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NYC street-vendor style middle-eastern chicken sandwich recipe...?

jlecount Nov 13, 2009 11:07 PM


I'm a native Californian who spent 8 years in Manhattan, and I haven't yet been able to shake my craving for those middle-eastern street-vendor chicken sanwiches -- You find them everywhere mid-town. You know, grilled chicken, onion, white sauce (what is it? not tahini, i don't think...?), hot chili sauce. But what are the spices? I think it's marinaded...Usually on pita, sometimes on a sandwich roll...

Can somebody give any advice on how to try to reproduce one? The spices and marinade are probably the biggest mystery. Also, what's the origin of these? Are they shawarma variants?


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  1. erica RE: jlecount Nov 14, 2009 02:11 AM

    I would love to know the origin of the delicious smell that wafts from the cart--there is one spice in particular that predominates.....

    1 Reply
    1. re: erica
      zuriga1 RE: erica Nov 14, 2009 04:21 AM

      Cumin seeds.. coriander seeds? A lot of Middle-Eastern cooking use those.

    2. g
      ginnyhw RE: jlecount Nov 14, 2009 06:36 AM

      I think you want Tzatziki Sauce, the yoghurt cucumber etc sauce. There are a million recipes out there plus and Costco, in our area, Boston, sells a delicious version.

      2 Replies
      1. re: ginnyhw
        hpman247 RE: ginnyhw Nov 14, 2009 06:54 AM

        Theres this little greek restaurant here called Souvlaki. They have this Marinated chicken pita that I get with the cucumber sauce lettuce and tomato. HEAVENLY....I may have to go by there today!!!

        1. re: hpman247
          jlecount RE: hpman247 Nov 14, 2009 09:31 PM

          Hmm -- OK, so I think it would be marinated and grilled chicken. The sauce, Ginny, is indeed tzatziki -- thanks for the reminder! Then, perhaps I'd try just a plain chili sauce (like Sriracha or something) to give it a kick. And home-made wheat pita and grilled onions.

          Who wants to try their hand at a marinade suggestion? I'm really not sure what I'd toss in -- other than yogurt, cumin, umm...turmeric?

      2. BamiaWruz RE: jlecount Nov 15, 2009 10:25 PM

        The white sauce could be garlic sauce/dip. It's like whipped up garlic mayo (garlic, salt, oil, lemon juice)
        Is the chicken you're talking about shawarma? I've had great success using this recipe.

        - Chicken, beef or fish (salmon) cut into strips
        - 2 cups plain yogurt
        - 1 onion, 4 cloves of garlic finely minced in food processor
        - 1/2 cup olive oil
        - 2 tbsp white vinegar

        - 1 tbsp curry powder
        - 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
        - 1/2 tsp ground cloves
        - 1 tbsp dry ginger or fresh paste
        - 1/2 tsp dried mint
        - Smoke powder or liquid smoke
        - black pepper

        In a large bowl mix together all the above ingredients and let them marinade, could go in the fridge overnight. Lay the mixture in a flat layer on a cookie sheep and bake at 375-400 F. Stir or flip everything over so all the liquid evaporates and the mixture begins to "coat" the chicken well and brown a bit.

        Fill pitas with this mixture and add fresh veggies and sauces/dips.

        2 Replies
        1. re: BamiaWruz
          jlecount RE: BamiaWruz Nov 16, 2009 11:11 AM

          Sounds tasty! Thanks, I'll try it! I think the white sauce generally used (at least that I've had) is indeed tzatziki. Have you ever grilled instead of baked this chicken?

          1. re: jlecount
            BamiaWruz RE: jlecount Nov 16, 2009 11:17 AM

            I haven't because I didn't have a grill, but I do now and don't see any reason why not to. Cut the strips longer so they don't fall through a BBQ type grill if that's what you're going for and try it out. You could omit the smoke flavouring then from the recipe.

            Some people say not to salt it during i'ts marination in the fridge, but I'm not quite sure if that's only the case for fish because it will draw the water out.

        2. junglekitte RE: jlecount Nov 16, 2009 11:29 AM

          Here is a recipe a Jordanian friend gave me to make it quickly and it tastes good! ***If you are going to take anything from this recipe I would say the baharat and marinating it in yogurt is KEY and you could play around with everything else.

          Preheat oven to broil (or you can grill it but don't marinate the chicken in thin slices then and i would marinate it way longer if you leave it whole!)

          2 large chicken breasts cut in 2 inch long very thin slices.

          Marinate chicken for about 10-20 minutes in:
          2 TBSP of plain full-fat yogurt
          1/2 tsp cinnamon
          salt/pepper to taste
          1/2 tsp baharat (arab spice mix including cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin, corriander, cardomom, black pepper, and cloves. you can wing this or find a jarred version somewhere)

          Lay the chicken in one layer on a baking sheet, it should not be watery. When you wash your chicken, make sure you dry it well before slicing it.

          Broil it on side, flip it over to broil on the other side. When you flip it over, it will be one large mass that you will have to break up with a fork.

          Potatoes (good but optional)

          Dice potatoes very small, 1/4 inch pieces. Fry them with some butter and/or oil and season them with salt pepper. Cook until golden brown. Set aside for shawerma assembly.


          White onion slice thin
          Tomatoes slice very thin
          Shredded iceburg lettuce
          pickles (we used the arabic kind) slice lenthwise very thin
          the hot pink pickled turnips
          I like to make a tahini-lemon sauce and also the garlic sauce together on my sandwich)

          2 Replies
          1. re: junglekitte
            jlecount RE: junglekitte Nov 16, 2009 09:08 PM

            sounds good, but can you really get any flavor out of a 10-20 minute marinade for chicken? Really? However, it does sound good. In fact, the last few chicken recipes have gotten me really hungry...;-)

            1. re: jlecount
              BamiaWruz RE: jlecount Nov 16, 2009 09:21 PM

              I agree, I would personally feel it's a waste of my yogurt if I used so much and let it sit for 20 mins only because it wouldn't have enough time to do it's thing.

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