Fascinating Facts About Shawarma

Fascinating Facts About Shawarma

Shwarma is one of the world’s most popular street foods and is one of the dishes at the centre of Lebanese cuisine, and once you take a bite into a pita bread full of tender vertical spit-roasted meat enriched with spices and tahini, it is not difficult at all to see why.

The many hours of rotisserie cooking create an exceptionally tender cut of meat, basted in a range of spices and ready to complement the extra accoutrements that will meet it in the pita bread.

However, the exceptional taste is not the only fascinating aspect of shawarma, as there are many fascinating facts about its history, the spices that make it special and the many different ways in which it can be served.


It Shares Its Origins With The Doner Kebab

Shawarma is an Arabic version of the Turkish word for turning (çevirme), and this is a clue as to the origins of Shawarma to Lebanon.

Rotisserie cooking has existed in one form or another since the discovery of fire, but in the Ottoman Empire of the 19th Century, the vertical rotisserie was invented and immediately changed the shape of several culinary worlds.

The initial use for this new rotisserie, designed for meat to be shaved off of it, was the invention of the doner kebab, but not long after this Shawarma was developed in a very similar way, and when there was a population exchange between Turkey and Greece in 1923, the vertical rotisserie came with it in the form of gyros.


Pork Shawarma Only Exists In Mexico

The main meats used in shawarma are lamb, mutton and chicken, although more rarely beef, veal and even turkey can be used.

One meat you seldom see used in shawarma in the Middle East, however, is pork. This is in part due to dietary rules on the eating of pork.

The main exception to this is seen in Mexico in the form of taco al pastor (shepherd style), a variation on shawarma that was brought to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th century, continuing the Lebanese tradition of fusion cuisine.

Al pastor has itself spread throughout America and Europe, and a chicken version even returned to the Middle East in the form of ‘shawarma mexici’.


Shawarma Brings Many People Together

Shawarma, like many Middle Eastern dishes such as hummus, is eaten by a wide range of cultures, each of which have their own unique take on such a delicious, nutritious and flavorful dish.

Aside from the historically similar but fundamentally different likes of gyros and doner kebabs, there is a considerable range of different serving types, sauces, toppings and accompaniments, sharing only the spices and the cooking method.

For example, due to the restrictions regarding eating dairy and meat in the same meal, shawarma in Israel tends to be made of turkey and served with tahini sauce, whilst in Istanbul shawarma is typically made using mutton.

Some variations of shawarma do not even use a vertical rotisserie such as in Amman, Jordan.

Regardless of the individual differences, shawarma is enjoyed by millions of people around the world.