Friday, 27 November 2015



Shawarma or shawurma  is an old Levantine meat food prepared on a spit, slowly cooked over a day. It is the shavings of the meat itself that is called Shawarma. Served with warm freshly baked Taboon bread, that was prepared in a Tabun (a conical shaped clay oven). It was offered with Toum; a garlic emulsion and Amba; a sweet and tart sauce made from mangoes

Not much has changed over the centuries except it has spread in popularity from just the region of  Levant, (a group of Eastern Mediterranean region of the world) to across the globe. Shawarma can be found in upscale restaurants, food trucks and stalls as well as Shwarama bars, specific to preparing only shwaramas. 

The shawarma sandwich shares the idea with the wrap, roll, kathi, frankie, gyros all similar, yet, each one specifically related to a country of its origin; much like a dialect of a language.

The shwarama however  has not deviated over the centuries It continues to be filled in a pita, flatbread; yufka, bazlama and lavash bread, with Toum or Aioli; a garlic mayonnaise. Besides the meat, the shwarama is also filled with your choice of tomato, cucumber, onions and slaw. Hot chili sauce, hummus, tabouleh, pickled radish and sweet chillies,  baby dill cucumbers and olives are often served on the side. 

Besides the Shwarama being a sandwich it is now often served as a salad too.

While residing in Dubai I had the chance of learning how to prepare toum; besides other wonderful Lebanese cuisine at an International Club cooking demonstration.  I share the recipe here with you all to try it out too.

Beef tenderloin Shawarama in pita pockets
Panfried beef tenderloin Shawarama

Makes 8 sandwiches 

Ingredients and Method

8 Pita Pockets
900gm/ 2 lb slivered beef

Marinade for 4 hours or more

2 tsp cumin powder
2 tsp Kabsa powder
4 tsp paprika powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp all spice powder
1 tsp cinnamon powder
3 tbsp oil
pinch of salt 
Pinch of brown sugar

Heat a pan and flash fry it without any additional oil. It will take up to 3 minutes.

Toum -Sauce

3 whole pods of fresh garlic, peeled

1 tsp salt
approximately 4 cups light canola or grape seed or olive oil
Juice of 1 fresh lemon

In a food processor finely chop the garlic and salt, until properly crushed down.Stop and scrape it down if necessary. Leaving the machine on dribble the  oil into the processor bowl very slowly. The mixture of salt and garlic will start emulsifying and turn into a light mayonnaise like texture. Add  a little of the lemon juice after each cup of oil, also very gently. You may need a 5th cup of oil, depending on the size of the garlic pods.

Spoon and preserve in a jar. Keep refrigerated.

To assemble

Heat the pita pockets and slit them open.

Spoon and spread the toum, and pile it with tomatoes cucumber and thinly sliced salad of your choice. Drizzle hot sauce if preferred. Fill it with warm cooked meat slivers and serve.
Eat immediately. 


Kabsa or Kabseh Spice is an aromatic Arabic spice which has equal amounts of
black pepper, turmeric, coriander, fennel, allspice and cardamom ground together. It also has bay leaf, nutmeg and ginger powder sometimes. It can be found on supermarket shelves.

You may marinate the meat for longer best kept refrigerated covered. Bring to room temperature before cooking. 

Choose coleslaw or lettuce for the filling. 

The modern day Alioli has the addition of egg yolks, mustard and pepper besides the lemon juice. You may also add in different flavours like herbs etc. 

The modern Toum also add iced water, or egg whites depending on the recipe.
Unfortunately it is difficult to make a small quantity of Toum in a food processor. 
However I will shortly be posting my Toum Chicken recipe to help you use up the rest of the tour!

Tzatziki will work just as well if you do not like garlic; It is a mix of yogurt, dill and cucumber.

For more recipes click Niloufer'sKitchen:Spanish Tapas from

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