When you are on the go, isn’t it great to have something small and compact but is filling like a proper meal? Look no further, try out a shawarma! It looks like a colourful and savoury sandwich which has the perfect balance of carbohydrates, protein, and vegetables. Shawarma is one of the most popular street foods around the globe, especially in Egypt.
What is a Shawarma?
Shawarma is a delicious sandwich that is stuffed with thinly sliced seasoned meat, vegetables, and sauce wrapped in a piece of pita bread. The meat can be chicken, beef, lamb, and turkeys that are rolled into the pita bread that has been steamed or heated.
Besides meat, it is often garnished with diced tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbage, lettuce, pickles, onions, and chilli sauce. It can be said that a shawarma sandwich is the Middle Eastern version of a taco or burrito. At some places, garlic sauce, tahini (sesame seed paste), and even french fries are added. In Malaysia, Chicken Shawarma is a big hit due to the fusion of Arabic and Malay flavours.
History of Shawarma
Shawarma is an Arabic translation of the Turkish word, cevirme which means turning, and it is referring to the rotating rotisserie. It is a Levantine Arab meat preparation using the technique of grilling a vertical stack of meat slices and cutting it off as it cooks.
This type of cooking first appeared in the 19th-century Ottoman Empire, in what is now known as Turkey. It was introduced to Malaysia in the late ’90s, due to an influx of Arabian workers and students, and also from locals who have gone on their umrah and brought back the popular dish to Malaysia. Originally made of lamb or mutton, currently, shawarma can also be filled with chicken, turkey, and beef to adapt to the local palate.
Preparation of Shawarma
Shawarma is not just prepared by stacking meats on a vertical spit. It generally involves different cuts of meat marinated in an array of spices and can take up to as long as a day to be cooked. The spices that are commonly used to marinate the meat include cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, turmeric, and paprika. These spices give off an exotic and mouth-watering aroma when the meat is cooked.
Traditionally, the meat are stacked on top of each other to form a conical shape. The stacked meat is then slowly turned by a motorized spit and cooked using a heat source at the back of the rotisserie. This slow-grilling on low heat keeps the meat tender and juicy. Sometimes, lamb fat may be added for extra juiciness and flavour.
As it keeps rotating, the roasted outer layer is sliced off by a long, sharp knife for serving. The meat is mixed with diced fresh tomatoes, pickles, onions, and topped with garlic sauce and chilli. It is then wrapped in pita bread for the ultimate on-the-go meal. In Malaysia, there is an increase in popularity for oven-roasted shawarma as it is much faster and more convenient.
Where to find Shawarma in Malaysia
The majority of Arabic restaurants serve shawarmas as it is one of the most popular foods in Arabic cuisine. You can get shawarmas from Shawarma King (Bangsar) or try shawarma which is served as a sandwich or with rice at Shawarma Damasus (Bukit Bintang). Find more Arabic cuisine on foodpanda!