Ottawa To Become Shawarma Capital Of Canada?

Sounds crazy – if you’re not from here. But an Ottawa city councillor has introduced a motion that would see Canada’s capital officially declared ‘Shawarma Capital of Canada’. And, as a proud Ottawan, I concur heartily!

Shawarma Skewers - © 2024 - CTV NewsShawarma meat skewers: Roasting vertically at Really Lebanese Food in Ottawa

I admit it… This post is little more than a self-indulgent exercise in navel gazing. But I had to do it! I’m proud of my city, and I’m especially proud of, and grateful for its cultural and culinary diversity. I don’t think there is another more diverse city this size in North America!

What’s going on…?

An Ottawa City Councillor has proposed a measure to officially declare the city ‘The Shawarms Capital of Canada’. There’s plenty of justification for that move. Ottawa – a city of barely 1 million, spread over 1,077 sq. mi. / 2,789 sq. km – is home to more than 200 Shawarma restaurants (and counting). And the Middle Eastern wrap has become a go-to lunch or supper for a huge proportion of the population – of all cultural backgrounds.

What’s a Shawarma?

C’mon… You really didn’t know? Been on an expedition in the deepest depths of the Amazon jungle? Just kidding. Statistically, there will be some folks who won’t know what a Shawarma is. And I don’t want to go further with this post without offering a brief definition.

It’s a large, thin flour flatbread, rolled around a combination of chicken, Beef or lamb (traditional), topped with Pickled Turnip, Red Onions, Tomato and Lettuce. You’ll also get either a Yogurt or Tahini sauce. Other ingredients may be added or available, depending on which specific Levantine cuisine you’re ordering: Lebanese, Jordanian, Syrian, Turkish… Or wherever. Folks from across the Middle East have opened Shawarma shops in Ottawa!

The meat is roasted on a vertical rotisserie spit, and shaved of as the outside of the stack sizzles to a crispy golden brown.

The dish was originated by the Ottomans in the 19th Century, in the form of Döner Kebabs. That dish is still a regional favourite today. It led to the development of the Shawarma, proper. And the Shawarma, in turn, was the inspiration for Greek Gyros.

Ottawa is truly cosmopolitan

One of the two Lebanese brothers who operate my neighbourhood go-to Shawarma joint told me that Ottawa has more Shawarma restaurants than Beirut!

That’s stark, graphic proof that my city deserves the designation ‘Shawarma Capital’.

Ottawa Councillor Laura Dudas said, pitching her idea to city lawmakers: “Ottawa’s Shawarma industry is a major employer and economic driver. […] Ottawa’s Shawarma is unquestionably the best in Canada. Ottawa’s Shawarma is the great uniter, bringing together Ottawa residents from all backgrounds, whether rural or urban, east or west”.

“Shawarma leftovers are a perfectly acceptable breakfast, and lunch, and likely also another dinner,” she added.

Mayor Mark Sutcliffe supports the motion, calling Ottawa a, “shawarma hotbed.”

The motion to officially declare Ottawa ‘Shawarma Capital of Canada’ comes up for final approval at the next city council meeting. Indications are, it’ll pass unanimously..

Maggie J.