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Salsi shawarma

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Salsi shawarma
Salsi shawarma.jpg
Beef salsi shawarma
Alternative names Sa l si sha wa(r) ma, Salsipuedes-style shawarma, Salsi hot box, Heart tickers
Type Rice dish
Course Entreé
Place of origin Sierra
Region or state Salsipuedes, Pacífico Norte, Sierra
Associated national cuisine Sierran cuisine
Invented 1950s
Serving temperature Hot
Main ingredients Meat: Chicken, beef, lamb, turkey, pork
Plate: Rice, pita, hummus, pico de gallo, cheese, pickles, and garlic mayonnaise
Variations Salsi wrap
Food energy
(per 4 serving)
2200 kcal (9211 kJ)
Similar dishes Al pastor, shawarma
Other information Official dish of Pacífico Norte
Cookbook:Salsi shawarma
Salsi shawarma, or Salsi hot box (Sierran Hanzi: 薩爾斯沙威瑪; Spanish: Shawarma salispuediense, Arabic: الشاورما سالسي / shāwarmā sālsi) is a Sierran rice dish that is a variant of hot box that developed in Salsipuedes, Pacífico Norte. It is recognized as a cross-cultural product of Mexican, Lebanese, and Sierran cuisines. Like other hot boxes, it is a dish using rice as the primary base that is mixed with other ingredients, and that is a common take-out item. Salsi shawarma is prepared with a bed of rice, topped with a layer of shawarma meat (typically chicken or beef) carved off a vertical spit, and garnished with dill pickles, pico de gallo, and shredded Monterey Jack and cheddar cheese. It has traditionally been accompanied and served with pita, hummus, garlic mayonnaise, and fries or batata harra at fast food establishments.

One of the most iconic and internationally known Sierran dishes, the dish was originally developed and eaten in the Northern Pacifican city of Salsipuedes in the early 1950s by Lebanese immigrants to the Los Pacíficos, before its popularity spread across the border, into mainland Sierra, becoming a prominent fast food dish. In Sierra, it is typically sold at greasy spoon diners, Middle Eastern restaurants, and to a lesser extent, Mexican restaurants due to its dual influences and origin. Like other hot boxes, salsi shawarma is traditionally packaged in styrofoam containers, and is known for its high calorie and fat count (a commercial, medium-sized plate of Salsi shawarma contains 2,200 calories, 75 grams of fat, 1,500 milligrams of salt, and 120 milligrams of sugar. Due to the health concerns raised from frequent consumption of Salsi shawarma, the dish has gained the derisive nickname as the "heart ticker". Health-conscious versions of the salsi shawarma has been developed, including vegetarian or vegan variations. National food chains including Richie's Hot Boxes, Del Toro, Il Tesoro di Sofia, and Fifi's sell mass-produced, commercial salsi shawarma.


There has been dispute on who created the original shawarma cooked in the "Salsipuedes-style", but it was agreed upon that the dish was created independently by different owners and vendors of Levantine descent, in the cities of Salsipuedes, Ensenada, and Tijuana. A popular origin story attributes the creation to restauranteur Farid Hakim, a Lebanese immigrant who opened his restaurant in Salsipuedes in 1952. On day, disappointed with customer turnout, in attempt to attract the native Mexican community, he promoted shawarma dishes which included salsa, beans, and cheese, and wrapped them into rolls similar to döner kebab using pita. Other restaurants have claimed to be the original inventor of the Salsi shawarma, with some Mexican restaurants selling shawarma using pork carnitas. There are some notable differences between historical Salsi shawarma and the modern version. The original shawarma was not eaten with rice, but was instead, eaten in the traditional roll. In addition, the cheese utilized in Salsipuedes and other towns was white cheese, usually with queso fresco, cotija, or Oaxaca, as opposed to the yellow cheeses favored in the North. Mexican herbs were also heavily incorporated, including epazote, cilantro, and oregano. Although most Lebanese immigrants are Christians who do not observe Islamic dietary laws, pork shawarma is virtually non-existent within Middle Eastern establishments, and primarily sold at some Mexican stores as al pastor.

