Many people tend to assume that the gyro and shawarma are basically the same sandwich. It doesn’t help, of course, that they look very much alike. The only thing they have in common are that the doner kebab is where they both originate from. (The doner kebab is a Turkish sliced meat dish that’s cooked on a vertical rotisserie.)
So, What Is A Gyro?
First things first, let’s establish pronunciation. It’s not /jai-row/. It’s not /jee-row/. Are you ready?
That’s because the dish is Greek! Traditionally, it’s made with pork though chicken is just as common. Meat slices are stacked on a spit. For American gyros, on the other hand, they’re essentially a loaf made up of lamb and ground beef.
The standard assembly is much the same as most well-known sandwiches. A gyro gets its meat combined with tomatoes, lettuce, onions and a sauce on bread. However, the sauce-also referred to as the dressing-and bread for gyros is particular. Bread-wise, everything is served in a warm pita wrap.
The sauce is Greek, called tzatziki, made with fresh yogurt and dill.
All of that said, the way of prepping and cooking the protein is what makes the gyro so striking. It initially rose to popularity back in the 1970s, thanks to New York City’s growing population of Greeks. As previously mentioned, the traditional means of cooking its meats are upright and piled on a rotisserie spit. The meat is usually flavored with the use of Greek seasonings such as thyme, oregano and rosemary. As the vertical skewer rotates, the “meat cone” then gets a good, crisp sear outside. Each sandwich then ends up with meat that’s sliced thinly.
Today, there are a wide range of gyro variations that can be tried. For vegans or vegetarians, some places even offer a veggie option, which has no meat. While meat plays a major role in gyros, it’s possible to get the gyro experience still thanks to the signature tzatziki sauce.
Like mentioned above, shawarma is also made with meat cooked on a rotisserie that’s vertical. It comes from the Middle East. “Shawarma” is from a Turkish word, çevirme, which translates to “turning” in English. Traditional means for protein were mutton or lamb. In today’s modern times, veal and chicken can also be used. Aside from the usual fixings of onions, lettuce and tomatoes, shawarma also have pickled fruits and veggies.
It dates back to tacos al pastor, which is a Mexican dish comprised of pork that’s spit-grilled. Lebanese immigrants likely brought it to Mexico. It’s largely a hybrid/fusion situation; pork goes on vertical rotisserie instead of lamb. Afterwards, they end up marinated in a red chili sauce. Cooking them up then leads to getting served as tacos al pastor.
Today, shawarma is generally served similar to a burrito. A warm pita enscones the fixings and meat (lamb, pork, beef or chicken).
Many people have a tendency to think that the terms gyro and shawarma are interchangeable. Those are actually two different sandwiches. A key difference is the flavor brought on by gyro’s tzatziki sauce.
Looking for a gyro spot? Check out George’s Gyro Spot today! We’re a restaurant in Chesterton, Indiana that serves gyros, polish dogs, Chicago dogs and more.