I fell in love with Lebanese food not on a vacation, but in a mall food court. Whenever we are in the city we make a stop at the Mic Mac Mall, sometimes just for a takeaway plate from Villa Madina’s.
My favorite is their chicken shawarma platter, with all trimmings…like the hot pickled peppers, turnip pickles, and the creamy garlic toum sauce. This was my first taste of dishes combining so much lemon, garlic, and meditteranean spices like sumac and za’atar. I was smitten and I was determined to learn how to make a passable imitation. But usually, I ended up disappointed with the results.
I owe it all to ‘Mama’ of mamaslebanesekitchen.com. This lady’s children have lovingly collected their mother’s recipes to share with the world. All to honour Mama and the family cuisine . This site houses a plethora of not just recipes, but detailed instructions. After reading them, I feel like I have accumulated several credits in Lebanese Cooking 101. I was so grateful to stumble on her chicken shawarma recipe/tutorial! As Mama points out, without roasting it slowly on a spit, you can’t achieve authentic shawarma. But this is really really close. And you can achieve this by using an indoor grill. I have made some minor changes to the recipe, partly because of what I had and didn’t have on hand. Also I added sumac because I love it. As you are mixing the marinade, you may gasp and ask, “a whole head of garlic??”…yes, and please don’t skimp! The marinade needs to be blended really well. I suggest using a bullet or immersion blender. It should look creamy when done. Ingredients:
3 lbs of skinless/boneless chicken breast and thigh, sliced 1 inch thick (too thin and it will dry out).
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp tomato sauce (not paste)
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
3 tbsp white vinegar
1 head of garlic, crushed
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp each dried thyme and oregano
2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp sumac
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Slice the chicken and set aside
Mix all other ingredients in a bowl. This becomes the marinade.
Blend the marinade until it is well mixed and looks creamy. In a large Ziploc bag, place the chicken and pour in the marinade. Seal the bag and give it a little squishing to coat all the chicken.
Place the sealed bag flat, in a shallow dish, and chill in fridge overnight, until ready for use. If you don’t want to wait overnight, you must still marinade at least 6 hours.
Cook in a closed grill, medium heat, for about 15 minutes. This can also be grilled on a BBQ, taking care not to overcook it.