Shish taouk or shish tawook (Turkish: şiş tavuk or tavuk şiş, Arabic: شيش طاووق, Hebrew: שישליק עוף, Azerbaijani: toyuq kababı) is a traditional marinated chicken kebab from Middle Eastern cuisine. It is widely popular in Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Israel and Lebanon.
Shish taouk is served in a number of fast-food kebab restaurants in Turkey as in many cities around the world.
This dish is very popular in Israel where its two most common names are: shishlik of (שישליק עוף), meaning “chicken kebab” or shipudei parguyote (שיפודי פרגיות), meaning “boneless chicken thigh kebabs”.
A similar Persian dish is called joojeh kabab.
What does shish taouk mean?
In Syro-Arabic dialects, the word shish, which comes from the Old Turkish word şiş, means “skewer”. The word comes from the root sı in Old Turkish which means “to cut”, since the food is cut before it is skewered. The word shis has been adopted in the Egyptian Arabic, Lebanese-Arabic and Syro-Arabic dialects.
The word taouk, which comes from the Old Turkish word tavuk (pronounced “tah-wouk”) means “chicken”.
How to make shish taouk
Shish taouk is made up of cubes of marinated chicken breast, that are skewered and grilled. The most traditional marinade is made of yogurt, lemon juice, spices and herbs, and sometimes tomato paste.
The chicken should be marinated for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight. The trick and the most important step in this recipe is the marinade. The key element of a marinade is its acidic ingredient. In the case of shish taouk, the lactic acid present in yogurt as well as the lemon are very effective.
It is very important to always marinate meats in the refrigerator because at room temperature and in the open air, bacteria can grow very quickly.
You should use whole, non-Greek plain yogurt because the water content of plain yogurt is higher and helps keep the chicken moist.
To marinate the meat, a glass or porcelain container is essential because metal or plastic could alter the flavor.
When cooking chicken, especially if it is grilled, do not forget to drain the pieces well, so that the marinade liquid does not drip from the grill, creating flames that could burn the meat.
It is best to use metal skewers, but, if using bamboo skewers, it is imperative to soak them in very cold water for 45 minutes. This will prevent them from burning and possibly causing wood chips to burn inside the meat.
Shish taouk should be enjoyed immediately after cooking. If there are any leftovers, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. To warm the skewers, it is best to cover them with parchment paper so that they do not dry out. They are excellent even when cold.
Chicken is the prince of white meat. It is quite healthy but it can sometimes be anything but tasty, and rather bland. If it is not breaded and fried, it is very easy to make a tender and tasty chicken breast, thanks to the marinade which, with all the appropriate advice, can turn into a real delicacy.
More frequently, chicken breast is cooked in a frying pan or on a hot griddle, more rarely on the grill, although the latter is certainly the cooking method that enhances it the most.
Regardless of the type of cooking chosen, the meat tends to dry out and become harder when cooked, which explains the choice of marinade.
What is a marinade?
The word marinade originates from the specific action of “putting in seawater”, or in brine. Brines, known since ancient times, are more or less concentrated solutions of water and salt, to which aromatic herbs can be added. They are used to preserve and flavor meat, fish, salami, cheeses and vegetables.
In the kitchen, the term marinades designates all of these preparations:
- liquid elements: wine, spirits, vinegar, lemon juice, orange juice, beer, etc.
- fatty elements, in general, extra virgin olive oil is used because of its intense flavor, but one can very well use seed oil or butter.
- aromatic elements like salt, herbs, spices, and sauces.
Meat, fish or vegetables should be immersed in this preparation before cooking or for certain recipes, for cooking itself.
These marinades are used for the purpose of:
- Giving particular organoleptic characteristics to food, enriches its flavor and aroma.
- Softening the fibers.
- Preparing food for cooking.
The different raw foods are completely immersed in the marinade. The number of hours for marinating varies according to the food and its weight, but also according to the more or less intense flavor that one wishes to obtain, so it is not easy to define and establish specific rules.
The marinade acts mainly on the surface of the meat, without going too far. For this reason, it is better to marinate small pieces of chicken rather than whole pieces.
- 1 lb chicken breast
- 8 cloves garlic , crushed
- 6 tablespoons plain yogurt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon oregano
- ½ teaspoon white pepper
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- 4 metal skewers
Cut the chicken breast into large cubes of about 1½ inch (4 cm). Set aside in a glass or porcelain bowl.
- In another bowl, add all the ingredients for the marinade and mix.
- Pour the marinade over the chicken pieces and mix so that they are completely coated with the marinade.
- Marinate the chicken for at least 2 hours (or preferably overnight) in the refrigerator.
- Once the chicken is marinated, place the pieces on metal skewers.
- Grill on a preheated barbecue over medium-high heat (about 350 F / 180˚C) for 10 to 15 minutes, turning them halfway.
- Serve on pita bread.