, refrigerate for around two hours
• Put the chicken with the rod on the shawarma machine (if you don’t have one use a grill, or a non-stick pan), and cook for two hours
• Cut the chicken with a long, thin knife into very thin slices
• Add gherkins, French fries, shredded lettuce, tomato and tahini sauce and stuff into pita bread
• Serve with Kabees Mashakkal (an Arabic pickle) and enjoy!
► A native of God’s Own Country, Kerala, Chef Mathew John of Le Meridien loved food right since he was a child.
He started out at the Gulf Hotel in Bahrain, and the subsequent 15 years took him through several Middle Eastern countries including Kuwait, the UAE and Lebanon.
He also worked with several international chefs chains like Ramada, Hilton, Sheraton and Le Meridien, which helped him capture the subtleties of Arabic cuisine. His favourite though, is Lebanese cuisine, thanks to its simple, rustic flavours