During the 1960s, Los Pacíficos became an attractive, popular tourist destination for Sierrans, especially those nearby in the Southwest Corridor. Exposure to salsi shawarma led to its adoption back up north, and various restaurants began carrying menus with the dish in order to capitalize on its emerging popularity. The modern "hot box" variation of the Salsi shawarma was first sold at a family-owned business in Santa Monica which substituted the pita roll for a serving size of rice. Packaged into a styrofoam container, this seemingly convenient repurposing of the dish coincided with the rise of similar hot box-dishes, and the Salsi shawarma version's prevalence in Sierran eateries skyrocketed.

Recipe and ingredients

The basic recipe for Salsi shawarma calls for rice (usually Spanish rice), shawarma-prepared meat, cheese, and pico de gallo salsa. Traditional Salsi shawarma demands the following ingredients:

  • Rice: The base of the dish. The rice is generally rendered as Spanish rice which involves sautéing the rice in a skillet, along with chicken broth, chopped onions, tomatoes, and seasoning. The primary cultivars used are either basmati or jasmine, the two main rices used in Sierra. Other variations forgo cooking the rice as Spanish rice, and use Middle Eastern cultivars to achieve a taste closer to Levantine cooking.
  • Shawarma: Prepared by stacking strips of pre-seasoned meat on a vertically-oriented spit. The spit is placed over a heated plate which cooks the meat evenly (similar to a rotisserie). After thorough cooking, the meat is shaved off the spit with a large knife, and the droppings are collected below on the disk plate. The two most common meat used for the shawarma is chicken or beef, although the latter can be substituted with carne asada.
  • Cheese: In most commercial establishments, the choice of cheese is often a blended mix of Monterey Jack, cheddar, and parmesan. Traditional interpretations closer to the originally created Salsi shawarma use Mexican cheeses such as cojita or queso fresco.

In addition to the main ingredients, shawarma is accompanied with a large slice of pita, hummus, garlic mayonnaise, and fried potatoes (in the form of French fries or batata harra). Thinly sliced dill pickles, pickled radishes, or rhubarb may also be eaten. Sumac and other spices may be added onto the rice as well. Typically, the recommended way to eat the Salsi shawarma is to tear a piece of the pita and use it as a wrap. With the pita, one would clamp a chunk of meat and rice, before dipping the wrapped contents into the hummus or mayonnaise. After being sauced, the piece is ready to be eaten. Once one finishes the pita (as typically only one large pita would be offered), traditionally, one would mix the remaining hummus into the Salsi shawarma for enhanced flavor.


There are several variations of Salsi shawarma, most of which involve the inclusion of ingredients like sliced avocado, corn, beans, or onion. Some restaurants replace the rice with marinated noodles, while others omit the cheeses. Salsi wraps are essentially burritos or tacos made with either tortilla (flour or corn) or pita that incorporate the main ingredients of Salsi shawarma. Salsi wraps typically infuse special hummus and garlic mayonnaise sauce into the wraps. Homemade Salsi shawarmas tend to be simpler and of smaller portions, and may consist of simply rice and shawarma meat.

Because Salsi shawarma is known for its high caloric, fat, and sodium count based on its ingredients and how it is prepared, healthier versions for the Salsi shawarma have been developed. Generally, one of the primary changes are the following: the rice is substituted with brown rice, the pita with whole grain, the cheese replaced with feta, and the meat is replaced with leaner cuts of shawarma (usually turkey), or with imitation meat. On the complete opposite side of the spectrum, the Cardio-Killer Grill has developed the "Saucy shawarma" which is essentially a standard Salsi shawarma smothered in layers of molten cheese and various sauces, adding up to a total of 5,500 calories.

In 2015, food snacks company Gold Mount created Salsi shawarma-flavored potato chips and senbei on a test-trial run, along with several other "Sierran" flavors with the intention of permanently producing the flavored snack that received the most votes from its online survey. The Salsi shawarma version of Gold Mount's products was narrowly defeated by the potsticker flavor, and consequently, production of the Salsi shawarma snacks were discontinued in early 2016. The cancellation attracted widespread media attention, with many fans creating a petition to force the company to resume production of the flavor due to its popularity. In April 2017, Gold Mount announced that it would resume production of the flavored chips, and the first chips returned to supermarket stores on April 19.

