Wednesday, August 12, 2009


In 1995, my folks dropped me off in Greenwich Village for college at NYU. I had a Cadillac meal plan, with enough food to keep me fed three times a day. The food was a-plenty, but it sure was tiresome. For the first time in my life, I was counting on salt just to provide the remembrance of flavor. Fortunately, a block away on MacDougal Street, my introduction to street food was about to begin. I believe that the best food I've purchased in my life has cost me either less than $5 or more than $30. Knishes, pizza, pretzels, falafel, tortas, tacos, halal meat, okonomiyaki, fresh papaya... you name it and an ethnic group sells it on the corner (or in a take-out shop) for a few bucks. One fall afternoon in 1995, I walked into King Shwarma and my life changed. I ate my first shwarma sandwich. Was it Turkish? Or Lebanese? I don't know. I never found out the origin of the shwarmas that The King used to make and I probably never will know (King Shwarma is now closed forever). And the hot sauce was outstanding too! It will also remain a mystery lost in time... Anyhoo, here's an inferior online shwarma recipe (sorry, I lost the source). It makes 6 pita sandwiches. I haven't tried it yet, so I may need to revisit this recipe.

--1 1/2 lbs boned Leg of Lamb (in a Middle Eastern restaurant, the lamb would be on one of these vertical rotating spits, a slowly cooking meat-cone)
--2 cups thinly sliced Onion
--1/3 cup fresh Lemon Juice
--1/2 tsp ground Cinnamon
--1/2 tsp ground Allspice
--1/2 tsp Black Pepper
--1/4 tsp Salt
--5 Thyme Sprigs
--(several online recipes also swear by using Mace to spice your shwarma)
--6 (7-inch) Pitas
--Yogurt-Tahini Dip or my mom's hummus
--1/2 cup Onion slices (Red or White), separated into rings
--1/4 cup chopped Fresh Mint or shredded Lettuce
--12 (1/4-inch-thick) slices Tomato, halved
--3 Gherkin Dill Pickles, thinly sliced lengthwise
--Hot Sauce such as Sriracha

Trim fat from lamb. Combine 2 cups onion and herbs and spices (onion through thyme) in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add lamb to bag; seal. Marinate in refrigerator 2 hours (better yet: overnight), turning occasionally. Remove lamb from bag; discard marinade. Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Place lamb on a broiler pan; insert meat thermometer into thickest portion of lamb. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until thermometer registers 145° (medium-rare) to 160° (medium). Let stand 15 minutes. Slice lengthwise into thin strips. Spread each pita with about 2 1/2 tablespoons Yogurt-Tahini Dip (or hummus). Divide lamb, red onion, mint (or lettuce), tomato, and pickles evenly among each pita. Serve immediately.

1 comment:

BdVdB said...

My buddy Colin claims that King Shwarma was Syrian-style shwarma!