It is never quite possible to forget the first time you savoured the tastiness of sliced pieces of yummy smoked meat that rotates like a gyre around the fire. The delicious magic that Shawarma is. But one thing that perplexes us when we cook this dish for guests is how much chicken is ideal. No worries anymore, here’s all you need to know.
The ideal quantity of chicken in shawarma is 150-200 gm per person if it is served as a shawarma roll or wrap and 200-250 gm if it is served on plates as a main dish with other sides. So, basically, we need around 1 kg chicken to serve shawarma for 4 to 5 people. In the case of wraps, the quantity of chicken depends on what other fillers like veggies are used.
|Item||1 person||2 persons||4 persons||6 persons||10 persons|
|Shawarma on plate||200-250 gm||400-500 gm||1 kg||1.5 kg||2 – 2.5 kg|
|Shawarma as roll without veg fillers||150-200 gm||300-400 gm||800 gm||1.25 kg||2 kg|
|Shawarma as a roll with veg fillers||100-150 gm||300 gm||500 gm||800 gm||1.25 – 1.5 kg|
Originating from the Middle East, shawarma has travelled all across the globe and is now one of the most sought after non-veg dishes in the world. As it enlisted itself into new cuisines, shawarma acquired varieties in flavour. Although lamb, mutton, and beef can be used for shawarma, it is chicken shawarma that easily found universal appeal. Let’s see how to make chicken shawarma at home then.
Different Varieties of Shawarma
Chicken shawarma, especially in the wrap form, is the one that has grabbed eyeballs and conquered palates all across the globe, but there are many other varieties of shawarma that you should give it a try.
- Lamb shawarma: It is a popular variety right from the very origins of the shawarma dish in Turkey in the 18th century. It is this lamb shawarma – thin slices of roasted lamb meat on a rolling spit – that became popular as doner kebabs or Donairs when the Turkish immigrants brought it with them to the West.
- Mutton shawarma: It is also a popular dish with a history that goes long back. In this dish, marinated mutton pieces are roasted in a rotisserie.
- Beef shawarma: Compared to others, Beef shawarma is a latecomer gaining immediate popularity. However, because of the fat content of beef, some people prefer chicken shawarma more than the beef one.
- Turkey shawarma: It is also a popular variant in Middle Eastern regions. It is made of delicious Turkey meat.
- Cheese shawarma :Apart from these variations in the meat used, there are also variations depending on the other ingredients used in a shawarma wrap. Cheese shawarma is such a common variant in which cheese is also filled richly inside the wrap. There are shawarmas that have French fries stuffed inside the wrap as well.
How to Make Chicken Shawarma at Home?
While restaurants use rotisserie (a cooking appliance with a rotating spit for roasting meat) to make shawarmas on a large scale, we can make chicken shawarma at home by roasting the marinated chicken pieces on a frying pan or in an oven or on a rack using the barbecue method.
Let us look at the process stage by stage so that you won’t miss out on the fine details of making the yummiest of shawarma.
Step 1: Putting the Ingredients on your Table
Let’s see the ingredients required and their quantity to make shawarma for 4 to 5 people:
- Fresh chicken: 1 kg for 4-5 people. Boneless thighs and breasts can be used. An alternative measurement is, 4 large boneless chicken thighs and 2 large boneless chicken hearts.
- Olive oil: 5-6 tablespoons of virgin olive oil
- Cumin: Two tablespoons of cumin
- Paprika: 2 teaspoons of paprika
- Allspice: 1 teaspoon of allspice
- Turmeric Powder: ¾ to 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder
- Garlic powder or paste: ¼ to ½ teaspoon of garlic powder or paste
- Cinnamon: 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
- Cayenne pepper: 1 teaspoon or a small drop of cayenne pepper
- Black pepper: 1 teaspoon or a small drop of black pepper
- Salt – according to your preference
Note: These are the standard measurements for an optimum flavour. In case you want to make your shawarma spicier, you can either increase the number of spices used or add other spices according to your likes and dislikes, provided it doesn’t make your shawarma so un-shawarma-like.
Step 2: Cutting the Chicken
We have to begin the preparation process by cutting the chicken into small pieces. If it’s a large thigh piece, cut it into 3 or 4 pieces; if it’s a breast piece, cut it into 5 or 6 small pieces. Keep the pieces either in a zipper bag or marinating container.
Step 3: Making the Marinade
Before marinating the chicken, we have to properly mix it with all the required ingredients. So, mix the olive oil, cumin, paprika, allspice, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, black pepper, turmeric powder, garlic paste, salt and any other spices you like with the chicken pieces. Make sure that the marinating mix is evenly distributed throughout all pieces.
Step 4: Marinate the Chicken
Once the marinade is ready and well-spread, put them inside a zipper bag or marinating container and refrigerate or marinate it for 2 to 3 hours.
Step 5: Roasting the Chicken
This is the most step in making shawarma. You should be careful that your chicken pieces are neither half-cooked nor over-roasted. Although rotisserie is the ideal way to roast shawarma, we can cook it at home using a frying pan or barbecue method.
If you are using a pan, pour a little bit oil into the pan, place some marinated chicken pieces on the heated pan, let it roast for a while, and then overturn the pieces to roast the other side.
