The first time I heard “Shawarma”,I thought it was the long lost brother of the famous Indian artist Ravi Varma…..never realising it was food.”Shawarma,what a beautiful ring to it.Little did I know that “Shawarma” is an Arabic Pita wrap,a popular sandwich of the Middle East.My severe egg allergy has restricted me from being adventurous with tasting various Cusines around the worl unless I’m very sure there are no eggs added to the dish(will save the hilarious & life threatening egg allergy stories for another day).I was completely taken by surprise when a collegue offered me “baklava”a yummy sweet of Middle East…..my first taste of their cuisine & I instantly loved the taste of it,something like Indian food… you feel like you have eaten something filling after you’ve eaten food,unlike the first time I went to an all American lunch& I was offered baby potatoes,I thought somebody was playing a rude joke on me,how on earth could one eat just boiled potatoes & say its lunch is beyond me…..but then thats the way my culinary horizons broadened.I’d settle for a complete”Sappadu/Thali” anyday.
Shawarma is believed to be the street food of the Middle East found in every Shouk corners,I’m told….interesting to learn about another culture through their food.It derives its musical sounding name from the Turkish word”Cevirme” which means to turn.True to its name,Shawarma is an Arabic Pita bread,which holds layered meat which is cooked on a vertical spit with heat generated from the center cone which slowly rotates for a whole day.The professional Chef expertly runs a sharp knife in a rythmic fashion up & down the spit shaving thin slices of meat which is then collected in the hot pita bread or wrap& tossed around with various crunchy veggies.It is generallly accompanied by Tahini(sesame ) sauce or Hummus(spiced chickpea paste).
In my version of the “Chicken Shawarma” I made Pita bread & stuffed them with thin slices of grilled chicken & crunchy vegetables,I could get my hands on…..perhaps a few years down the road I’d prepare it the real authentic way,but for starters it turned out pretty good & whats more ,very filling too!
For Pita bread:
Self raising flour – 2 cups
Salt- to taste
Water-1 cup( as required)
Oil- 2-4 tbsp
For the chicken filling:
Chicken breast piece- 2-3
Turmeric powder-1/4 tsp
Onions- 1 ( medium)- sliced fine
Pepper powder- 2 tsp
Cumin powder- 1tsp
Garlic paste- 1 tsp
Salt – to taste
Oil- 2-3 tbsp
For Pita bread:
1.Mix the self raising flour with salt & gently add water till it gets into the chappathi dough consistency.
2.Now transfer this mix into a vessel that contains the oil & gently wrap the dough with the oil,while turning it upside down.
3.Now cover the mix gently with food wrap sheet or a cloth/kitchen towel & set it aside for 2-3 hours for the dough to raise.
4.Once the dough is raised & fluffy , knead it gently & then make equal size balls out of them
5.Gently use you roller pin & make these pita breads( almost looks like our Indian paratta’s) & then cook in an oven or over a skillet.
6.When it turns light brown, turn it to the other side & cook it the same way.
7.It remains soft for almost a day if you wrap them up in a small towel while they are still hot
8.Add the chicken filling, wrap it like a sandwich & enjoy the little power packed pockets of deliciousness.
For the Chicken filling:
1.Clean & cut chicken into thin strips or small pieces( since we do not have a rotating spit at home, this works too)
2.Marinade with all the ingredients mixed together for 2 hours & then either grill the chicken or cook it on flame.
3.Cut the crunchy vegetables like Cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers ,lettuce etc & set aside.
Now when the pita bread is ready gently coat it with Tahini ( sesame ) sauce which is available in stores, over the bread, spread the cooked chicken strips along with the crunchy sliced vegetables.Wrap them gently with wax paper & serve friends & family.It is very handy when you have little ones at home, makes for a good meal off the table smile emoticon.Enjoy the flavors of Arabic cuisine with their melodious music & shake away that fat with a little Arabic belly dancing!
Note: Some prefer to slice through the pita bread making small pockets & then filling them up, the choice is yours, since the pita breads are rounder & fluffy ,it makes for a great meal for picnics & great outdoors.