03 December 2013


What the hamburger is to the American, the shawarma is to the Saudi.  (Note: this is not official information, but just based on my observations.)

Hamburger--the first thing that come to mind in fast food, but it is more than that.  We sometimes make our own at home (think summer grilling) and it has many variations that generally includes adding different toppings (avocado, blue cheese, onion rings, bacon, etc) or sometimes adding ingredients to the meat.  Even 'fancy' restaurants will sometimes serve a variation of a hamburger.  And last but not least, we generally think of a eating fries with our hamburger.

The shawarma is pretty much the same--you can get them at busy fast food joints (prepared while you wait), but Saudis (and other countries) will also make their own versions at home and there are many variations.  There are 'fancy' shawarma restaurants, and, last but not least, you can order a side of fries with your shawarma.  The fries come with both ketchup and garlic mayonnaise for dipping.  Yum!

So what exactly is a shawarma?  Sometimes shawarma refers just to the meat that is cooked on a spit, rotisserie style (see below) and then carved off--although generally it refers to the whole wrap.  In Saudi the default meat is chicken, although other meats are available on occasion.  The bread is similar to a pita bread, although a little thinner and softer.  Inside the shawarma, depending on where you are eating, different things will accompany the meat--french fries, lettuce, cucumbers, or onions for example.

The shawarma shown above is from a place close to our house--it has chicken, onions, garlic mayonnaise sauce, and french fries (top right of shawarma).  I read somewhere that the fries are used inside the shawarma because they soak up the meat and vegetable juices and sauces--keeping them inside the wrap, instead of dripping out.

Note:  Even Erik liked these enough to eat them 'as is.'  In other words, he didn't have to pull them apart and separate the different ingredients into piles before eating them.  I consider that a win!

The drink you see in the picture is a mint lemonade--lemon juice with finely chopped fresh mint mixed in.  It seems to be a popular--or at least widely available--drink here.  I love both lemon and mint, so this is a treat for me!  I've tried this drink a couple places and some of them are pretty tart--I'm not sure that they added any sugar to the lemon juice!

So there you have it, the 'Saudi hamburger'.