Durbanites avoid shawarmas after alleged food poisoning – but you can still make your own at home

Durbanites avoid shawarmas after alleged food poisoning - but you can still make your own at home

If you like juicy, tender and well-seasoned meat, then you are in for a real treat because whether you are looking for a tasty lunch, a delicious dinner or a late-night snack, you can’t go wrong with a shawarma.

Shawarma is made from marinated meat that has been slow-roasted on a vertical spit for many hours. The meat can be anything from lamb, beef, or chicken to goat, turkey, or a combination of any of these.

Once cooked, the meat is carved off into thin, wide strips and stuffed inside a flatbread along with a variety of vegetables, such as lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, onion, pickles, and parsley.

Condiments can range from garlic yoghurt to hummus to chilli and pickled mango sauce, and while the type of bread used will vary depending upon where you are, pita is the most popular in South Africa.

Shawarma. Picture: Pexels/Rdne Stock Project

With all its deliciousness, it has recently received a bad reputation with Durban foodies. This comes after several reports that the dish is not of high quality at some restaurants, leading to consumers getting sick.

Recently, Independent Newspapers reported on Shawarma Max located at Midway Crossing in Ntuzuma in Durban, which has allegedly sent 70 people to the KwaMashu Poly Clinic for food poisoning.

eThekwini spokesperson Gugu Sisilana told the media company: “The health department is aware of the alleged food poisoning incident. A team of environmental health practitioners has been dispatched as a matter of urgency and an investigation is continuing.

“The department is taking this incident very seriously and any contraventions to the law will be dealt with severely.”

The manager at the eatery as well as the business owner blamed the eThekwini Water and Sanitation unit for the illness.

When the devastating news broke, social media was abuzz with many noting that they would not be consuming the dish any more and also pleading with many others to follow suit.

If you are a fan of shawarma, you can still make it at home with this easy-to-follow recipe courtesy of Sabrina Ghayour.

Ultimate chicken shawarmas. Picture: Kris Kirkham

Ultimate chicken shawarmas


600g boneless, skinless chicken thigh fillets

1 tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp cayenne pepper

4 fat garlic cloves, crushed finely grated

Zest of 1 unwaxed lemon

Juice of ½ lemon

4 tbs Greek yoghurt

Olive oil

Maldon sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

To serve

6-8 round flatbreads of your choosing (or use pitas)

200g Greek yoghurt

4 large tomatoes, sliced, then each slice cut in half

1 large red onion, halved and finely sliced into half-moons

1 small bunch (about 30g) of fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Gherkins or cucumbers in brine (as many as you like), finely sliced


Place the chicken thigh fillets in a bowl. Add the spices, garlic, lemon zest and juice, yoghurt, a good drizzle of olive oil (about 2 tbs), and a generous amount of salt and black pepper.

Using your hands, work the marinade into the chicken, ensuring it is mixed evenly and coats every exposed part of all the fillets.

Cover the bowl with cling film and marinate for at least 30 minutes or overnight in the refrigerator.

Drizzle a little olive oil into a large frying pan set over medium heat.

When the oil is hot, add the chicken – reduce the heat if the thighs begin to cook too quickly.

Fry gently for 10-12 minutes on each side, or until the thighs have a nice, deep golden brown crust and are cooked through.

When done, remove and cut the thighs width-wise very thinly.

To serve, lay a flatbread on your work surface.

Spread Greek yoghurt across the surface.

Place a line of tomato half-moons down the middle.

Stack some shredded chicken over this, then follow with the onion, coriander, and a few slices of pickled cucumbers.

Fold up the bottom of the flatbread, then fold over the sides to enclose the filling as tightly as possible. Repeat with the remaining flatbreads and filling.

To make eating the shawarmas a little easier, wrap the base with some doubled-up baking paper or a square of kitchen foil, to hold the juices in.