Abu Dhabi: The popular shawarma is no longer the humble street food it used to be. Over the years, the traditional Arab wrap (see box) has reinvented itself to take on several new exotic forms, with the result that the good old chicken and lamb staples are now almost passe.
Differing in form and filling, the new generation variants include everything from deer, rabbit, camel and sheep shawarmas to duck, salmon, ostrich and even shark shawarmas.
In Abu Dhabi, there are at least a dozen new shawarma outlets sporting names that are equally intriguing. Doctor Shawarma, Shish Shawarma, Wok Shawarma, King Shawarma, Quick Shawarma, Shawarma Time and Shawarma Zaman … the list goes on.
Those running these outlets say the newly introduced varieties of shawarma have many takers even if they are more expensive than the regular versions.
The special shawarmas cost anything between Dh20 and Dh30 each while a simple wrap comes for as little as Dh5.
“Shawarma is a snack liked by one and all. We wanted to keep the shawarma tradition as it is but offer a modern twist to it. The idea clicked,” said Lilian Joumah, managing director of Shawarma Time on Fatima Bint Mubarak Street. The outlet claims it was the first to introduce novel shawarmas to the Abu Dhabi market two years ago.
Joumah from Brazil said, “Our deer shawarma is the hot favourite. The next best seller is the salmon shawarma.”
Other varieties sold here on Thursdays include rabbit, rooster, duck, seafood, hammour, camel, goat, ostrich and steak shawarmas, to mention a few.
Novelty is the name of the game even at Shawarma Zaman.
The outlet launched by Global Catering Services last year at Al Wahda Mall and Al Raha Mall serves four types of shawarmas on special days. They even go by fancy names like Turkey Treat, Daisy Duck, Fisher Man, Lambly and Cheezee Peezee.
“Shawarmas have been around for ages. But people like to try something new. Fish and turkey lovers can enjoy them in a shawarma now,” said a staff at Shawarma Zaman.
Fresh and filling, shawarmas have many takers in the UAE
It is not just the fillings that define the shawarmas.
Many outlets have also introduced new kinds of breads like saj, pita and tortilla that replace the traditional Arabic bread or kuboos. Some kitchens also add special sides like hummus or mozzarella cheese.
“People are health conscious and many of our customers prefer pita bread or saj bread. It is more filling and tastes better,” said Ahmad Elish, manager at Shawarma King in Khalidiya.
As weight-watchers abound, the shawarma outlets even tell you the exact calorie count of the delicacies.
The Shawarma Lite sold at Shawarma Time for instance is said to use only breast pieces of chicken, with each sandwich carrying a calorie count of 250.
“A regular shawarma contains anything between 500 to 750 calories while our healthy shawarma is less in fat and rich in nutrients,” said Joumah.
“Our healthy shawarmas carry the Weqaya label from Abu Dhabi Health Authority,” he adds.
The huge popularity of the new versions notwithstanding, there are some who believe the traditional shawarmas can never be replaced. “Our shawarmas are authentic. We have been following the same recipe for the last 25 years. You won’t get that taste anywhere,” boasted Gamen Al Napwane, manager at Lebanese Flower Restaurant.
One of the oldest shawarma outlets in Abu Dhabi, the Lebanese Flower Restaurant sells more than 6,000 shawarmas over any given weekend.
“So where’s the need to reinvent?” asked Al Napwane.
Which shawarma do you enjoy the most? Why?
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