We have all come to know and love the shawarma. If we had it our way, we would probably nominate is as the national streetfood of Saudi Arabia. But have we ever seen how it’s made in the first place? Shawarmasters, one of the local food chains of shawarma in the city, invited us for a tour of their spic-and-span kitchen and told us all about how they prep their scrumptious sandwiches.
Their main kitchen is a bit far from Riyadh’s center, located at the Rawdah district but J and I hauled the distance to satisfy our curiosity. We’ve never been invited to a shawarma kitchen before and we adore shawarmas to a respectable extent, so no qualms for the long travel from us (FYI, the drive took about 40 minutes).
We arrived at their restaurant branch in Rawdah and their manager, Mr. Mohammad Aldajani welcomed us in. Our first order of business was a tour of their kitchens. He took us to where their staff ensures their sanitation first by washing their hands, wearing their gloves, hair nets and proper working shoes.
After each employee finishes up with all the accoutrements, we proceeded to the freezer room first for Mr. Mohammad to show us the ingredients and marinated meats that they have prepared and stored. All the meats were labeled accordingly and prepped daily. Since this was their main kitchen, all the other branches around Riyadh receives their supplies from here.
They also house their fresh produce here along with their dry ingredients which has a separate room.
Now along the halls of the kitchen are separate preparation rooms. Each of them were color-coded to identify which ingredient is being prepared there. For example, there is a specific room wherein only produce and vegetables are sliced and diced and the color code for that room is green. For preps of chicken, spicy chicken and laham (meat) are individual rooms and colors as well. This ensures that none of the ingredients have any contact with each other to avoid any harmful contamination.
Now from the prep kitchens, we finally reached where the large skewers of shawarma were in place and facing the hot flames. They had three signature flavors for the shawarmas: Spicy Chicken, Regular Chicken and Meat.
They also have four types of bread that you could choose from to form your shawarma sandwich. The usual khubus in either white or brown; one in the Saji bread (a soft, white, tortilla-like bread); and the Master Bread – a bun type of which they say is of their own creation.
We watched how they prepped our sandwiches from the grill until it reaches the counter. They had ample staff assigned to each station for the slicing of the meat, the addition of toppings, the re-heating in the panini press and then the wrapping and packaging to give back to the customer.
Unfortunately, we could not enjoy their shawarmas inside their restaurants as their dine-in area is exclusive only for men so we ended up taking home their best sellers and tasting them at home. Actually, we took a bite out of them while at the car and we found them pretty good. They were well-seasoned (not dry) and I especially liked their khubus bread. When I got home, I tasted the Spicy Chicken Master (the sandwich using the Master Bread bun) and found it delicious as well. It was aptly spiced and the french fries were also carrying a bit of seasoning on them.
Shawarmasters have other branches in Oruba Rd. and Suleimaniya in case you were wondering if you have to travel to Rawdah to get a taste. Nevertheless, it was a good experience to see the behind the scenes of the shawarma prep and to enjoy one afterwards is just the cherry on top!