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Feb 27, 2011 12:52 PM

Doner kebab/ shawarma: What's the difference?

I fell in love with doner kebab in Germany a decade ago, and since there doesn't seem to be anywhere in the Nashua/Manchester area that makes them (PLEASE correct me if I'm wrong!), I'm wondering if shawarma would satisfy my doner kebab cravings. I've never ordered one before; how similar is it? What I'm looking for is lamb or beef with vegetables and garlic sauce on a thick pita. How is shawarma usually served?

Just describing it makes me want one immediately.

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    1. re: bewley

      Yes, I've read a lot about the similarities and differences from a general point of view, but I was asking (unclearly, it seems) about the local preparation I'm likely to find in NH. I know what I'm getting if I order a gyro, and was just wondering how shawarma is served around here, since there's so much variety depending on the region.

      1. re: Tante

        In that case, you might have done better asking on the regional board. Be that as it may, the primary difference between doner kebab and shwarma is the language. "Doner" is Turkish, "shwarma" (and all of it's Roman letter spelling variations) is Arabic. But it's something like meatloaf in that EVERYBODY puts their own take on it.

    2. I love shawamas but can't compare since I haven't had the other. The new international mrket on massebesic at the end of valley is good but the young couple that ran the counter @ spice island on valley was sooooo awesome. Heard they opened their own place in detroit! The new place, Layalina in Maple st plaza should have them soon (needed equipment).

      1 Reply
      1. re: lexpatti

        That's in Manchester, right? I read about Spice Island, but never made it there, unfortunately. I'll have to check out Layalina next time I'm in town.

      2. Döner kebab, gyros and shawarma are broadly similar, but with considerable variation in seasoning, with shawrma and to some extent gyros usually more highly seasoned than döner. Toppings also differ, so the Berlin street-style döner won't necessarily be the same, but if you find a place that will top your shawarma with cabbage, salad, yogurt and herb sauce, no tahini, you might be able to approximate döner.

        1 Reply
        1. re: JungMann

          Shawarma isn't that highly seasoned. It's NON-ground meat (chicken, beef or lamb) cooked on a vertical spit. The meat is often, if it's gooooood, marinated before cooking but it's generally not that aggressively seasoned- and of course as you note this is a regional thing so there are exceptions. I know that in Canada, shawarma is seasoned but not what I'd call highly so.

          Gyros and the Canadian version of Döner known coast to coast as "Donair" on the other hand is VERY highly seasoned and is made of ground meat (beef, lamb, or some combo thereof) binded with breadcrumbs. You won't find this in Germany. Especially the Canadian version, with a dousing of garlic and "sweet" sauces. Sweet sauce is a bizarrely delicious mixture of sweetened condensed milk mixed with vinegar.

          I'd really hope that OP gets to head up to Halifax and get some Donair. Might make your German nostalgia fade.

        2. Assiduous researchers can discover that I've posted several Chow threads trying to find where I might recapture a German-style Döner Kebab experience in the States. It's a grim picture, and most people really don't know the big fuss. Somehow, despite the countless Americans who LOVE those things, it's genuinely rare to see them made here in the same fashion (with the bread, fillings and condiments).

          This place, which clearly announces an awareness of the crucial issues, is in Virginia, and I've never had a chance to try it:

          1 Reply
          1. re: Bada Bing

            Well, a trip to Virginia is shorter than a trip to Germany, though still not possible at the moment, and the link to that restaurant made me drool.
            I spent many summers in Atlantic Canada and never tried a donair, though I saw the adverts for them everywhere. Now I'm bemoaning what I missed out on.
            A local pizza place has shawarma on the menu, so I'm going to stop in and try one soon. Had a gyro the other day and while it didn't satisfy the craving, it was satisfying in its own right. Thanks for all the replies. Glad to find the Döner Kebab love here. (My last trip to Germany, I insisted on eating one every day since I knew I wasn't going to be able to get them in the US.)

          2. I've had doner kebabs at Oxford and they are very similar to schwarma's I've gotten in the US, with the caveat that schwarma's vary tremendously here. I prefer the smaller schwarma sandwiches with the thicker pita. That said, a 2am doner kebab to a student fills a very different craving than a lunch/dinner schwarma to a middle aged person so YMMV.