Similar dishes

Comparison of common ingredients used in Salsi shawarma and other popular hot boxes
Rice Noodles Bread Chicken Beef Lamb Fish Pork Cheese Eggs
Salsi shawarma Yes Depends Yes; pita Yes Yes Yes No Rarely Yes No
Drums and rice Yes No Yes; biscuits Yes No No No No Depends Depends
Hot dog rice Yes No No Depends Yes No No Yes Depends Depends
Bangers and mash Yes No No Depends Depends No No Yes No No
Pacific plate Yes Depends No No No No Yes No No No
Yangzhou Yes No No Yes Depends No Rarely Yes No Yes
Del Mar Supreme Depends Yes No Yes Yes Depends Depends Depends Rarely Yes
Dessiné Yes No No Yes Yes No Depends Yes Depends Rarely
Comparison of common ingredients used in Salsi shawarma and other popular hot boxes (cont.)
Potato Onion Avocado Tomato Lettuce Corn Beans Broccoli Carrots
Salsi shawarma Yes; as a side Depends Rarely Yes; as salsa Rarely No No No No
Drums and rice Yes; as a side Depends No Yes; as ketchup No No No No No
Hot dog rice No No No Yes; as ketchup No No No No No
Bangers and mash Yes; as mashed potato Depends No No No Depends Rarely No No
Pacific plate Rarely Yes Yes Depends Depends Depends Depends Yes Depends
Yangzhou No Yes No No Yes Depends No Depends Yes
Del Mar Supreme Rarely Yes Rarely Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Dessiné No Yes Depends Yes No Yes Yes No Yes
As a hot box, Salsi shawarma shares many similarities with other popular dishes in Sierra which are prepared and eaten in a similar fashion. Hot boxes such as drums and rice, Pacific plates, and Yangzhou hot box all use rice extensively, and incorporate some form of meat, and will typically include a number of other ingredients ranging from cheese to legumes. All fast food hot boxes are served in styrofoam containers, and commonly accompanied with complementary side dishes.

In Australia, a very similar dish known as the halal snack pack, is a dish prepared with döner kebab meat, fries (chips), and sauces. Like Salsi shawarma, the halal snack pack is typically served as a takeaway dish in styrofoam boxes, and traces culinary origins back to the Middle East.

In the Netherlands, kapsalon is a dish that uses shawarma meat with fries, and Gouda cheese, and salad greens, bearing close resemblances and concepts to the Salsi shawarma.

Cultural significance

The Salsi shawarma is a perfect illustration of the unity and diversity Sierrans share as a people, who come together from all walks of life to create something wonderful for all humanity to enjoy. What started off as traditional dishes from Arab and Mexican cooking bloomed a dish that was a unique, new take that speaks boldly of the adventurous and open innovation of the Sierran people. Salsi shawarma is quintessentially Sierran.

Naomi Rhee, K.S. Minister of Culture (2008–16)

The Salsi shawarma has been strongly hailed as a symbol of Sierra's multiculturalism, and cosmopolitan status in the international world of culture and cuisine. In 2011, former Minister of Culture Naomi Rhee declared the Salsi shawarma as an official national dish, calling it "quintessentially Sierran".

The popularity of Salsi shawarma has led to its export abroad as a Sierran dish, where it is served in restaurants throughout the world, and is a common fast food dish in other parts of Anglo-America. Salsi shawarma has earned itself a fixture in Sierran culture, and frequently appears in Hollywood films, television, music, books, and other forms of media. It has often been described as the Sierran equivalent to England's fish and chips or Italy's pizza, as a ubiquitously Sierran invention.

During the 2016 prime ministerial election, comedian Jared Savage ran a mock campaign as Prince Salsi al-Shawarma, the lead character of the upcoming film, The Prince of Bakabastan, as a promotion, and delivered free Salsi shawarma boxes to needy families throughout the "campaign". The film and character lampoons a Middle Eastern country (Bakabastan) under the despotic rule of the House of Shawarma (headed by the Emir), which includes the Emir's incompetent son, the Prince.

