This Is What Really Separates A Gyro And A Shawarma

Middle Eastern food is definitely having a moment. An article in The National (an English-language news publication out of the United Arab Emirates) notes the fact that high-end Middle Eastern restaurants have been opening throughout Europe and North America in recent years and cheered the fact that this long-neglected cuisine is finally getting the attention it so deserves.

In some U.S. cities with a large Middle Eastern immigrant population, however, more moderately-priced Middle Eastern food has been known and loved for years, readily available from the neighborhood gyro stand. While these budget-price carryouts, of course, feature gyros prominently on the menu, they may also offer something called shawarma. Both of these dishes appear similar, which can lead to a little confusion among the uninitiated — perhaps something similar to the embarrassment you might feel in an Italian deli when you realize you're not quite sure which one's the calzone and which is the stromboli. In order to help you avoid being shamed by street food cognoscenti, we present the following guide to knowing your Middle Eastern sandwiches.

Gyros and shawarmas explained

From the Grapevine informs us that both gyro and shawarma are derived from yet another sandwich, the Turkish Doner Kebab. One main difference with the two lies in their origins. The gyro is actually more Mediterranean than Middle Eastern, as it originates in Greece. The shawarma, on the other hand, is harder to pin down, although Difference Between says it is Arabic and comes from the Levant (an Eastern Mediterranean region of Western Asia). While that is all very interesting, should you be a culinary ethnographer, if you're just a hungry person trying to make up your mind on what to order, you're probably more interested in what makes the gyro taste different from the shawarma and vice-versa.

Both may be served on pita bread, are meat-based, and often are accompanied by fries. Gyros typically are made with lamb, beef, or pork, while shawarmas may be made from lamb, chicken, or turkey. The primary differences, however, lie in the preparation and garnishes. Gyro meat is ground and shaved and cooked with marjoram, oregano, rosemary, and thyme. It's then topped with tomatoes, onions, and tzatziki sauce. Shawarma meat is cut into chunks and seasoned with cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and turmeric. It may be garnished with fattoush, tabbouleh, tahini, or even pickled mangoes. Does that clear things up for you? Even if you're still a bit confused, no matter. Just order either, or both, and you're bound to be satisfied since they're equally delicious.