Chicken Shawarma #SundaySupper

Chicken Shawarma in a pita

Welcome to Sunday Supper, where today we are all bringing you the theme of Middle Eastern Cuisine! I’m sure it goes without saying that my severely unadventurous childhood palate wasn’t the least bit willing to try such food, so this culinary area of the world is relatively new to me. But I must say, I quite like it! I’m certainly not a Middle Eastern cuisine expert by any stretch, but what I’ve tried I have immensely enjoyed.

assembly of chicken shawarma

I chose to make Chicken Shawarma for today’s post. Shawarma is a classic Arabic dish of meat or poultry that is marinated then roasted on a spit, usually all day, and shaved off little by little for serving, usually in a pita with a delicious white sauce. I don’t have a spit in my NYC kitchen – shocking I know – so I just grilled strips of chicken thighs over high heat.

chicken shawarma

So what made me pick shawarma? Because 1) it’s delicious, and 2) it carries warm and fuzzy memories with it. The first time I had it was in Christiania in Copenhagen. For anyone unfamiliar, Christiania is a neighborhood in Copenhagen that started off as a hippie commune back in the day. The goal was to live off the grid, be environmentally responsible, and build a like-minded community free of materialistic and governmental intrusion. Today, it’s mostly a tourist attraction and an ode to graffiti, Bob Marley dreadlocks, and marijuana. Now, technically, marijuana is still illegal in Denmark, so the official party line in Christiania is that they do not sell it or smoke it. One deep breath tells you that ain’t true.

Christiania, Copenhagen

Rows and rows of outdoor vendors have tables set up selling all manner of weed paraphernalia, but not any actual pot. Apparently to get the stuff you have to ask locals in the right way and they’ll lead you to the sale. Matt and I were well behaved and did not partake. We were just there to see the place.

graffiti in Christiania, Copenhagen

After walking around and, you know, breathing, for about a half hour, we realized we clearly didn’t need to buy anything to partake. We looked at each other like, “I know we just had lunch, but gosh, I’m really hungry for some reason.” So we found the food vendors: an outdoor area with picnic tables, live music (and by live music I mean some stoned guy strumming a badly made guitar and intermittently hitting the pitch on whatever indecipherable song he chose) and a loose semi-circle of food stalls set up. Most stalls had really long lines – can’t imagine why – so we got in the shortest one, which happened to be selling chicken shawarma!

Christiania, Copenhagen

We got a couple of pitas, took them to the picnic table and noshed on the deliciousness, all the while giggling at nothing in particular through our contact highs and just generally having a wonderful afternoon on vacation with each other. I loved recreating (most of) this experience at home. You know, minus the spit, “live music”, and the second-hand buzz. This dish is unbelievable. I don’t care who you are or what your experience level with Arabic food is, I promise you will LOVE this. It’s insanely delicious, and we were truly blown away. Try it soon, don’t smoke pot, and be sure to check out the rest of the Sunday Supper team!

Chicken Shawarma

{One year ago: Apple Jalapeno Cheddar Scones}

Source: adapted from Food & Wine Magazine, May 2011

2 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp dried oregano
2 garlic cloves, minced and divided
3 tbs fresh lemon juice, divided
¼ cup olive oil
Kosher salt
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, visible fat trimmed and thinly sliced
1 medium white onion, thinly sliced
½ cup tahini (sesame paste)
½ cup mayonnaise
2 plum tomatoes, sliced
4 pita breads, warmed, cut in half, and each half split into pockets

In a large bowl, combine the cumin, oregano, 1 minced garlic clove, 1 tbs lemon juice, olive oil, and a generous pinch of kosher salt. Add the chicken and onion and let stand 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the white sauce. In a blender or mini food processor, combine the tahini with ½ cup water and the remaining garlic and remaining 2 tbs lemon juice. Puree until smooth. Add the mayonnaise and puree until very smooth and creamy, scraping down the sides as needed. Season with salt and set aside.
Heat a large griddle or grill pan over high and let it get very hot. Add the chicken and onion, along with all the marinade. Cook over high heat, turning with tongs occasionally, until the meat and onion are charred and tender, 6 to 7 minutes. Transfer to plates.
To serve, place chicken, onions, and tomato slices in the pita pocket and top liberally with white sauce.

Mezze {Appetizers}

Salata {Salads and Sides}


Halwa {Desserts}

48 responses to “Chicken Shawarma #SundaySupper

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  6. LOL! I love the story behind this one, and man it looks GOOD!

  7. I love this post and love hearing about your journey through food and life. So many wonderful memories and that is really what it is all about. Looking forward to trying this beautiful Shawarma!

  8. LOL, giggling at your first experience with this dish! I’ve never had chicken shawarma, but now I’m dying to try it!

  9. Shawarma was one of my favorite things I tried while visiting Israel and this recipe reminds me of that trip. Food really does provide us with some amazing experiences and memories to look back on…thanks for sharing yours!

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  13. Love the story. I’ve never had chicken Shawarma but I am looking forward to try it.

  14. Hahaha yes those are warm fuzzy memories!! Love the dish 🙂

  15. What a story of how you discovered this dish. So funny. It sounds like a great dish and something I need to try.

  16. What a cool town! Your photos are great and it sounds like a really neat place to visit. I’ve never had chicken Shawarma but i’m certainly willing to give it a try!

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  18. We loved Christianian…. Spent a morning there last July!!! We had time just observing the way of life!!! loved your pictures. We did not take that many there… Due to the No cameras allowed area…!!! thanks Julie for another great post!

    • Texan New Yorker

      Thanks Edie! Yeah, the pics I posted of Christiania were taken at the very outer entrance, then we saw the sign banning photos and didn’t take any more. I really wish I’d been able to though.

  19. I loved the story you shared with this and your writing style. Made me chuckle! I could definitely double fist these pitas!

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  22. The only shawarmas I’ve had is from random food carts in NYC. 🙂 And most were pretty good!

    Love this easy recipe! Thanks for sharing!

    • Texan New Yorker

      Yeah, those are pretty good, I’ve only had one bad one (and let me tell you, it was really bad). Thanks Amy!

  23. came by to find your pinterest name and was immediately drawn in by this sandwich. that is a good looking, messy, mouthful.

  24. I love Shawarma, but haven’t had it with chicken. Yours looks wonderful!! Pinning right now.

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  26. Mmm love this recipe. I’m all about anything in a pita with tahini sauce.

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  28. It’s a conspiracy by the food vendors to sell more food! 🙂 I love all the flavors going on here!

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