Shish Tawook

Extreme closeup
However you spell it, it’s delicious.

I was first introduced to Shish Tawook in a local Mediterranean restaurant. Our first meeting was a memorable one; the Shish Tawook was served up in Shawarma form, dressed in a coating of Toum (a flavorful garlic sauce). Its been years since that first encounter, and every so often I get the urge for more of that wonderfully tender, intensely flavorful and perfectly grilled chicken. This past week one of those urges hit me and I decided that it was time that I master the art of making this dish.

The Recipe
After looking through some recipes, I finally settled on one from, here. The recipe as it is yields 6 kebabs. Seeing that this is a favorite of mine, and knowing that Nate is also quite fond, I decided to double the recipe.
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1-1/2 cups plain yogurt
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
4 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves – cut into 2 inch pieces
4 onions, cut into large chunks
2 large green bell pepper, cut into large chunks
2 cups chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
The marinade ingredientsCut chicken
  1. Whisk together the lemon juice, vegetable oil, plain yogurt, garlic, tomato paste, salt, oregano, pepper, allspice, cinnamon, and cardamom in a large bowl; add the chicken and toss to coat. Transfer the chicken mixture into a large plastic bag; refrigerate at least 4 hours.
  2. Preheat an outdoor grill for medium-high heat and lightly oil grate. Thread the chicken, onions, and pepper onto metal skewers. Cook on preheated grill until the chicken is golden and no longer pink in the center, about 5 minutes each side. Sprinkle the parsley over the skewers.
The Experience
Making the marinade was pretty straightforward. Measure, mix, and transfer to a bag with the chicken. It was interesting to see how each ingredient added to the sum of the marinade. The cinnamon, allspice and cardamom were especially interesting to note. As an American these aren’t typically the first things I think of when it comes to seasoning meat, though more and more I’m noticing that I should use them more often. This also marks the first time I’ve ever cooked with cardamom and I was impressed at how fragrant even 1/4 tsp was. The original recipe says to let the chicken marinate for at least 4 hours. I let it go overnight since it wasn’t realistic for me to do it any other way.
The finished marinade Changes/Findings
Ok, so all of that is all well and good; just following directions led me to a flavorful and fragrant marinade that looked utterly foul sitting there in the bowl. Despite how it looked, it smelled fantastic and tasted just as good. I made no changes to the recipe, other than how long I let the meat go for a swim. To be honest, I was worried about the chicken becoming over tenderized leaving it in a fairly acidic marinade for almost 18 hours. As it turns out, I was being over cautious. Everyone agreed that the chicken really benefited from the longer than prescribed soak.
Now as for the things that we learned from this? Check the list below:
  • This marinade is very messy. It somehow manages to be thick and runny at the same time. As we were assembling the kebabs, the excess marinade was everywhere; on the floor, on the counter, on the cabinets and even on the wall. There’s not much to be done for this, just expect it to be a little messy.

Assembled kebabs

  • Marinate or season your vegetables. We didn’t do this, and it left the veggies a little bland. I’m not sure marinating them in the same as the chicken would work, but I may give that a try next time. Other than marinating them, I thought that maybe dipping each in melted butter before skewering may help give them a flavor of their own.
  • Round skewers are the most frustrating design ever. Do yourself a favor and throw all of your round skewers away and buy some wide, flat skewers, or at the very least use two round skewers side by side. It seemed like every time we went to turn the kebabs, each individual piece would move whichever way it wanted. It didn’t help matters at all that the black skewers were non-stick coated. This all led to some uneven cooking.

Kebabs on the grill

  • Everyone’s grill is different. The guy that wrote the recipe? His medium-high heat is different than yours. I guarantee it. Therefore, we threw out the cooking times and grilled the kebabs until they were done, which in my opinion is always much more sound advice.
  • I forgot the parsley. I went out of my way to buy it, even commenting to my wife how good it smelled. I then put it in the fridge drawer and forgot it existed.
  • Rather than using the amount of onions that the recipe called for, we used a gigantic Vidalia onion. It was a good deal larger than a softball.
  • Don’t expect leftovers. A double batch fed 4 adults with just a half kebab leftover.


  • We served the kebabs over Basmati rice which was a nice compliment to the chicken.
    The finished product
Overall thoughts
Still with me? Good. I can honestly say that I wouldn’t touch this recipe. Its phenomenal as it stands. The chicken was some of the most tender chicken I’ve ever eaten in my life. The marinade seemed to penetrate the meat all the way through with a flavor that wasn’t too strong or too muted. As I’ve sat here with my hands smelling of garlic and onions I realize that this is one of the best things I’ve made, and this recipe will find its way into my regular rotation.

About Dave

Co blogger @
This entry was posted in Chicken, Dinner and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Shish Tawook

  1. Pingback: Kitchen Hardware: Skewer Edition | Cook Until Epic

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