Sunday, December 26, 2010

Vegetarian "shawarma"

Shawarma usually refers a middle eastern grilled meat dish (you may also know it as "gyro" or various other names). I have no idea if it's any good, because I've never eaten it.

However, this recipe from the excellent Israeli food blog בצק אלים ("bazek elim") was recommended by a few meat eaters and I decided to try and make a vegetarian version of it. I used seitan again, because I find it's texture is best for these kinds of recipe, but for a GF version I think you could also try to do it with tofu with s similar results. I did have to somewhat change the seasoning of the original recipe to make up for seitan being a little more bland.

A note about the coke: yes, this recipe uses about a cup of coca-cola. When I first saw this, I was quite shocked, as normally I wouldn't dream of cooking with coke. However, I decided to try it and the truth is the coke does give a wonderful caramelization and sweetness to the dish. So, it's up to you - use it or don't use it as you will. Either way, it's important to use regular coke and not diet coke as the sweeteners in the latter do not do well under heat.

Vegatarian Shawarma

Ingredients (for 2 portions): 

- 1 package of seitan (or tofu), cubed into fairly large chunks. 

- 1 medium onion, sliced into strips. 

- 2 tbsps of olive oil + 1 tsp for browning the seasoning

- Seasoning: 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp chili powder. 

- 1 cup of regular coke - optional (NOT diet!) 

- salt and pepper.


1. Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onions and fry, stirring occasionally, until the onions brown. If the onions look like they are burning rather than slowly browning, lower the heat a bit.The process should take about 10 minutes.

2. Push the onion to one side of the pan and add another teaspoon of oil to the newly cleared space. Add the seasoning to this oil and cook, while stirring, until the seasoning starts to sizzle a bit. 

3. Add the seitan (or tofu) pieces to the pan, stirring well so that the pieces are coated in the seasoning and mixed with the onions. Leave for about 40 seconds without stirring so that one side of the seitan browns and crisps up, then stir again and leave for another 40 seconds. 

4. If you plan to use the coke, add about one third of  a cup of coke to the pan, and simmer until it thickens, stirring occasionally. Continue adding coke and thickening until the cup is finished. By this time, the seitan should be cooked and the dish should be almost ready. If you don't intend to use coke: just keep cooking the seitan until it looks quite cooked. You can add a little bit of sugar and water to try and replicate the caramelization effect. 

5. Taste a piece of the shawarma. Add salt and pepper and any additional seasonings so that the dish is flavorful.

6. For a quick meal, serve the shawarma on rice, in a baguette or in a wrap. For a more traditional version, serve with pita bread, hummus, tahini sauce and a salad of finely cubed vegetables.

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