Shawarma, a Middle Eastern street food staple, makes a guest appearance in the recently released The Avengers movie. OK, it might not have a starring role, but Iron Man (a.k.a. Robert Downey Jr.) does crave some after a kick-ass battle scene.
“Have you ever tried shawarma?” Iron Man asks Captain America. “There’s a shawarma joint about two blocks from here. I don’t know what it is, but I want to try it.”
If you’re as mystified about the dish as he is, we’re here to fix that. We talked to the pros at Mina Restaurant in Chicago for the low-down on this must-try dish:
The Meat: Shawarma traditionally consists of thinly sliced cuts of meat, like chicken, beef, goat, lamb and turkey. The thinner you slice the meat, the more tender it is going to be.
The Pita: Traditionally, shawarma is wrapped into a large piece of pita that has been steamed or heated over a grill. Heat the pita over a grill to add a char, which creates an extra flavor element.
The Goods: Inside the pita, ingredients like hummus, tahini, vegetables and even french fries are added to complement the meat. Although there are a large variety of options to have with shawarma, we prefer to keep it simple with lettuce, onion, and either hummus or tahini to let the flavor of the meat shine through.
Mina Restaurant’s Chicken Shawarma
1/2 lb Chicken Breast (butterflied)
1/2lb Chicken Thighs (butterflied)
1/2 Head of Garlic (finely minced)
Lightly coat chicken breast and thighs with olive oil. Use just enough to coat the chicken, less is more! Generously coat the chicken with shawarma spice, salt and pepper. Add in the minced garlic, cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
If a spit is accessible, layer the chicken on the spear alternating breast and thigh. Use a ¼ inch slice of onion every 2 layers (breast, thigh, onion, breast, thigh, onion…) Allow meat to cook on spit until cooked all of the way through.
If a spit is not accessible lay the butterflied pieces of meet across a hot grill. Be sure to cook directly over the hot spot on the grill. Cook 3-5 minutes each side (depending on the thickness of the pieces and the temperature of the fire).
Slice the meat as thin as possible (the thinner the meat is sliced the more tender it will be!). Heat up pita on grill and fill with meat, shredded lettuce, thinly sliced onion and tahini. Serve it up and enjoy!