You should be careful that the pieces do not get cooked like fried chicken in oil. Also, thigh pieces usually take a longer time to get cooked than breast pieces and so roast them separately.
If you are using the barbecue, place the pieces over the open fire and let it roast until the meat gets soft in texture and slightly brownish in colour.
Step 6: Cooling it Down
Once the chicken is roasted well, you have to cool it down for about five minutes.
Step 7: Slicing it into Pieces
Once the chicken is cooled down, you can cut it into several pieces. The size of the pieces depends on whether you are planning to serve it as a wrap or as a plated dish.
If the shawarma is served as a wrap, it is better to have very fine and short pieces as they fit well into the wrap when filled.
If the shawarma is served as a main dish, it is good to have slightly long and thick pieces. It is more or less like the size of typical French fries.
Step 8: Serving Shawarma
If you have sliced the roasted shawarma into pieces, it is very well ready to be served. But wait – you have to now decide how you are going to serve it. Either as a main dish on a plate or as a wrap.
When served on a plate, shawarma is eaten along with sauces such as hummus, yoghurt sauce, chilli sauce, or mayonnaise and salads made of vegetables like onion, carrot, tomato, lettuce etc.
However, the most popular form of shawarma is the shawarma wrap or shawarma roll in which the roasted chicken is filled or wrapped inside bread like roti, kuboos etc. While some variants only have roasted chicken as the filling, there are other varieties that have salads (vegetables like lettuce, tomato), sauces, cheese and other ingredients mixed with the chicken pieces. There are several delectable combos we will easily swoon over.
How to make shawarma in an oven?
Although shawarma is typically made at home using a pan or barbecue, you can also make shawarma in an oven by cooking it for a period of 15 -30 minutes in an oven that is preheated up to 400° F.
The ingredients used and the method of preparing marinade is the same as that of shawarmas roasted in rotisserie or pan. Once the marination is done, you preheat the oven up to 400° F and then place the marinated pieces in the oven for a period of 15-30 minutes.
Make sure that you overturn the pieces halfway to get the other sides also properly cooked.
Which is best for shawarma – chicken thighs or chicken breasts?
Ideal shawarma is a combination of both chicken thigh and breast pieces. However, chicken thighs are more important than breast pieces because the dark meat of the thighs enhances the flavour of the shawarma.
Therefore, you can have shawarma with all pieces being thigh pieces but shawarma with only breast pieces will not taste very fancy. That being said, if your concern is to have low-fat shawarma you can opt for more breast pieces than thighs.
What can you eat shawarma with?
As we have discussed earlier, shawarma can be eaten either as a wrap with other fillers or as a main dish served along with sauces, salads, and other items. You can eat shawarma along with flatbreads, pita or kuboos while sauces like green pepper sauce (tahini sauce) or dips like mayonnaise.
Traditionally, chicken shawarma is eaten along with rice pilaf or flatbread with other side dishes like salads made of tomato, cucumber, lettuce, onion etc. Mayonnaise, another Middle Eastern dish, is almost a constant companion to shawarma dishes.
Modern varieties use ingredients like French fries and cheese to give the shawarma bite an extra flavour.
Is Shawarma a Healthy Food?
Shawarma made according to proper procedure and with the optimum amount of ingredients, is a healthy dish since it is rich in protein and contains other necessary nutrients like Vitamin B6, Zinc, and Selenium. Its major nutritional benefits are:
- Rich in protein: Protein is vital in the growth of body muscles. Also, since it takes a long time to digest, it will keep you feeing full and is preferable for people trying to lose weight.
- Contains Zinc: It contains Zinc which is important in maintaining our cognitive function as well as in DNA production.
- Contains Selenium: Shawarma has a considerable quantity of Selenium which helps in reproduction and thyroid growth. It also protects our cells from oxidation damage.
- Less carbo content: Shawarma is rich in proteins but contains low carbohydrates. Therefore, it is suitable for people looking for low calorie food.
Although Shawarma can boast of all these nutritional benefits, we should be very wary of overeating this delicious dish so much. This is because shawarma has its own health risks as well. But don’t worry, they are risks you can avoid with proper caution.
The main health risk is that it contains a good quantity of fat, both saturated and unsaturated. Similarly, it has a considerable sodium content. Therefore, if you are someone who is trying to cut down salt in your food intake, shawarma can be a bit of a risk.
The fat content can be adjusted using the right kind of meat and by reducing the oil content. We should rather prefer white meat like chicken or lamb which has less saturated fats than red meat like mutton or beef. So, go for chicken or lamb shawarma.
What does the name shawarma mean?
The word shawarma is an Arabic version of the Turkish cevirme which means ‘turning’. As such, it stands for the rotisserie in which shawarma is traditionally made. Shawarma can also, then, mean ‘turning roast’.
Why do some people call shawarma as ‘gyros’?
When the dish shawarma spread from Turkish cuisine to the Grecian, the Greeks called it by the name “gyros” which also mean ‘to turn’. Later, the name became very popular in some parts of the world.
Interestingly, lamb shawarma is called by the name Donair in Canada. These are just instances showing how this Middle Eastern dish is spreading to all corners, acquiring new flavours and new names in its journey.