Culture Film/Television Opinion

Food Network’s ‘Shortcut Chicken Shawarma’ Is A Middle Finger To Authentic Shawarma Lovers

First-time shawarma makers looking for an authentic take on the beloved street food should definitely NOT use this recipe.

For those unfamiliar, shawarma is a traditional Middle Eastern street food item, made from slicing pieces of marinated and spit-roasted meat and cramming them into pita bread. It’s usually served with fresh vegetables, a tangy tahini (sesame seed paste) or yogurt-based sauce, and some optional pickled vegetables.

Food Network uploaded a video to Facebook claiming to be a “Shortcut Chicken Shawarma” that makes cooking the popular street food at home “EASY.” However, to call what Food Network has uploaded a “shawarma” is a true affront to the dish.

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This shawarma recipe, to be fair, is close to what a real shawarma is. However, someone not familiar with it could be cooking this recipe at home and could easily mistake this for real shawarma, proving to be an awkward and most importantly un-authentic first experience with the dish.

I understand that the Food Network was trying to make a shawarma recipe simple for anyone who’s never made it before and doesn’t know where to start. At the same time, I also know that Foodbeast has been attributed to promoting un-authentic takes on traditional global cuisines. However, we never claim non-traditional iterations to be “real” authentic dishes.

If left unchecked, this shawarma recipe could eventually become a reference for amateur cooks looking to try their hand at authentic shawarma, leading them astray of a true recipe for that street food as a result.

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My first concern with the shawarma recipe is the usage of pumpkin pie spice in the marinade. I get that using spice blends means you can purchase less and get a variety of spices, but when you incorporate them into a cultural recipe, make sure you get the spices right.

Real Middle Eastern spices for a shawarma involve ones like cinnamon and nutmeg, but also authentic aromatics like sumac and cardamom.

As bad as utilizing pumpkin spice is for a recipe, it’s nothing compared to how the recipe ruined the sauce by deciding to use the disgusting combination of hummus and mayo. They could’ve gone for a simple yogurt sauce, or a more traditional and tasty tahini-based dressing, both of which are zesty, light, and refreshing. Instead, we’re treated to a unappetizing glop of thick and vomit-like paste that can’t be saved by the paltry amount of fresh garlic mixed in to justify the hummus-mayo combo as a “garlic sauce.”

The proverbial cherry on top of this cultural disaster is the dill pickle that is added in at the last possible second. Yes, pickled vegetables are incorporated. No, that doesn’t mean throwing in a Vlassic spear. A quick run to a Middle Eastern or international market could yield a jar of pickled veggies in no time.

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Overall, the resulting recipe that comes out of this looks like shawarma and may evoke a similar flavor profile to shawarma. However, it is not true authentic shawarma, and for Food Network to advertise their recipe as such is cultural appropriation at its worst.

Get your head out of the gutter, Food Network, and get back to making legit recipes that won’t inspire people to mix hummus and mayo together.