Shish Tawook (Middle Eastern Chicken Skewers)
Only a few dishes come to mind when you think about Arab grilled meats, and shish tawook is a favorite.
On a grilled meat platter in the Middle East you will often find lamb, beef and chicken with vegetables.
Shish tawook is by far the most popular grilled chicken dish by a long shot.
You can get the chicken grilled this way in sandwich form, rolled up in a pita bread.
Very often it is served as part of a mixed grill platter with freshly baked bread on the side.
Typically when ordering food in an Arabic restaurant, you order a mezze course first which can be extensive.
This course is very often followed by a course of grilled meats.
And if you are going all out at this dinner you will have even more options.
The second course will be followed by a third, of cooked rice and meat dishes.
Of course followed by dessert, and coffee or tea.
Arab culture does not require you to eat all the food on your plate.
However, there should be an abundance of food choices for your guests to enjoy.
Shish tawook recipes will vary depending on who is making it and if they have a secret ingredient or not.
But the recipes are generally the same with many of the same flavors and most of all tender chicken.
Marinating chicken breast the right way is what this shish tawook recipe is all about.
Often referred to as Lebanese food and served in Lebanese restaurants, this dish is a staple of the Fertile Crescent.
Every Arab country has their version of this very Middle Eastern food.
What is Shish Tawook?
It is a chicken kabob, marinated in lemon and garlic among other things, and grilled on a skewer.
Typically eaten with garlic sauce, the chicken recipe has spicy spices but not typically hot ones.
Chicken breast is most commonly used when making this recipe, and is easier to thread the chicken on a skewer.
Shish tawook is a grilled chicken kebab with a Turkish origin.
Many foods in the Middle East have a connection to Turkey due to the Ottoman Empire.
The word tawook is derived from an old Turkish language word that means chicken.
And the word shish in Turkish is the word for skewer, which aptly names the dish, skewer of chicken.
Turkish kebabs are amazingly good which I thoroughly enjoyed the last time I was in Istanbul.
The grill meals there are just outstanding, period.
Really top class, with everyone enjoying a good night out every once in a while.
Many of the spices in Arab and Middle Eastern cooking are the warm and sweet variety.
To add heat to a dish, we usually rely on side dishes of various kinds.
These side dishes come in the form of hot pastes or oil, pickled or fresh hot peppers.
My favorite spice in this recipe is cardamom, which I think goes so well with chicken.
Cardamom is a very fragrant spice, one that is actually ground with coffee in Arab world.
Cardamom has a kind of herbal, minty, spicy, and citrusy flavor all rolled into one.
It gives chicken a certain sweet and perfumy quality that is very enjoyable.
All the other spices make the cardamom flavor come across as a little more subtle.
But you know it is there and can taste it, but you can’t quite place it.
I love it when that happens in cooking.
It makes you savor and wonder, while you become a food detective.
Typically you will also find oregano, cinnamon, salt and pepper, and probably paprika.
How to Make Shish Tawook
Make the marinade in a large bowl.
Mix yogurt, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, spices along with a bit of tomato paste.
Cut the chicken breast into cubes, cover and marinate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
Put the chicken cubes on skewers, along with onion wedges, and cherry tomatoes.
I like to put all chicken on one skewer and all vegetables on another but you can mix if you like.
Grill over medium high heat until done, serve with garlic sauce, and thick yogurt also known as Greek yogurt.
Yogurt is a wonderful addition to this meal and even better as a marinade which will actually tenderize the chicken nicely.
A really good option for this marinated chicken is to prepare it and then freeze it for a later date.
Just marinate overnight, place the chicken in a freezer bag and freeze for up to nine months.
When you are ready to use it, defrost it in the fridge overnight and then cook as you would normally.
This is one way to prepare your barbecue meats for quick use, you can also freeze lamb chops this way too.
Tips for Making
- Be sure to allow the chicken to marinate long enough for the spices to permeate the meat.
- Don’t make the chicken cubes too big, or too small for that matter.
- Don’t overcook or your chicken will have a tendency to be dry.
What to Serve It With
Typically this is a dish that is served with bread, and salad, garlic sauce, and fried potatoes.
It can also be served on a bed of rice, with roasted vegetables and hot sauce with peppers.
Alternative grains that go well would be bulgur wheat, couscous, quinoa, barley or even buckwheat.
Onions grilled on skewers, along with tomato, and lemons are all good things to accompany this dish.
A bowl of fresh vegetables like cucumber, tomato, onions, carrots, peppers, and lettuce will be served alongside this meal.
I love to grill this outdoors when we have a barbecue on our patio.
As well as make some homemade taboon bread in my outside bread oven.
Shish Tawook Recipe
- 2 lbs Chicken Breast cubed
- ½ cup Yogurt
- ¼ cup Lemon Juice
- ¼ cup Olive Oil
- 6 Garlic Cloves minced
- 1 tsp Paprika
- 1 tsp Cinnamon
- ½ tsp Za'atar
- ½ tsp Cardamom
- 1 tsp Salt
- ¼ tsp Black Pepper
- 1 tbsp Tomato Paste
- Mix all the ingredients together, and then add the chicken cubes.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours but best overnight.
- Thread chicken cubes onto skewers.
- Cook over medium heat for 5 - 8 minutes per side until done.