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rajsuman

Shawarma

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Guys - everyone knows that the best shawarma is the original, doner kebab from Turkey. The dish originated in Anatolia, and in my experience, that is still where the best and tastiest version of it can be found. I've had the dish in Israel, Egypt, and many other variations at Syrian, Greek places in NYC. The best for me is still the Turkish version. I don't know the reasons. Every time I find a good one I try to get the chefs to explain to me how they make it, but they're never very clear. I sometimes wonder if they themselves even know?

From all the types I've tasted, the Turkish version is always the juciest, fattiest and most flavorful. Maybe its the meat? I don't know. But the one thing that truly disturbs me is this talk of loading up the sandwich with all sorts of condiments. If the meat is truly delicoius, it needs nothing!

There are 3 common ways of serving the dish in Turkey. Listed in order of unhealthiness:

1. döner kebap sandviç: Served on either a sub type roll, or in pide (like a tortillia), with nothing - except for maybe some salt or delicious fresh Turkish tomatoes.

2. döner porsiyon: Simply a plate of rice, with the meat sliced on top. Usually served with a roasted tomato and/or hot pepper on the side

3. (The infamous) Iskender kebap: Pieces of pide cut up on a plate, topped with yogurt, topped with the meat, topped with a light tomato sauce. Baked, and then served with MELTED BUTTER to taste.

The place to eat Iskender and perhaps any döner is in Bursa, where the dish comes from.

There's another variation of cooking the döner which I've never seen anywhere except Turkey, and even there its rare. There are döner machines which are heated by actual wood or charcoal shoved into the sides, rather than the standard electric. I can confidently say that this makes a difference in the taste.

Once in Turkey I came across a sebzeli döner which was like a normal döner but different vegetables were interspersed. This was wonderful and I once saw it at a Turkish market here in Brooklyn as well.

I encourage everyone to go to Turkey just to taste the superiority of the Turkish döner. If you won't buy a ticket just for this reason, at least find a local Turkish restaurant and try it there. It won't disappoint!

See my thread here for more info:

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showto...49entry812149

Sebzeli döner

gallery_10642_600_1105571031.jpg

Iskender kebap in Izmit Turkey

gallery_10642_600_1105571150.jpg

:cool:

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I don't know where you had shwarma in Israel, but there is very good shwarma here. You just need to know where to go.

I have also had various styles of shwarma, including Turkish and I like them all.

As for the condiments, it depends on what country your in. I don't think it hides the flavour of the meat, it enhances it. Especially if the meat has been well seasoned.

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I love shawarmas so much I could live on them for weeks without complaining. Chicken shawarma is an absolute favourite. Has anyone here tried making them at home? I've tried a few shawarmas here in Dublin, but none of them come up to the standard that I've found in Dubai.

I have a few questions and I'd appreciate any advice.

1) I've seen a lot of recipes for shawarma when I googled, but I've no idea which one of them might be a good one. Would any of you have a recipe?

2) I'm gonna have to cook the chicken either in the oven or under the grill. Will that affect the taste in a negative way? How can I get it to be crispy?

TIA,

Suman

Edited to add this link.

I agree with those who maintain that there is nothing like the real thing BUT sometimes you have to make do Mrs A. Helou has some recipe books that cover this and if you cant get the real thing remember the accoutrements (bread, sauce .....) if done well can make a big difference so making the bread on brick tiles in the oven rather than out of a bag and so on will be worth it. I too remember the kebab joints of France : Kebab Frites avec sauce blanches= bliss

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Of course I was just stating my opinion. Some interesting information and history about both dishes on Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doner

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shawarma

I would like to draw your attention that while Wikipedia does offer valuable information, however this information is created with the submission of information by the general public and sanctioned and corrected by the general public. This is how it works and therefore any information is open to scrutiny and amendment or correction.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Con...ng_to_Wikipedia

Encyclopedia Britannica it is not!

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Please can someone explain to me why Shwarma and its relatives are not biological nightmares?

The meat on the skewer has been ground and handled so is anything but sterile. Although the outside is grilled, the inside must get warm and at some depth be the ideal temperature for the bugs to multiply. Round here, the same skewer revolves most of the day (week?) giving plenty of time.

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Please can someone explain to me why Shwarma and its relatives are not biological nightmares?

