Getting the best shawarma experience has proven itself to be a game of luck. You can get a good one today and taste the worst thing tomorrow. The stories of these people who responded to my call for terrible shawarma stories prove it.
The first answer came from a Nigerian studying in the abroad.
I school in the U.K. and this particular summer, I didn’t go home. So while everyone else was doing Vida la Nigeria and I was seeing suya, shawarma, and all the other goodies, I could not relate. Where I lived was a student area and had lots of restaurants and food places, so my friend suggested a shawarma place. It was Middle Eastern, the true owners of shawarma, it couldn’t be bad, abi? I was so wrong. I carried my daddy and mummy’s money and bought U.K.-based shawarma and I was plunged into distress. It was bland, the bread was dry and the insides didn’t help matters. The chicken wasn’t seasoned, the sauce was almost nonexistent and the cabbage was just stealing the show and doing too much. I kuku ate it because money cannot waste.
Listen ehn, shawarma, suya, isi ewu oh, if you go there and you do not see a Nigerian by the fire, please run. Don’t buy it. Just run.
After reading, you’d probably join her to stan Nigerian-made shawarma. But then, Nigerians who ate shawarma made by Nigerians beg to differ.
I was in Owerri, and I was looking for the best place to get shawarma. I found one, and it was good, but when I went back there the next day, they didn’t have. I should have gone home, but I decided to stroll further. And then I saw this new shawarma spot. The woman in charge told me she would start from scratch. I said okay, and then she brought out a loaf of bread.
I should have run, but I didn’t. Before my very eyes, this woman ‘baked’ the bread by putting it on a pan and pressing it flat. Next thing, she got the other ingredients and there was no sausage. When I asked her for the sausage, she said, “Since I started this business, I never put satis (that’s what they call sausage in Owerri) in my shawarma. Don’t worry, you won’t notice that it’s not there.” Again, I should have run, but I stayed.
The other thing she put looked so much like fish. When I asked if it was chicken or beef, she said it was beef. After wrapping everything, she pressed it on the same pan she pressed the bread. I paid N1,500 and went home.
As it turned out, what she put was just fish and crayfish. No cream, no pepper. I basically paid N1,500 for bread and fish. And you see that thing about not noticing that the shawarma didn’t have sausage, it’s a lie. From the first bite, I knew that sausage was obviously lacking in that shawarma.
I was in Lagos for an interview, and I was staying at a friend’s place in Yaba. Not far from us was a food joint that doubles as a shawarma spot at night. Because I’d eaten there in the afternoon and it tasted good, I trusted them and ordered shawarma there one night. They said it would take about 15 minutes.
I should have known when I got there and there was nobody rushing them. Nobody on a queue or anything, and they didn’t even have their veggies cut ready. Eventually, they gave me the shawarma. When I bit into it, it was egusi soup that filled my mouth. Even the meat or whatever that was in it tasted of egusi. I just spat it out and threw it away.
Had the worst shawarma of my life at a cinema in Asaba. First, the thing was cold. Like they brought it out from the fridge and put it on a table to defrost. I don’t even know what type of meat they put inside. Anyway it’s my fault sha. What else should I have expected from Asaba shawarma?
I was in 200L, Babcock University, and getting meat was not so easy. One night, this guy came knocking on my door and said he had shawarma for 1k. I did a quick transfer and collected the shawarma. It had gotten cold so I steamed it up with a kettle. It tasted a bit sour when I took a bite, but I didn’t mind. What was worse, the bits of chicken was like leather. Extremely rubbery and nearly impossible to swallow. I struggled through it before I gave up and offered it to my roommates.
But it didn’t end there. At 2AM, my stomach woke me up. The rumbling was too violent. I quickly rushed to the toilet, just to see my roommate who had taken the other part of the shawarma fighting his own war in the restroom. I was begging him to hurry up and get out but he couldn’t. That midnight, I went around looking for a toilet. At 2AM.
My regular shawarma guy was not around, so I decided to take risks. I didn’t know that would be my downfall. First red flag, the shawarma was wrapped in brown paper. Nobody wraps shawarma in brown paper. It’s usually white. It was five hundred naira, so I bought two. In my head, I was about to get down into the enjoyment. Oh boy, was I wrong! First bite, I tasted bread instead of chicken and mayonnaise. I decided to make tea since I’m eating bread. When the water was boiling, I took another bite, and red pepper poured in my mouth. Red grounded pepper. But this time, I felt chicken, so I ate some more. And then the sausage scattered. Sausage that is usually firm and juicy, it shattered into pieces, almost like it was expired and raw.
*Nonso and Aishat.
This one is a popular brand, known for making something else. You know them, but I’ll leave you to figure it out. Sha, I went there for something else but I realised they had shawarma, so I decided to try it. It was like sausage roll, the kind they hawk in traffic, even smaller, because you could literally fit the whole thing into a tissue paper tube.
For starters, there was a lot of ata rodo in it. When it’s not pepper soup I want to eat. And the sausage was not whole, rather, it was chopped into smaller pieces. I could even count it. Who does that? Honestly, that shawarma should be wiped out of existence.
NB: Nonso and Aishat had the same experience but at different branches of the same brand, so I conflated their stories into one.
Akobo, Ibadan, that’s where I had the worst shawarma ever. I think the sausage was raw, honestly. They didn’t use any ketchup in the mix, they just put mayonnaise and closed it up. I paid N1,200, I even bought one more for my sister, making N2,400. When she tasted it, she hissed and kept on hissing in disgust. The next morning, I found the shawarma in the trash.
The shawarma was bought for my siblings and me to share, so we brought out a knife. It was my first time tasting shawarma, and I was excited, but this thing refused to cut. As in, the knife couldn’t penetrate it. We had to look for a knife that has a serrated edge (those type with teeth that would injure you if you mistakenly touch it). That was when we could cut it.
Asides from the hard crust, the dominant ingredient was the pepper. It was so hot! While struggling to bite the shawarma, the stuffing was spilling all over the place and the pepper was too hot. Imagine your eyes tearing up, nose running, fingers stopping the contents from coming out of the wrap, yet being unable to take a decent bite! Ọmọ I gave up ó. I just gave it to my siblings. Me I didn’t get what the hype was about.
This experience was so bad that the next time I ate shawarma 2 or 3 years later, I got a plate, unwrapped the crust, and ate the insides with a spoon. The crust of this tasted just like raw noodles. In all, I’ve eaten shawarma 5 times and I’m yet to eat a good one.
I ordered the complete package: chicken shawarma with sausage and all that is necessary. N1,200. Right in front of my eyes, this guy diluted the mayonnaise and ketchup bottles with water. Me I thought it was because of thickness, but looking back now, I realise that the dressing was about to finish or even finished, so he filled them with little water, shook them and went on.
Later when I got home, I saw that the shawarma bread was too thin. He used just one tortilla. The ketchup and mayonnaise were both too thin, and this was in Lagos, Ago Palace Way.
It was at Foodies at Jericho. I smoked a blunt and the hunger kicked in. I’d just moved back from school and did not have a shawarma plug. Someone told me to try Foodies at Jericho in. I bought 2 cos I was so hungry. Ló and behold, oga did not put cream in any of the shawarma. I was full on sorrow and disappointment that day.