But before I do, let me introduce the recipe by describing my first encounter with authentic Lebanese shawarma. I was at the lobby of the Hyatt Regency Hotel when I espied a crowd of people gathering around a booth. I went closer and from where I was standing, I could see what looked like a tower of meat being roasted. Luscious, tender, thinly sliced beef and lamb seasoned with lemon juice, cumin, allspice, mace and other spices was slowly being grilled in an upright rotating roaster. The meats were stacked neatly in the vertical spit with alternating layers of marinated beef and lamb. Perched like a crown of jewels, a huge tomato and an onion topped the gorgeous stack of golden brown, lightly-charred, juicy meats. The place was perfumed with an irresistible combination of spices, lemon juice and the essence of chargrilled beef. The juices of the onion and tomato dripped down and basted the meat tower The man in charge shaved the meat for each order and placed it on pita bread along with freshly shredded lettuce, beet-colored pickled turnip, parsley, onions and sliced tomatoes. A generous spoonful of creamy, garlic tahini sauce (made of finely ground sesame seeds) was added and the pita bread was folded into a sandwich wrap and handed to me. My first taste was unforgettable. …. this Beef-Lamb Shawarma was absolutely DELICIOUS, moist and very flavorful….and I was nowhere near Lebanon but in the midst of scientific conference in Montreal, Canada!
Since then I’ve been on a quest to recreate that perfect shawarma. None of the recipes I’ve tried before even came close. The recipe I recently found and adapted from The Lebanese Kitchen by Monique Zaarour is not yet perfect but it’s the best so far. Monique tailors it for the Western kitchen by pre-cutting the meat and using a regular oven as it’s almost impossible to have a counter top shawarma oven in North America.
2 lbs beef sirloin, cut into strips (or beef+lamb or chicken)
3 Tbsp oil
4 Tbsp red wine vinegar or lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp allspice (I added a more of this)
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp mastic, crushed
1/4 tsp nutmeg
5 Tbsp tahini
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup water
2 garlic cloves crushed
5 Tbsp lemon juice
thinly sliced onions
thinly sliced tomatoes
finely chopped parsley
- Mix the seasonings and rub into the steak strips. Marinade the beef for six hours, stirring every hour.
- Place the seasoned meat in a rimmed baking dish then cover with foil and bake in a preheated oven (475 F) for about 40 minutes.
- Combine tahini sauce ingredients in a food processor and set aside. Pour tahini sauce over the meat and serve on a plate or as a sandwich with shredded letttuce, onions, tomato and parsley. Enjoy!
- NOTE: My son prefers cheese with his shawarma so I add it even if it is not authentic Lebanese.