The meat on the skewer has been ground and handled so is anything but sterile. Although the outside is grilled, the inside must get warm and at some depth be the ideal temperature for the bugs to multiply. Round here, the same skewer revolves most of the day (week?) giving plenty of time.

1- The meat on the skewer is ground only in the Turkish/Greek versions.

The Middle East version keeps the meat in slices.

2- In order to avoid bacterial contamination as you rightly indicate, you have to remember that the meat is supposed to have been marinated in vinegar which neutralize to a large degree any such contamination.

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1- The meat on the skewer is ground only in the Turkish/Greek versions.

The Middle East version keeps the meat in slices.

2- In order to avoid bacterial contamination as you rightly indicate, you have to remember that the meat is supposed to have been marinated in vinegar which neutralize to a large degree any such contamination.

With regard to your first point, I think we will find that indeed the Middle-Eastern version of shwarma/donner kebab relies on sliced meats and that there are two distinct forms in Turkey - the yaprak which is made with slices and the kyma which is made with ground meat (almost invariably lamb)

With regard to the second, the marinade indeed helps but what keeps the bacteria from multiplying unduly is that the meat is indeed turning constantly on the vertical spit, this ensuring that the meat that is sliced off will be closest to the flame and thus crisp and nicely done, that as the remainder turns the heat is quite high enough to kill off any bacteria that may have developed. Most truly fine shwarma/donner kebab places have a good idea of how many skewers they will sell daily and by the time of closing the skewer is pretty well emptied off.

In quite a few cities throughout the Mediterranean, that is the hour when a few beggers or homeless people will appear and if there is any meat left over it goes to them on a pita with the works as an act of charity. If there is no left over meat they will not be turned away but will be given a pita packed with humous, tchina and the various condiments that are available.

I know of several places in Tel Aviv, Haifa, Istanbul and Athens where the owners will purposely hold back on the last 6-8 portions on his skewer in order to wait for those who will show up hoping for a meal. A rather nice gesture. I even know of one place in Tel Aviv where one of the homeless shows up quite early, at about two in the afternoon for her free shwarma. The owner knows that this woman has to be at a clinic later in the afternoon so there she sits, side by side with the paying customers for her lunch. I like the people who own that shwarma joint!


Edited by Daniel Rogov (log)

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Is the chicken shawarma from Lebanon and Israel similar in marinade and execution?

Are both visually similar to the fairly large, rather solid, meaty cones we associate [in the US] with Greek gyros? From the photos posted above, it appears that Turkish doner, too, broadly fit this description. But what does chicken shawarma look like? I mean the entire ensemble, as it is sliced for service.

What cuts of the chicken go into making the commercial product? All white, all dark, a mix? Any fatty interlayers as in lamb versions? Is it mechanically compressed? It would seem very time consuming otherwise (?) to thread marinated chicken meat that necessarily comes in small pieces into a block (skewers?) that could be shaved? Would love to see some photos, and learn more, if possible. Many thanks.


Edited by v. gautam (log)

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v. gautam

I love Gyros (Donner). One of the best is served at the Parthenon on Washington and Main in Ann Arbor. Like Shawarma, Gyros cooks on a vertical spit and is carved off the cone to order. This is where the similarities between the two end, and the two should not be compared. I should mention that in the Greek half of Nicosia (Cyprus), Gyros as we know it in the U.S. (ground meat and spices molded into the shape of a twister) was no where to be had. Every Gyros joint had small cones of pork, skewered in big chunks (1.5" to 2.5" pieces) and looked pretty dry. I didn't try them.

The photo below taken in Sidon Lebanon, is of Shawarma and chicken shawarma.

gallery_39290_3790_75.jpg

These were very fresh cones and were not ready to serve, as evident by the clean trays underneath, as well as the absence of the swarm of people waiting for sandwiches. :biggrin:

In these enlargements you can see that both cones are made of sliced meat (breast meat for the chicken).

gallery_39290_3790_13039.jpggallery_39290_3790_81983.jpg

Half way up the meat cone, a white substance oozing out, I assume to be yogurt, is visible. Chicken shawarma is a relatively new thing in Lebanon. Frankly, I didn't care for it much (no fat=dry).

