The word tawook comes from the Turkish work for chicken, thus shish tawook is skewered chicken. But shish tawook has become many representations throughout the Middle East. In Lebanon, the garlic sauce used on this dish sets it apart.
In Lebanese, this sauce is known as toum and is similar to the aÏoli from Provence, but those familiar with Duke's mayonnaise know how diverse stable oil emulsions are.
Toum, known in some places as à l'ail libanaise, is a light, fluffy, lemony sauce made pungent with fresh garlic — lots of garlic. Toum has a more delicate texture and consistency than Greek yogurt or sour cream and may also be found on mezzas (a bevy of small plates) as an additional spread for bread.
The problem with toum is most recipes (including those I have tried from my extensive Lebanese cookbook collection) are not accurate. Not one tastes authentic. Additionally, many restaurants and fast casual eateries that serve shish tawook do not serve Lebanese toum. Instead, the sauce, a variation of a garlic sauce, will be in the culinary traditions of the proprietor.
Charlotte has one establishment that makes a Lebanese toum. The Kabob Grill, 1235 East Blvd., in Dilworth, serves their toum slathered on a pita filled with grilled chicken, lettuce, onions and pickles ($7). The Kabob Grill toum has the taste of that elusive sauce slathered on hot char-grilled chicken found in sidewalk cafes of downtown Beirut.
Looking for a food you can't find? Or do you know of other food items unique to the Q.C.? Whether it's regional foods or international, talk to me: firstname.lastname@example.org or 704-522-8334, extension 136.
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