Lebanese Cuisine — Shish Taouk: Grilled Chicken Skewers

A fine example of how Lebanese cuisine has been exported around its region, shish taouk (recipe follows) can be found in eateries from Egypt to Iraq to Turkey.  Marinated chicken cut into cubes is skewered and grilled over a fire until charred on the outside and is served (at least in Lebanon) alongside hummus or inside a pita with grilled vegetables and the Lebanese garlic sauce toum.

More Lebanese dishes on The World Cup of Food:

  • Tabbouleh, bulgur and parsley salad (with Lebanese cuisine overview)
  • Fattoush, bread salad with diced vegetables

There is no universally-accepted “proper” marinade for shish taouk.  Nearly all are based on some combination of lemon juice, yogurt, and/or tomatoes, but the spices and seasonings are added to taste.  Yogurt-based versions create a thick, flavorful coating on the grilled meat which reminded us of Indian tandoori chicken, which was enough for us to settle on that for our version.

Shish Taouk

adapted from the blog Mama’s Lebanese Kitchen and from the December 2012 Saveur

SERVES 4

  • 2 large chicken breasts, cut into about 1 1/2 inch cubes
  • Juice of 2 small lemons
  • 1 6-ounce container plain yogurt
  • 10 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbs ground cumin
  • 1 Tbs ground coriander
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • Vegetables for grilling, cut into about 1-inch pieces if needed (we used grape tomatoes, zucchini, and red bell pepper; use whatever you like)
  • Pitas for serving (we like the whole wheat recipe from King Arthur Flour)

To marinate our chicken, we combined the lemon juice, yogurt, oil, garlic, and herbs and spices, and stirred in the chicken pieces until fully coated:

chickenmarinating

The bowl was covered and refrigerated for several hours until we were ready to grill.  Most sources we found recommend from eight to twenty-four hours of marination.

About an hour before grilling, we started soaking a handful of bamboo skewers in water to avoid them burning up during cooking.  When the grilling hour approached we preheated the broiler in the oven, placing the top rack about six inches below.  The chicken pieces were threaded onto the skewers, along with our vegetable choices of tomatoes, zucchini, and red bell pepper, and placed on a rack in a roasting pan:

everythingskewered

The skewers went under the broiler for about twenty minutes total, or until the chicken was browned all over, turning every few minutes.  The vegetables were done before the chicken, so they were removed a bit earlier, about fifteen minutes in:

everythingbroiled

To serve, the meat and vegetables were removed from the skewers, placed atop fresh whole wheat pitas, and drizzled with some homemade aioli.  Alongside our shish taouk we enjoyed our other Lebanese dishes, the bulgur and parsley salad tabbouleh and the bread salad fattoush:

lebanesemeal

Our shish taouk, with its creamy, tart, flavorful coating of caramelized yogurt, went great with the grilled vegetables and warm, fresh pita.  The drizzle of aioli gave some much needed moisture to the dish, and along with our tabbouleh and fattoush, our Lebanese meal was a celebration of fresh ingredients and simple preparation.

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