What is shish taouk? It’s a Middle Eastern dish consisting of cubed chicken marinated in a spiced yogurt and grilled in skewers to juicy perfection. The marinade is everything, and the longer the chicken sits in the marinade, the more tender, and flavorful, the chicken is. If you like garlic and lemon, then you’re going to love shish tawouk, because unlike regular chicken kebab, shish tawouk is deliciously heavy on the garlic and lemon. The word ‘shish’ in shish kebab, and shish taouk, is probably originally Turkish and means skewer. Ideally, and for maximum flavor, shish tawook should be grilled over charcoal, or even wood, but because it’s so generously spiced and well marinated, it can be grilled over a gas grill, or even in the oven – the outcome is pretty much the same; juicy, lemony, tasty bites of chicken!
When you order shish tawouk in a Middle Eastern restaurant, it’s normally accompanied by freshly baked taboun bread, khuboz, or shrak bread. Right along its side will be a spread of side dishes that could include: the smoky eggplant mutabal, hummus, the garlic spread, toum, tabbouleh salad, , creamy tomato freekeh, yogurt, spiced olives, grilled veggies, and the now ubiquitous (and clearly non-Middle Eastern) French fries!
If you’re using wooden skewers like I did, make sure to soak them in water for several hours before you use them. The chicken can sit in the marinade anywhere from 2 hours up till 24 hours – the longer the chicken marinades in the fridge the tastier and more tender the bites are because the lemon and yogurt act as tenderizers. Just pour the yogurt spice marinade and mix everything directly in a resealable bag, add the chicken, and chill in the fridge. I added some red peppers between my chicken pieces, but that was more for the sake of the photo than anything!
Shish Tawouk Recipe
Prep Level: Easy
4 boneless chicken breasts, cut and cubed in about 2 inch pieces
1 cup plain yogurt (Greek, regular, any will do)
½ cup lemon juice
8 cloves of garlic, mashed, grated or pressed
¼ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1 teaspoon tomato paste
½ - 1 teaspoon shatta (red chilis paste) or ¼ teaspoon cayenne powder
½ teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon oregano leaves
½ teaspoon cardamom (can be left out if you don’t have any)
½ teaspoon cumin powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon coriander
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
You’re going to need about 4-6 metal skewers or about 8-10 mini wood skewers. Soak the wooden/bamboo skewers in water for at least 2 hours (if) using wood instead of metal skewers. In a resealable food bag, or Tupperware, place everything but the chicken. Stir everything around with a spoon or whisk to make sure that the ingredients are well combined. Add the chicken cubes and leave in the marinade to chill in the fridge up to 24 hours. Spear the chicken
on the skewers, lightly oil the grill grate, and heat the grill (I have a gas grill) to medium high. Once heated, lower the heat to medium and add the shish taouk skewers uncovered for 3 minutes and then close the hood for another 3 minutes. Flip the chicken shish on the other side and cook for another 2-3 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through but not dried out! Alternatively, you can cook the shish chicken tawouk (with, or without) skewers in an oven. Heated the oven at 380F. Brush a baking sheet with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Place the chicken and cook for about 20 minutes or until slightly golden and cooked.