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Welcome to Chow with Me, where Chowhound’s executive editor Hana Asbrink shares all of the irresistible things she’s cooking, eating, reading, buying, and more. Today: The flavorful shawarma spice blend seasoning she’s rubbing all over her chicken.

I am a chicken-and-rice girl. Chicken fried rice has been a favorite since childhood, and I can never get enough arroz con pollo, Korean samgyetang, and any halal chicken and rice. My love for a halal cart (the original food “truck”) runs deep, and I’m proud to say I’ve successfully introduced this passion to my husband, whose standing order is a chicken-and-lamb combo.

Halal chicken and rice in the styrofoam clamshell (and of course, its partner-in-crime shawarma or gyro) is one of the New York City’s greatest affordable luxuries, most topping out at just $5 or $6, with salad, pita bread, and as much white and/or hot sauces as your heart can endure. But when a Halal Guys cart (or its brick-and-mortar shop) isn’t within reach, what to do but attempt to recreate the flavors at home.

The go-to for me is J. Kenji López-Alt’s awesome Halal Cart-Style Chicken and Rice with White Sauce recipe for Serious Eats, which always satisfies those cravings. His is a recipe that requires a light marinating process (1 to 4 hours), but a marinade nonetheless. What to do when that pang for chicken and rice strikes during the week, when time is of the essence? One shortcut lies in my new favorite seasoning mix that I essentially use as a dry rub for chicken: New York Shuk’s Shawarma Spice.

Shawarma Spice, $8.95 at NYShuk

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What are the ingredients in this magical shawarma seasoning spice mix? “It is made from a blend of 15 different spices that come together to bring you that exotic and prominent flavor we all associate to Middle Eastern cuisine,” Leetal Arazi, co-founder of Brooklyn-based NYShuk tells me. “It has spices ranging from coarse coriander seeds for flavor and lots of texture, to smoked paprika and mace, which gives those savory and umami flavors.”

The artisanal food company is my go-to purveyor of Middle Eastern pantry staples (don’t get me started on the amazing harissa line), and a glass jar of the Shawarma Spice is an easy way to transform your dinner game, whether you’re pressed for time or not. With it, you can:

  • Dry your chicken thighs (or fish/meat of choice) before seasoning with salt and pepper, and give them an enthusiastic pat-down with a couple tablespoons of this earthy Shawarma Spice seasoning with a little kick. (If you do have the luxury of time, let the spice mixture sit for at least 15 to 20 minutes; I think the smoky quality comes out more.)
  • Saute the dry spice mix with butter or oil, and have it be the base of your rice cooking liquid.
  • Dissolve some Shawarma Spice in olive oil before coating cut-up cauliflower, potatoes, or other root vegetable, and giving them a quick roast.
  • Mix some of the spice blend into cool plain yogurt, Greek yogurt, or sour cream, along with lemon juice and olive oil in a small bowl, for a tasty dip to accompany crunchy raw veg or even a bag of chips.

“I also use the spice in soups,” says Leetal. “Lentil soup is divine with the Shawarma Spice. Also I like to marinate halloumi cheese or Indian paneer with it and give it a pan fry. It is the most irresistible snack and the best salad topper.” Pan-fried cheese? I’m so there.

In addition to it being a killer chicken rub, I could also see this Shawarma Spice playing well with scrambled eggs, popcorn, and anything with chickpeas. As you know, I love a good game-changing condiment; and a pantry staple that is able to do double-duty in adding both flavor and ease to my cooking will always be welcome.

Do you have a favorite spice blend? Share it with me below!

Photo credit: Hana Asbrink

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