Salsi shawarma was the source of controversy during the 2016 prime ministerial campaign of Remove Kebab candidate Trevor XI, a far-right, anti-immigrant nationalist. Trevor XI declared the dish a "degenerate form of multiculturalism", and suggested his followers to abstain from eating the dish, and to boycott any restaurants which sold them. He later apologized for his statements following fierce backlash from even his own supporters, and admitted, "It actually tastes quite good, I tried it myself." K.S. Senator from San Joaquin Nemesis Heartwell made similar remarks regarding her unfamiliarity with salsi shawarma, and rebuffed her critics by expressing her apathy towards the dish.

Nutrition and health issues

Due to the inclusion of meat, rice, cheeses, and assorted vegetables, Salsi shawarma is high in proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. However, like most hot boxes, Salsi shawarmas are often prepared and meant to be eaten in large portions, and eaten as a takeout dish from fast food restaurants, which often add a high amount of sodium and preservatives. Depending on the source of meat and cheeses, the dish is also high in fat and cholesterol. Frequent consumption of Salsi shawarma carries considerable amounts of health risks, leading to higher prevalence of cardiovascular problems, stomach and intestinal cancer, obesity, high blood pressure, and other issues. The Sierran Doctors and Physicians' Association released a 2012 study recommending limiting intake of takeout Salsi shawarma, using or requesting leaner meats, substituting white rice with brown rice or whole grains, and eating much smaller portions than the traditional sizes offered at restaurants.


Under Jewish kosher (Hebrew: כַּשְׁרוּת‎‎; kashrut) laws, traditional Salsi shawarma violates the rule forbidding the consumption of mixtures of milk and meat (Hebrew: הלכה‎‎; halakha). Although dairy-less or meatless shawarmas are acceptable, in the case of the former (wherein the meat is retained), the meat used may not necessarily been prepared with shechita (Hebrew: שחיטה‎), and thus, may not have received hechsher accreditation (Hebrew: תעודת כשרות).

Despite being a food of predominantly Arabic origin, Salsi shawarma was primarily linked with the Lebanese Mexican community, who were overwhelmingly Maronite Christians, who did not observe Islamic dietary laws or customs. Since most meat used in Salsi shawarma at the time, was sourced from Mexican butcheries (who were generally Catholic), the meat was harām (Arabic: حَرَام) as it was not prepared using the dhabīḥah (Arabic: ذَبِيْحَة), and unsuitable for eating for those who observe the religious laws. As the extent of Salsi shawarma expanded to other parts of the country (leading to higher production and consumption), meat continued to be obtained from secular sources. Although many Middle Eastern restaurants which have included the dish today use only halāl meat, (Arabic: حلال‎‎ ḥalāl), observant Muslims must be careful when going to an establishment that serves Salsi shawarma, as the dish prepared may or may not use halal meat, or clarify its status.

In Canaanite tradition, Salsi shawarma violates a number of Canaanite dietary laws. Practitioners are forbidden from consuming or touching rice, as it is kâmajta (Serran: Serran H.svgSerran A.svgSerran M.svgSerran J.svgSerran T.svgSerran A.svg, lit. disgusting), and may not eat any form of poultry or meat that has not been blessed by a priest (who must also extract a portion of the slaughtered animal's blood for sacrifice). In addition, Canaanites may not consume any grains (in this case, the wheat in the pita) which has not been grown on itamdabok (Serran: Serran I.svgSerran T.svgSerran A.svgSerran M.svgSerran D.svgSerran A.svgSerran B.svgSerran O.svgSerran K.svg, lit. homeland), or consecrated plots of land "blessed" by priests. Another violation in Canaanite law is danepto (Serran: Serran D.svgSerran A.svgSerran N.svgSerran E.svgSerran P.svgSerran T.svgSerran O.svg) which requires that all vegetables must be blanched, which applies to the shawarma's use of pico de gallo (which contains fresh, and non-blanched onions and tomatoes, the latter of which is considered a vegetable in Canaanite tradition).

See also