fine food - Shish Tawook
Written by Craig Butcher
A delightful dish of marinated chicken skewers common in Lebanon, Syria, and elsewhere in the Middle East. Each region has evolved traditional flavours to make this dish their own.
The Egyptian method maintains chicken cubes (breast or thigh, the latter is preferred), but involves a spice-forward base - a touch of cardamom, mustard and turmeric combine with curry powder to give a more Indian subcontinent flavour, though the alternating onions and peppers retain that all-important and recognisable skewer combination.
Sis(‘shish’) is Turkish for ‘skewer’, while tavuk (‘tawook’) means ‘chicken’, supporting the Turkish claim to have originated this dish. Turkish versions emphasise garlic in the marinade and also include a touch of paprika for colour. Their adaptation is served with rice and grilled vegetables such as tomatoes, along with a flat-leaf parsley garnish.
Acidity in both the yoghurt and the lemon marinade help tenderise the chicken, while searing the outside at high temperature locks in the meat’s moisture. The Lebanese serving style is what sets this version apart – replacing the rice typical in other countries with hummus and tabbouleh (a parsley salad).
What is shish tawook?
A traditional ‘shish’ or kebab skewer served in capital cities around the world. Primarily drawn from the Lebanese and Syrian cooking canon, this dish typically involves marinating chicken cubes in yoghurt and lemon, before skewering and grilling over open flames and serving them with toum, a garlic paste.