This are not exactly sandwiches, they are "rolls", but anyway... I'm from Romania a country that was heavily by the ottoman empire in the middle ages and greeks in antiquity. The most popular street food in our country is Shaworma. It usually contains the following:

  1. very very very thin flat bread(called "lipie libaneza", in english: "Lebanese pita bread"), which is no more than 1 milimeter thick.
  2. Fried potatoes(usually french fries, but they fry them round somethimes)
  3. Meat(since it is a dish from islamic countries, it is not made with pork, but we in Romania make it with pork sometimes)
  4. Toppings(Usually, diced tomato, raw onion, pickles)
  5. Sauces(Usually ketchup, mustard, mayonese)

Now, before I ask the question I want it is worth mentioning the similar dishes from Middle east that share a common ancestor. Greek Gyros(similar, but with tzatikki and a thicker pita bread) , Kebab(done in a flatbread that is plied in half), Doner, etc. I eat all of them and they all share the toppings(potato, tomato, onion, pickles...)

Now my question, is if you know what did they put in the bread besides meat at the origins, since tomatoes, potatoes weren't avalaible to Eurasia until Columbus, so they couldn't put french fires, tomatoes, ketchup. They must have had a recipe that is forgotten, because meat, onion, pickles and mayo aren't enough to create such wonderful dishes.

  • Hi, your question is based on the assumption that somehow, a food must have a single origin with a "typical" recipe - but for pretty much any food, this is not the case. As you can see in our help center, making a question about history doesn't make it on-topic, if it would have been closed without the history angle.
    – rumtscho
    Feb 4, 2023 at 17:33
  • I say that modern ingredients used in this dish weren't available for Eurasians Columbus. So I'm asking what they used to use before this. Feb 4, 2023 at 19:28
  • Actually, the answer to that - just the same as 'indian curry' - is 'whatever they did have at the time'. They didn't miss those ingredients because they weren't yet "invented" so no-one [here] had ever tasted them.
    – Tetsujin
    Feb 4, 2023 at 19:54
  • @BogdanFloareș yes, and you are assuming that an answer to that question exists. It is unlikely that we could even define what would count as an answer, much less that there is a definitive answer - and if there is one, against all odds, our community is not specialized enough to recognize whether a suggested answer is correct or not, and to vote accordingly (which happens to be a big factor in deciding whether we close questions). In summary 1) "such" sandwiches probably didn't exist yet in pre-ottoman (!) times, and 2) whatever existed was probably not similar enough to feels like ...
    – rumtscho
    Feb 4, 2023 at 22:00
  • ... it counts - mere 200 years ago, a widespread "sandwich" on the Balkans would be a man eating bread topped with raw onion, nothing else, when eating out of home (e.g. when plowing a field), and 3) if there was anything similar, it is unlikely that it had one common topping (it doesn't today!) but that people put on their sandwiches whatever they had on hand. The most likely true state of affairs is too varied, and dissimilar to what you are describing, for a definable answer to exist.
    – rumtscho
    Feb 4, 2023 at 22:02

1 Answer 1


tbh, I'd never heard of shawarma until very recently [nor have I ever seen one for sale by that name in the UK], though from my late teens/early 20s [late 70s/early 80s] a 'doner kebab' was a very popular after-pub event. Either that or a curry.
To try place this historically, Chinese had been popular for more than a decade by then, but pizza hadn't properly taken off yet* & McDonald's was still pretty much unheard of.

The ones I knew back in those days were what I now know to be the ones that arrived in the UK via Germany in the mid-late 70's, not directly from Turkey itself.
They were made with pitta bread, split, filled usually with lamb & salad, topped with chilli sauce & maybe some lemon juice.

Here's one, rather prettier than the ones I used to get which were tightly wrapped in paper & rather more squished & dribbly;)

enter image description here

I now live in an area with a large Turkish population. No-one uses pitta bread for kebabs - they use large thin flatbreads, as you describe for shawarma.
The fillings are the same - lamb or chicken, spit-cooked, salad [lettuce, onions, red cabbage, cucumber, grated carrot, tomato, maybe a long, thin pickled chilli or two, lemon juice, chilli sauce [lamb] or garlic sauce [chicken].

They look more like this - though again rolled into paper so you can walk & eat at the same time. I managed to find a picture with one pre- & post-roll

enter image description here

I think the bread could be considered a lavash - but everybody just calls it a 'wrap', even those you can buy in local Turkish shops or a regular British high street supermarket. [I can't read Turkish, so idk what the bi-lingual labels may say.]

They never contain any other starch, no potato, ever.

Wikipedia on shawarma and doner describes the doner as being the first (with the Berlin pitta versions being responsible for the popular spread into more Western Europe in the past 50 years) & that gyros & shawarma evolved from them.

So for me, the only things missing at the origin would be the tomato & chilli. I'd miss the chilli, but I'd survive without the tomato. I'd certainly never be inclined to put ketchup on.
I get the feeling potato is a very recent addition - possibly to just bulk it out, or keep the price down. I've seen schoolkids buying 'chip doners', literally a small portion of chips [US fries] in the same flat bread wrap, with mayo or ketchup instead of the more adult sauces.
I'd think your selection of sauces feels like a more recent 'Western' addition too.

*Anecdotally, & please forgive the characterisations… In the mid 80's a new pizza place opened up near us. They were stunning, seriously good food.
The locals hadn't yet grasped this new 'foreign food' & were still dubious. We jokingly called many of these locals 'plant life' for their remarkable lack of grasp on the world at large.
Whilst waiting for my order one night, two drunken locals wandered in. After staring at the menu for a good five minutes or more, one said to the other. "I don't know about any of this foreign muck, mate. Let's get a Chinky."
This was the world-view of many a Brit in the early 80s. These guys had grown up with a Chinese takeaway in the locale [it's still there] but hadn't grasped it wasn't "English".

  • I used to get chip and meat doners in the 90s. I recall getting them in New Cross or Greenwich (London) in '95, but they were less common in Manchester a few years later
    – Chris H
    Feb 4, 2023 at 15:39
  • 1
    I grew up in Leeds with only the pitta version on offer [& never saw a chicken one either up there, only lamb]. By the 90s I'd moved to London. You could still find the pitta versions initially, but they all seem to have gone now in favour of the wrap. These days they'll put anything they sell into a wrap, if you ask, so the distinctions are failing.
    – Tetsujin
    Feb 4, 2023 at 16:23
  • Yes, in Manchester it was wraps (but chicken was available). In London, sometimes wraps and sometimes pitta, but it was all a long time ago. I don't really eat meat these days, so even though the smell of the kebab van on the way home late is tempting, I don't know what I'd get these days .
    – Chris H
    Feb 4, 2023 at 16:56
  • It is the same concept as Southern American cuisine: quesadilla and taco, but on the other side of the world. Feb 4, 2023 at 19:34

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