Shawarma: Middle Eastern Kebab


Shawarma is a popular street food in the Middle East, based on chicken, lamb, or beef, which is roasted on a spit and sliced into thin slices just before serving. Shawarma is usually served in pita bread or a wrap along with various side dishes, such as salad, tomatoes, onions, or cucumber. However, the meat can also be served on a plate, for example, in the middle of hummus, together with falafel, vegetables on a separate plate, and pita bread.

Chicken shawarma
Chicken shawarma

When preparing shawarma, the meat is first marinated for several hours or overnight in a mixture of spices. It is then attached to a spit, which is a long vertical metal rod that slowly rotates around a heat source. During roasting, the layers of meat on the surface become crispy and golden brown, while the inner layers remain juicy and tender. Once the meat on the surface is cooked, it is sliced into thin slices with a sharp knife, ready for consumption. The trimmed area on the spit then slowly begins to roast again.

Shawarma probably originated in the capital of the Ottoman Empire, Constantinople (now Istanbul), which was a melting pot of many cultures and cuisines. Its predecessor was probably the very similar dish “döner kebab”. However, shawarma differs in the spices and herbs used in the marinade and the way it is served.

Top Hummus restaurant in the Palestinian Bethlehem
Top Hummus restaurant in the Palestinian Bethlehem

The shawarma in the photo comes from a small Top Hummus bistro in the Palestinian Bethlehem. The bistro is not even marked on maps. A huge portion of chicken shawarma with great hummus, freshly fried falafel, lots of vegetables, and a basket of fluffy pita bread cost 40 shekels, which is approximately 11.20 EUR. However, two people were fully satisfied with the portion.

Bon appetit!