Below is what used to be (still is in some places), how the best chicken sandwiches are made. The chicken is unseasoned. Lebanese Chicken Schmaltz oozes from the upper rows and bastes the ones below. That would make the bottom sheesh the best hah?

The chicken is pulled apart, placed on french bread with garlic sauce, a kind of cucumber pickle and pressed in a sandwich press.

gallery_39290_3790_13354.jpg

God I'm soo hungry now. :unsure:

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Everyone knows that saying "everyone knows" on these forums in regards to a national food is asking for trouble :smile:. Please voice your opinions but make it clear these your opinions because chances are someone will take offense at the "snub" implied in your comment by claiming "everyone knows". ok, sermon over....

Jackal-

Like both Nicolai and Daniel said, these skewers are not bacteria on a stick. the marinade helps keep these beasties at bay, but definitly the searing heat of the grill is not going to leave anyhting alive. This is not meat eaten rare or medium. this is well done meat and the best ones stay juicy because of the marinade and the good amount fat. If your local Shawarma vendor decides to serve you Shawarma alla Carpacio...run like hell the other way.

Chefcrash-

These are some mouthwatering pictures...too bad it is so late at night and I live nowhere close to my favorite shawarma spot in Beirut! Oh welll, I am hoping to be there around next september at the earliest :sad:. Oh, BTW those pork "shawarmas" in Nicosia were pretty bad when I tried them there several years ago. So, IMHO you did not miss anything.


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Yes, the surface may be at searing heat, but meat does not conduct well, so say at one inch depth the stick will be at (and maintained at) just the right temperature to breed bugs. Since the meat has been handled (sliced or ground) bugs will be present. Although the searing heat will kill most bugs, it won;t affect the toxins they leave behind.

Acid will help, but you are relying on the vendors making the marinade properly and their general hygiene.

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Is the chicken shawarma from Lebanon and Israel similar in marinade and execution?

Are both visually similar to the fairly large, rather solid, meaty cones we associate [in the US] with Greek  gyros? From the photos posted above, it appears that Turkish doner, too, broadly fit this description. But what does chicken shawarma look like? I mean the entire ensemble, as it is sliced for service.

What cuts of the chicken go into making the commercial product? All white, all dark, a mix? Any fatty interlayers as in lamb versions? Is it mechanically compressed? It would seem very time consuming otherwise (?) to thread marinated chicken meat that necessarily comes in small pieces into a block (skewers?) that could be shaved? Would love to see some photos, and learn more, if possible. Many thanks.

As noted just a bit earlier, it is the breasts of the chickens that are used to make the thick slices that go on the skewers and, once laded, the skewers look identical. The use of yoghurt as a moisturing agent is sometimes found in Lebanon but rarely in Israel as the combination of meat and dairy would make the finished shwarma non-kosher and that would be an economic problem for many merchants.

As to inbetween layers for chicken, no problem - chicken skin and chicken fat.

With regard to hand or mechanical loading of the skewers - those shwarma joints (not an insult, no one one call these places "restaurants") that make their own skewers do the process entirely by hand, but an increasing number purchase their skewers "ready-to-go" from mini-factories. Within Israel and Palestine those factories rely on mechanical loaders and compressing devices. Even though I have dined frequently on shwarma/donner kebab in other countries, I do not have experience enough to know how they are done in Lebanon, Turkey, Greece and Egypt.

As an entirely personal opinion - I never, never, never eat shwarma made from chicken as I find it definitely inferior to that made from lamb. And lamb for that matter is a heckuva lot better than beef.

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Yes, the surface may be at searing heat, but meat does not conduct well, so say at one inch depth the stick will be at (and maintained at) just the right temperature to breed bugs. Since the meat has been handled (sliced or ground) bugs will be present. Although the searing heat will kill most bugs, it won;t affect the toxins they leave behind.

Acid will help, but  you are relying on the vendors making the marinade properly and their general hygiene.

Jackal, Hi...

You are probably correct from the technical point of view but I have yet to hear of any cases of food poisoning or related problems from shwarma. Felafel, yes. Humous, yes. But shwarma no. And believe me, as the wine and restaurant critic for one of the country's leading newspapers, I get emails and faxes and phone calls (even at two in the morning) concerning just about every suspected case of food poisoning in the country. Amazing how many people want to sue one restaurant or shwarma joint or another.

