Imagine a warm pita overflowing with delicious, seasoned meat, fresh lettuce and tomatoes, and a yummy yogurt or tahini sauce.
Of course, this mouth-watering combination begins with the meat! You’ll find a recipe for it in your Lebanon box, but what is shawarma anyway?
The Origins of Shawarma
Way back in the mists of time, people used to put pieces of meat on long metal skewers and roast them over an open fire.
For eons, these cooks would fight to keep the fire under control when the fat dripped down into the flames. Too much fat, and the meat would be burned. Not an appetizing thought!
Then one day in the 18th century, one clever chef in the Ottoman empire thought to turn the skewer upright and slowly turn it in front of the fire.
Now the fat would drip down the meat to keep it moist instead of feeding the flames and making charcoal out of dinner.
This Turkish method of cooking was called donor/doner kebab, which translates to “turning roast” and was very popular!
It spread around the Mediterranean and became gyros in Greece...
shawarma in Arabic-speaking countries...
and tacos al pastor, which was introduced to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants.
In Mexico, the stacked meat is called a trompo since it resembles a spinning top!
The word shawarma comes from the Arabic pronunciation of the Turkish word cevirme, which means “to turn” or “rotating”, and the word gyro means “to go around” in Greek.
Like the word “paella” refers to the pot where the rice dish is made, shawarma is all about the movement of the roasted meat on the spit.
Oh, and if you’re wondering about tacos al pastor, that means “tacos in the shepherd style” since the imported Lebanese cooking method was adopted by Mexican shepherds.
How Is Shawarma Made?
To prepare this popular dish, cooks stack thin slices of marinated lamb, pork, beef, or chicken (or sometimes a combination of meats) into a cone shape on a large spit or skewer.
As the heavy stack of meat turns, chefs slice off the cooked outer layer and serve it wrapped in a pita or other kind of bread as a sandwich, or on a plate with veggies and sometimes rice.
The rest of the kebab continues to turn and cook until the next order.
Shawarma, gyros, and tacos al pastor are popular street foods around the world because of their grab-and-go wrap style.
Because the original Turks were situated on the spice trade routes, their meat marinades included some amazing exotic spices like cloves, allspice, sumac, cumin, and turmeric.
No wonder shawarma tastes so amazing!
You get a delicious, portioned spice blend in the Lebanon box so you can whip up an amazing version of shawarma right in your own kitchen.
Enjoy a taste of Lebanon as you eat2explore!