Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Eating up the Hill: Chicken shawarma platter – better is definitely possible

Ottawa is Canada’s capital, in terms of government and in terms of shawarma. We have a longstanding Lebanese community that has ran shawarma shops across the city going back several generations. So when I saw that a chicken shawarma platter was newly added to the Parliamentary Cafeteria’s rotating daily specials, I was intrigued and trepidatious.

Going down to order it today, the first thing I noticed was a heating tray of chicken breasts caked in seasoning. I guess investing in a shawarma spit that would be used every six weeks would be too much to ask for, but I thought maybe they would have shaved it off site or something.

Anyway, they sliced the chicken breast like you would a chopped steak, and then put it in a takeout container with some turnip, tabouleh salad, a small handful of pita chips, a cup of what I presume was a garlic sauce (ingredient list unclear) and a cup of humus. No pita bread on the side or a green salad, as would be traditional for a platter. Sometimes potatoes too, though I usually pass on the carbs. This is half the price (and size) of a typical shawarma platter though, so sacrifices must be made.

Bringing it upstairs with a Diet Coke, I dove in. I sampled the chicken breast on its own. A little dry. Caked in seasoning, from which I got no heat but notes of cinnamon. The ingredient list confirmed this, as well as cumin, paprika and chili powder. It was OK, but I can’t say it screamed shawarma to me. Some quick googling confirms this is traditional, though could have used more pepper. But without being toasted on a spit, it's not shawarma meat.

I dipped the chicken in the garlic sauce and the pita chips in the humus. Both were fine. I ate but didn’t care for the tabouleh salad, but I don’t care for any tabouleh salad. I get the green salad when buying a platter. I wouldn’t have gotten the turnips but wanted to show you the full offering – I ate one to confirm I still don’t like them,

I appreciate the effort, but the caf just doesn’t do well with ethic food. They do a passable Chinese food offering which I’ll have tomorrow. They used to have a gyro sandwich which I made passable by having them heat the pita on the grill – I guess not enough people knew this trick as it’s off the menu rotation. 

So if you want shawarma, leave the building, walk a block and get the real thing. In Ottawa, better shawarma is always possible.

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