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Also the skewers of meat whether prepared on the spot or pre-made are refrigerated prior to cooking. At least here in Israel.

I wasn't aware that the shwarma was marinated with yogurt in Lebanon. Is that common?

Here they make the chicken shwarma with young chickens. I think the young chickens are a little bit larger than cornish hens. I prefer lamb or turkey shwarma, but the chicken shwarma that I have had is not dry and looks a little different from ChefCrash's picture. I may be wrong, but I am pretty sure they put some fat between some of the chicken layers to keep the meat moist and the place that I go to, bastes it with marinade.


Edited by Swisskaese (log)

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1- Shawarma in the Middle East is available with yoghurt marinate and without depending on which "joint" is serving it.

In Kuwait they are mostly non yoghurt and so on. In which case it is a lemon juice and spices marinade.

2- Chicken Shawarma is a delicacy and simply alllows you to stuff three sandwishes instead of only two lamb/beef ones.

Lamb is good and chicken is simply different and as good as lamb/beef.

I did once or twice tried a prawns Shawarma and it was quite nice.

So as an alternative, and if you want a quick light snack, you ask for a chicken Shawarma without the garlic spread or a light spread.

3- Many "joints" buy pre made skewers but by and large, famous establishments or establishments with many outlets produce their own and distribute internally.

4- As for food poisoning, unfortunately, it does happen more frequently than not and this is more due of the rubbish meat used as well as the cooking/serving conditions. However, no lawsuit has crossed the bars yet to my humble knowledge.

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Yes, the surface may be at searing heat, but meat does not conduct well, so say at one inch depth the stick will be at (and maintained at) just the right temperature to breed bugs. Since the meat has been handled (sliced or ground) bugs will be present. Although the searing heat will kill most bugs, it won;t affect the toxins they leave behind.

Acid will help, but  you are relying on the vendors making the marinade properly and their general hygiene.

We really are getting technical here and maybe it is just me, but I honestly do not care much. Well, I do care but I the bottom line is there is a risk in eating any type of prepared food anywhere. I know this sounds bad, but good restaurants/joints/shacks do not get people sick. On the other hand bad management in any restaurant or packing factory (a fancy "French" place or a Falafel shack or a Burger ice house) more often than not gets people sick.

On the techniucal side of things what I believe is that the places I frequent when in Beirut all pack their own skewers and sell them so fast that I seriously doubt any bugs have much time to do much damage and raise the level of toxins so high as to be dangerous.

If you really want to try a good shawrama sandwich find a place that sells them fast and frequented by locals Jack. Do not let whatever little to non-existent "risk" there is stop you from doing it.


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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ChefCrash,

Thank you very very much for the photos, exactly what I was looking for [ and the chicken one still leaves my poor brain right gobsmacked!]

Am still puzzling out the architectural/structural mysteries [given my non-existent knowledge of these fields] as to how relatively small sheets of chicken breast (as compared to lamb or beef) can be formed into a substantial body, be held up securely by a single central skewer, and yet be coherent enough to not come loose on the slightly downward moment of each slicing movement!

This is all the more remarkable when we understand that such was accomplished manually (Daniel) and still is (Elie), taking into account the possibility of slippery/oily mainades or fatty interlayers.

How these structures are built up out of the relatively small sizes of chicken meat is what fascinates me.

Thank you all, so much, for your inputs.

gautam


Edited by v. gautam (log)

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Am still puzzling out the architectural/structural mysteries [given my non-existent knowledge of these fields] as to how relatively small sheets of chicken breast (as compared to lamb or beef) can be formed into a substantial body, be held up securely by a single central skewer, and yet be coherent enough to not come loose on the slightly downward moment of each slicing movement!

Magic, I believe a "sticking charm" does the trick!

Seriously though, I am not sure why you say that a piece of chicken is small. A good sized whole chicken breast is bigger than two hand palms put together. This is more than enough to more or less skewer it and keep it in place. Also remember that there is a large sized "nut" at the bottom of the skewer to keep it in place and prevent the meat from sliding down. Hope this helps.


