Shawarma (Arabic: شاورما or Hebrew: שווארמה, also spelled Chawarma, Shwarma, Shuarma, Shawerma, Shoarma or Shaorma) is a Middle Eastern-style sandwich usually composed of shaved lamb, goat, or chicken. Less commonly, it contains turkey, beef, or a mixture of meats. Shawarma is a popular dish and fast-food staple across the Middle East, and is consumed across the rest of the world as well. Shawarma is known as guss in Iraq; it is related to the gyros of Greece. Gyros, however, is typically made of pork meat, or less commonly chicken, although beef or lamb is usually used outside Greece and Cyprus. The classic shawarma combination is pita bread, hummus, tomato & cucumber, and of course the shawarma. The additional toppings include tahini and amba .
Shawarma is made by placing strips of meat or marinated chicken on a skewer. Animal fat and an onion or tomato are placed at the top of the stack to provide flavoring. The meat is then roasted slowly on all sides as the skewer rotates in front of or over a flame for a period of several hours (see rotisserie). Traditionally a wood fire is used, but recently a gas flame is more common. While many specialty restaurants might offer two or more, usually of different meats some establishments have one skewer.
Different sort of meat can be used for it, The principle is that the meat will be placed on a skewer, and can be grilled even for the whole day. Chunks of meat fat make sure that the meat stays fat and juicy.
After cooking, the meat is shaved off the skewer with a large knife, an electric knife or a small circular saw, dropping to a circular tray below to be retrieved. Shawarma is most commonly eaten as a fast food, made up into a sandwich with pita bread or rolled up in lafa (a sweet, fluffy flatbread) together with vegetables and a dressing. Vegetables commonly found in shawarma include cucumber, onion, tomato, lettuce, parsley, pickled turnips, pickled gherkins, cabbage, and in some countries, such as Jordan, Israel or Saudi Arabia, french fries.
Common dressings include tahini (or tahina), Amba sauce (pickled mango with Chilbeh) and hummus, flavored with vinegar and spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Chicken shawarma is often served with garlic mayonnaise, pomegranate concentrate, skhug (a hot chili sauce), or any combination of the three. Once the sandwich is made, it might be dipped in the fat dripping from the skewer and then briefly seared against the flame. In Syria, Israel, and Lebanon, chicken shawarma sandwiches are generally toasted after being made up, whereas those made of lamb or beef are immediately eaten.
Beef can be used for shawarma instead of lamb, and turkey is also occasionally used instead of chicken. In Saudi Arabia, goat is equally as common as beef or lamb and is often the preferred primary meat for purists. In Israel, a turkey/lamb fat mixture is the primary flavor, although chicken is also available. Less common alternatives include fish and sausage. Some shawarma stores use hot dog buns or baguettes, but most have pita and lafa. Shawarma is often served with a plate of french fries or home fries. Sometimes, beef shawarma—despite its name—contains some lamb in addition to the beef, to ensure juiciness.
Shawarma is eaten either as a dish by itself, with grilled bread, or fresh pita bread, or with other Middle Eastern foods like Tabouli, Hummus, and Fattoush.