There’s a hugely popular Lebanese restaurant in Vegas…called Alibaba.When me and P shifted to Vegas, we used to eat out a lot..yes yes that honeymoon period just after the wedding In those days we did not have a car and we used to commute either by buses or cabs out here.Okay the time I am not talking about is not too long back…just 1 year back.Anyways, on one of those cab rides, one of the drivers told us about this Lebanese restaurant & added that it is the restaurant where he has dropped off maximum number of tourists since the time he’s been working. Okay I m sure 80% of the Vegas drivers would be dropping off tourists to casinos & restaurants coz people come here to gamble,drink and eat…what’s the big deal I thought !But this Lebanese restaurant is off the strip, that’s why the cabbie’s words caught our attention.
Hearing that and with a vague idea of mediterranean cuisine and no idea of Lebanese food, we went to this restaurant one day, thinking that if menu will seem all dutch, we will just have some soup, come back and have instant dal – chawaal [Lentils & rice] at home!!However, to cut the long story short, the food was not at all a disappointment and we had a proper dinner with appetizers,main course & dessert! I ordered Shish Taouk for appetizers that day and since then, every now & then I crave it.
In arabic, Shish means a skewer and taouk is grilled chicken.There are many versions of the grilled chicken in middle eastern cuisine but the shish taouk is mainly forms a part of Syrian & Lebanese cuisine. Read more about it here.I dont claim that I m making a authentic dish, I have slightly twisted the recipes I found on internet to suit our palate….the end result….as P said…I can start supplying to Alibaba!!!
These are basically grilled,succulent & garlicky chicken morsels with a hint of mustard and lime juice…tasty and quite addictive actually along with the Toum dipping sauce.These look very similar to indian murgh malai tikka but are totally different in taste and texture.Mainly eaten as an appetizer, however I sometimes like to pair them up with red onion raita and serve these over a bed of plain white rice as the main meal.Toum sauce is a garlic sauce with egg whites & lemon reducing the pungency of garlic.It tastes great with the skewers as a dipping.Though I found many recipes on the internet with everybody having their own variation,I have adapted the recipes for shish taouk from here and Toum sauce from here.I did not use raw egg whites as outlined in the toum recipe and subsituted it with mayo.I used some tomato paste and more quantity of peppers for added flavor in the marinade of shish taouk.Addition of nutmeg is a result of my indian palate…though I feel it can be avoided completely!
Shish Taouk [Recipe serves 2]
- 3 chicken breasts, skinless, cubed
- Oil for brushing
- Cubed red bell peppers, onions, mushrooms etc [optional]
For the marinade:
- 2 tbsp thick /hung yogurt, preferably sour
- 5-6 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp mustard paste [I used homemade, can be substituted with Dijon or any store-bought variety]
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tsp tomato paste
- White[or black] pepper powder to taste
- 1 tbsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- Salt to taste
- Mix all the ingredients of the marinade to form a thick paste.
- Marinate the chicken and bell pepper cubes in the marinade, cover with plastic and let it sit for at least 8 hours or overnight.
- If using bamboo skewers ,soak them in water for about 2 hours.
- Skew the marinated chicken and bell pepper cubes on the soaked bamboo /metal skewers and brush some oil on these.
- Grill on medium heat till chicken is tender and slightly charred.
- 2 garlic cloves, grated
- 4 tbsp mayonnaise
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 2 green chillies,finely chopped
- 1 tsp honey [my variation]
- Salt to taste
Mix all the above ingredients and serve alongside the Shish Taouk as a dipping sauce.
Note: I think paneer [indian cottage cheese]will really taste good in this marination…being a Delhi walla ..I cant stop thinking about paneer!!