Shawerma on a spit.
I finally caught up with one of the year's biggest blockbusters, "Marvel's The Avengers." The comic book series had been a favorite of mine when I was in grade school, and I think the idea of seeing them on screen made me a little nervous. The feeling was not helped by the spotty track record of recent Marvel transfers: "Captain America," "Iron Man," yes; "Thor," a yawning no.
Sure enough, the movie was, at times, too lugubrious and self-important, but it did have its moments, especially when Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark/Iron Man was on. Toward the end of the film, he offered a much-needed injection of humor when he said, "Good job, guys. Let's just not come in tomorrow. Let's just take a day. Have you ever tried shawarma? There's a shawarma joint about two blocks from here. I don't know what it is, but I wanna try it."
And sure enough, in the final scene, after the credits, we see the Avengers in street clothes, quietly munching away on their shawarma while the rest of the building around them seems to be one light breeze from disintegration.
Shawarma, some of you have said, what the heck is that?
Sharon Tyler Herbst's "Food Lover's Companion" describes it as a Middle Eastern version of gyro consisting of "spiced, marinated lamb (sometimes chicken or veal) that has been molded around a vertical, rotating spit and slowly roasted. Thin slices of the meat are shaved off as the spit keeps turning. The hot meat is wrapped in lavash or pita bread, spread with hummus or tahini and topped with shredded vegetables."
Shawarma rolled in a pita with vegetables.
In other words, it's a halal version of the carnitas you find on the west side at Taqueria El Chilaquil, and some places will crisp the edges of that meat, caramelizing them slightly to make them even more irresistible.
But don't take my word for it. Go out and eat some shawarma like a superhero yourself.
You can find beef and chicken shawarma on the menu at Jerusalem Grill, 3259 Wurzbach Road; both locations of Pasha Mediterranean Grill, 9339 Wurzbach Road and 1207 N. Loop 1604 W.; and Gypsy Cafe, 2813 Thousand Oaks. Doner kebab, the Turkish version of shawarma made with lamb and beef, can be found at Turquoise Turkish Grill, 3720 N.W. Loop 410, and Mediterranean Turkish Grill, 8507 McCullough Ave.
Or you could make your own at home. It's easy with the help of shawarma seasoning packet, such as the one Sadaf makes. It's sold at the various Middle Eastern markets in the city, and its ingredients let you know you're in store for something wonderful: ginger, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, salt, clove, nutmeg, turmeric, parsley, chili, fenugreek, cinnamon and black pepper.
That way you could enjoy your shawarma while watching "The Avengers" all over again.
Want to make your own? You could start with a shawarma seasoning packet.