Yesterday, I took out some boneless chicken thighs from the freezer, to cook for lunch today (lunch at our house is the main meal of the day). This morning I looked at the meat for a while, debating if I wanted to marinate it in something, but couldn’t come up with anything that didn’t involve a bunch of dirty dishes.
Then, out of the blue, I was thinking that boneless thighs are the perfect meat for shawarma, a Middle Eastern street food originated in Turkey. Shawarma is basically a sandwich composed of meat (chicken, turkey, or lamb) that is grilled and then eaten shredded in pita bread. The traditional way of making shawarma requires a special skewer, on which the meat is layered together with fat and spices. The skewer is positioned vertically in front of a grill that slowly cooks the meat, while the skewer turns. The meat is then sliced thinly as it cooks, and put in pita bread with different vegetables and condiments.
Shawarma is not one of the dishes people usually make at home, although shawarma spice mix is something you can find in every supermarket in Israel. I’ve tried to make it at home a few times, or more accurately, I used the right meat and the right spices, but that’s where the resemblance ended. I would sauté a lot of onion in a pan and then add the meat that I cut into little cubes and the spices, and let is cook covered on very low heat. The result was very yummy, but it wasn’t real shawarma.
This morning, though, I had an epiphany. Real shawarma requires chicken thighs, some animal fat, and shawarma spice mix. Well, I had chicken thighs that were super fatty with all the fat on them. And I had the spice mix. But this time, I wanted to try and roast or bake the thighs, so that they become like the real deal.
I sprinkled the thighs with shawarma mix (you can make on your own ahead of time) and salt, and placed them on a baking sheet covered with tin foil. I preheated the oven to convection bake at 375F, and baked the thighs for 30 minutes on one side. Then flipped them over and baked for 5 more minutes. Perfection!! This is exactly what I was hoping to get!!
I got so excited that I decided to go for it all the way. I sliced each thigh thinly, warmed up some frozen pita bread, made fresh tahini (takes 2 minutes to make), sliced some tomatoes, onion and parsley, and called everyone to the table. The kids couldn’t believe how authentic it tasted and finished everything to the last bite.
Doron also enjoyed it very much, in his paleo way.
2 lb boneless chicken thighs, fat on
Shawarma spice mix
4 pita bread
2 tomatoes, sliced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
4-5 sprigs flat parsley, leaves only
Sumac for sprinkling
Cover a baking sheet with tin foil, and preheat oven to 375F.
Coat the chicken thighs with the shawarma spice and sprinkle some additional salt if needed.
Place the thighs in one layer on the baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Flip the chicken over and bake for another 5 minutes. The chicken should look roasted and dry. If there is still liquid in the pan, keep baking for a little longer. Remove from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes.
Slice the baked thighs into thin strips.
Composing the sandwich:
Cut each pita bread in half, spread with tahini paste, and fill with as much chicken as desired. Top with sliced tomato, parsley and onion. You can also sprinkle some sumac on top, to make it even more authentic.