by Terrance Mc Arthur
Shawarma is a Middle Eastern cone of layered meat and fat, shaved off the rotating spit on street corners in the Arab world, and wrapped in a pita flatbread as one of the first fast foods. In Greece, it is known as a gyro sandwich. Anywhere, it’s good!
Where it is…is Sanger’s Shawarma Express, 628 O Street, in the storefront that once housed Peppino’s Italian Restaurant. There aren’t a lot of selections on the menu (9 and some side orders), but that’s all they really need to have.
The Pita Wraps are a good place to start on the menu. An unopened pocket bread is slathered with tahini sauce, which is made from ground sesame seeds. A mound of chopped tomatoes and cut-while-you-wait Romaine lettuce is set upon it, waiting for the arrival of the chicken, beef, or falafel. The meat is carved from the shawarma cone into a scoop/pan and cooked quickly. Once the meat is ready, it is pleasingly placed over the reds and greens and liberally squirted with a garlic sauce that will keep all vampires away from you. The overloaded pita is rolled up and cocooned in aluminum foil, awaiting your culinary pleasure.
One of the Pita Wrap options is falafel. What’s falafel? The old knock-knock joke says it’s “Falafel (full of all) sorts of good things.” To get to falafel, you start with chickpeas, what I first encountered from my Italian grandmother-in-law as garbanzo beans. (She always pronounced it “gar-BOSS-oh”.) Chickpeas, sesame seeds, lemon and garlic are ground into hummus. Not everybody likes hummus, but it’s one of the best things to come out of the Arabic world since the numeral Zero (0). Falafel is a fried hummus fritter, a spheroid of chickpeas, or…a beanball…and I like it.
The Shawarma Plates feature the beef, chicken, or falafel, with hummus, tahini sauce, tomatoes, the softest rice this side of a feather pillow, pickles, Romaine lettuce, and pita bread. Now, these pickles are not your regular, green, cucumber pickles; these are rosy-hued pickled turnips that are quite surprising, accompanied by some small-but-powerful peppers. The peppers may not be Weapons of Mass Destruction, but they would probably break several Mideast treaties.
BBQ chicken wings aren’t the first thing you think of when you think of Mediterranean food, but you should think again. These are brawny chickens who have been doing wing curls to build up their muscle mass. They are drenched in a tangy sauce that dares you to see how much of a mess you can make on your face and fingers. Hot wings are also available. After trying the pickled turnips and the peppers, I chickened out on the hot wings.
The rotisserie chicken is a mystery to me, because every time I try to order it…they’re out. As early as 1:30 in the afternoon, there is none to be had. It must be good, and if you want it, you had better get it at lunchtime.
The food is so good that we had to go back—we were having so much fun sharing the food during our first visit…that we forgot to take pictures of it! When I went back for my second order, I found, coming out of the Express, another member of our tasting crew, bag of good stuff in hand, about to introduce another friend to the wonders of shawarma!
Sanger’s Shawarma Express is at 628 O Street in Sanger. You can call (559) 875-7070, and check out their menu on their website.
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