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Everyone - I apologize for the "everyone knows" line. I didn't realize it would be taken so seriously. It was actually meant to be sort of sarcastic but I guess that was lost. Maybe I should've accompanied it with a :biggrin:

If it makes anyone feel any better, I had a doner from a Turkish place here in Manhattan yesterday for lunch and I think it was the worst one I've ever tasted.

On the topic of bacteria, etc, I saw something interesting a few months ago here. This new gyro place opened near my office, touting $1.99 gyros. I went there a few times - they had 4 different types - lamb, pork, beef and chicken. I tried them all and they were pretty damn good. Now I know, most good gyro/doner places sell out at some point in the day. The really high traffic ones might even go through 2 a day - one for lunch, one for dinner. One morning, on my walk from the subway, I passed by this place around 8am. I looked in the window expecting to see 4 empty gyro machines, but instead saw 4 spits of meat, and all the lights were off in the place. Does this mean they were all sitting there overnight? If so, something just doesn't seem right about that! I never went back again.

Also - Nicolai, Iskender kebap actually originates from Bursa, the former capital of the Ottoman empire - not Iskenderun.


Edited by wannabechef (log)

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but instead saw 4 spits of meat, and all the lights were off in the place. Does this mean they were all sitting there overnight? If so, something just doesn't seem right about that! I never went back again.

That is a bad bad sign! you did the right thing by not going there again.


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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but instead saw 4 spits of meat, and all the lights were off in the place. Does this mean they were all sitting there overnight? If so, something just doesn't seem right about that! I never went back again.

That is a bad bad sign! you did the right thing by not going there again.

I don't think I'd write a place off just for poor food handling practices. I happily eat off the street anywhere in the world - the shawarma joint wannabechef mentions has got to be cleaner than most of the street food vendors I've visited. Restaurants don't stay in business if they make people sick. Besides, you've got a much better chance of getting sick at a perfectly clean oyster shack.

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Dave-

I see a clear distinction between clean and sanitary. True, sometimes and often the two are closely related, but not always. In this case it SEEMS the establishment left raw meat on the counter at room temperature to ferment overnight. I do not care how clean they might be, but they clearly do not give a crap about their food and it's state. From Wannabechef's comments, the place sounds new, and I bet they will not last. Bottom line is, I would not eat there even if they sell it for 50 cents a sandwich.

A street vendor on the other hand might not be as clean as a restaurant, but one could tell if the guy treats his food with some measure of respect and care. If not, then I would not eat there either.


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Dave-

I see a clear distinction between clean and sanitary. True, sometimes and often the two are closely related, but not always. In this case it SEEMS the establishment left raw meat on the counter at room temperature to ferment overnight. I do not care how clean they might be, but they clearly do not give a crap about their food and it's state. From Wannabechef's comments, the place sounds new, and I bet they will not last. Bottom line is, I would not eat there even if they sell it for 50 cents a sandwich.

A street vendor on the other hand might not be as clean as a restaurant, but one could tell if the guy treats his food with some measure of respect and care. If not, then I would not eat there either.

I should clarify - the meat wasn't raw. It was cooked. There are 3 possibilities of what was going on there:

1. Somone came to the place earlier than 8am to start cooking the gyros for the day and then left and turned the lights out. I imagine this kind of early, but its possible I suppose.

2. Those are the leftover gyros from the day before which they then plan on selling for lunch.

3. They're leftover from the day before and they were planning on throwing them out before starting the new ones.

After reading this thread I have the urge to go to another Turkish place nearby and see if their doner is any good. Yesterday was such a dissapointment.

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Dave-

I see a clear distinction between clean and sanitary. True, sometimes and often the two are closely related, but not always. In this case it SEEMS the establishment left raw meat on the counter at room temperature to ferment overnight. I do not care how clean they might be, but they clearly do not give a crap about their food and it's state. From Wannabechef's comments, the place sounds new, and I bet they will not last. Bottom line is, I would not eat there even if they sell it for 50 cents a sandwich.

A street vendor on the other hand might not be as clean as a restaurant, but one could tell if the guy treats his food with some measure of respect and care. If not, then I would not eat there either.

People all over the world leave raw meat in a tub marinating outside overnight to sell the next day. Partly cooked shawarma left out overnight sounds like no big deal to me, I say suck it up and eat where the food tastes best.

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