While the words shawarma or doner kebab may seem foreign to some, they’re likely to be immediately recognizable to most budget-conscious travelers, especially those traveling in Europe, where doner kebab shops can be found on almost every corner.
The reason for their popularity is easy to understand. They are delicious and cheap. What more could a hungry college student, backpacking his or her way through Germany, want?
The Middle Eastern shawarma, also known as the Turkish doner kebab, and its more familiar cousin, the Greek gyros, are all seasoned meat stacked on a large steel rod and cooked on a vertical rotisserie. The meat, often lamb, chicken or beef, is carved off the rotisserie, giving the lucky diner moist, tender slices with crispy edges. The meat is usually tucked inside a pita or some other flatbread along with fresh veggies and a yogurt sauce for easy eating on the go.
It’s a meal that thousands of people enjoy every day, but not many make at home, likely because it seems impossible to re-create the vertical rotisserie effect.
While my recipe this week is chicken shawarma, no 3-foot-high heating element is necessary. This easy-to-do version is roasted on a sheet pan, alongside slices of red onion. Roasting it at a high heat gives the chicken those wonderful crispy edges and moist, tender meat. The red onion turns soft and sweet, but you can always serve it raw, in thin slices with the tomatoes and crunchy cucumber slices.
A creamy, garlicky yogurt sauce is served with the chicken, but if you like your shawarma spicy, as I do, you can also add a drizzle of harissa, a thick Tunisian hot sauce. No harissa in your fridge? Sriracha sauce works, too.
This Middle Eastern feast is served with either pita bread or naan. You can turn it into a sandwich (you’ll need plenty of napkins) or eat it with a knife and fork. Either way, you’re sure to enjoy this traveler’s treat. No passport necessary.
Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Instagram at @meredithdeeds.