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What is the deal with shish taouk?

Ok, correct me if i am wrong but what is advertised as shish taouk in Montreal is in reality chicken shawarma. The real shish taouk is a chicken brochette, just like the shish kebab is a beef brochette. Why the difference in terminology? Everywhere else in North America, it's called chicken shawarma? What is the deal????

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  1. Shish Taouk is different than Chicken Shawarma. In most Lebanese restaurants in Toronto you can order Shish Taouk or Chicken Shawarma. Most of the time they both come in sandwich form and the only real difference would be the spices BUT really shawarma is supposed to be a sandwich and the Shish Taouk is supposed to be on Skewers. I'm a Lebanese food nerd and that's the best explanation I can give you.

    3 Replies
    1. re: cocanut

      "Shish Taouk is different than Chicken Shawarma."

      That's what everybody says, but in Montreal, for some reason, you never see "chicken shawarma" offered anywhere. It's always called "shish taouk" even when it's the thing that would be called "chicken shawarma" elsewhere. Chunks of chicken on a skewer are "brochettes de poulet".

      Good question, and I suspect but can't prove that the answer is as simple as some pioneering establishment applying the misnomer for whatever reason (idiosyncracy? marketing?) and having it stick. The usage goes back at least 21 years, which is when I had my first shish taouk that should have been called shawarma, at Basha on Ste-Catherine.

      1. re: Mr F

        i've always assumed that montreal 'shish taouk' is a shawarma that uses shish taouk spices - this is conjecture on my part however boustan calls it chicken shawarma

        1. re: celfie

          Curses, wrong again! OK, there is at least one place that uses the same terms as used elsewhere. As for the spicing, that's an interesting possibility.

    2. In Montreal:

      Shish taouk is marinated chicken.

      Shawarma is marinated beef (sometime mixed with lamb but rarely).

      As for the presentation it can be on a stick for the chicken or on the rotating vertical skewer with the flames in the background.

      The terminology takes a different twist elsewhere. So is the taste. I'm still having nightmares about a shish taouk sandwish we had in Detroit.

      Or the first poutine I had in Halifax Nova Scotia. What the hell where they thinking ??????????

      Many races took the original Lebanese recipe and adapted it to their culture. What a blaspheme !!!!!!!!!

      1. I had a "shawarma" in Rotterdam that was made with ground beef fried in a pan with onions. I guess the differences in the interpretation could be regional, or they could simply be convenience.

        1. My understanding is that the proper name is 'chicken schawarma', but 'shish taouk' stuck locally. As celfie alluded to, the owner of Boustan is adamant that it be called by it's proper name, and corrects anyone who tries to order a 'shish taouk' sandwich. He explained that the first Lebanese place that opened called it by the wrong name, and the others followed because they didn't want to confuse customers.

          1. Ok I lived in the Dearborn area most of my life. This is the largest population of people from the middle east out side the middle east. I have asked this same question of both restaurant cooks and friends. Taouk is chicken breast and Shawarma is chicken dark meat. Both use the same spices, these vary by the region, the sandwich or roll is a just one way of serving it and can be made with pickled beats or just pickles again by region. Beef is typically served as Kibbe. At least that is what I am told. Also the garlic sauce served with the sandwich is either made with a type of yogurt or potato not with mayonnaise.

            1 Reply
            1. re: ThadZGrey

              Okay so maybe I'm totally out to lunch but at my butcher's and at Akhvan, and when i make it, Shish taouk chicken is full breasts of chicken marinated in a combination of yoghurt, garlic and various spices (they vary from place to place).