As someone who grew up in the Middle East, I have eaten my fair share of shawarmas throughout my life. But shawarmas in India, it’s rare that I would say I have enjoyed the same taste. Most of them are sloppy or too oily… and shawarma does not need to be oily! Add to that sometimes the chicken is not cooked well or tasteless, I finally began to wonder if I could re-create the taste of the shawarmas I grew up on.
I watched a bunch of videos and recipes online, including the one below:
… and once I got the gist of the process, I began to try making it myself using easy to procure ingredients.
This post is going to be for chicken shawarma but you can use the meat of your choice — beef, mutton or pork (even though pork shawarma isn’t available in the Middle East).
I mostly used chicken breasts (two whole pieces) and then a bunch of other pieces of chicken, including thigh, so the meat filling would not be just all fibrous chunks. It doesn’t matter if the meat is boned or not, you’re going to pick the meat off the bone after cooking it anyway.
- Red chilli powder
- Ginger garlic paste
- Coriander powder
- Little bit of cumin powder, cinnamon (powder) and mustard sauce
- Salt and pepper
- Lemon juice
- Olive oil (or any vegetable oil)
The reason I’m not mentioning measurements is because it varies based on the amount of meat you wish to marinate. It’s also up to you how you want your chicken meat to taste. Want a more spicy filling? Add more chilli powder and pepper.
Mix the spices into a paste. (Taste it and make adjustments to your liking). Gently spread the spice mix on the chicken and marinate the meat for at least an hour. Longer you marinate meats, the better it usually tastes. I often leave it overnight now.
Then, grease a baking tray with olive oil or your preferred oil.
I baked the chicken in a convection microwave at 190 degree celcius (374° Fahrenheit) for 25 to 30 minutes. I tend to check in between to flip the meats and gently scrape off any spices that would stick to the pan.
While the chicken cools off, you can work on the other fillings. Cut up some lettuce (NOT cabbage*) and tomato. You can add them in as is but I like to flavour the vegetables by mixing them in some garlic mayonnaise. Mayonnaise is easy to procure so I use that and it does not taste that different from toum — which is traditionally used in shawarma. Toum is a garlic paste that looks seemingly simple to make but given how much oil and garlic I would need for it to come out right — and the right kind of food processor — I decided instead to use store bought garlic mayonnaise instead.
If you wish try making toum yourself, watch this or the video below:
Back to the chicken. Now, here comes the real time-consuming part. You have to cut up the chicken pieces into small chunks.
Bake the chicken again for 5 to 10 minutes until the meat is well cooked.
Roll it up and enjoy!
Since trying it for the first time, I have made shawarmas at home four more times and I now rarely buy shawarmas from outside when in Bangalore. The one I make at home feels so much more healthier (less grease, cannot vouch on the nutrition). And now I know it is possible to make the Middle East’s most popular street food at home without the need for the equipment the shops use to grill the meat.