The donair is the Canadian iteration of the popular Döner kebab that has been served throughout the middle east for hundreds of years and is now growing quite popular in Europe and around the world. The donair is related in some ways to the popular Lebanese version of this dish called the shawarma and shares some of the basic building material such as the pita and some of the veggies. In parts of Canada donair meat is now frequently found as an offering at the increasingly popular shawarma shops that are opening across the country. While there is usually nowhere near the assortment of toppings on a donair that is offered on a shawarma, with donair meat now on the menu the hybrid donair meat shawarma with more toppings and a choice of sauces is growing in popularity.
The Donair is more basic than the shawarma and features a ground meat and spice blend which is usually beef but sometimes a combination of beef and lamb that is formed into a barrel-shaped loaf and cooked on a vertical spit. The finished meat once cooked is then carved off the loaf in strips before being wrapped in a pita with various additions, most commonly lettuce, tomato and onions are added and the fillings are coated with a sweet creamy sauce.
This Canadian version is credited to have been first made in Halifax, Nova Scotia and while there is some argument as to the exact originator, Velos Pizza which was taken over by the current claim holder King of Donairs in the late 1970’s was said to be making them as early as 1971.
Extremely popular in the Atlantic provinces of Canada and in the province of Alberta since the late 1970’s the donair has spread throughout Canada and is found in shops in cities and even some smaller towns across the country. The tasty meat is in Alberta and the maritimes now used to make a variety of different hybrid dishes such as: donair pizzas, donair subs, and even egg rolls or stuffed pasta in some east coast shops. While this dish is not yet widely available in the United States the Greek version of the Döner kebab called the Gyro is quite popular and is found served from mobile carts, as fair food and at Greek or Italian style pizza and sandwich shops all across that country.
This is the closest I’ve come to finding the taste of a real donair from a shop. Thanks go out to Dash Riprock for the meat recipe. The sauce is my version of the sweet one that is normally served on a donair. I’m aware that there is debate over whether there should be any garlic in the sauce and I’ve added both it and onion, so if you’re some sort of purist then simply leave them out. This aside, If you want the right taste here is the one recipe you need.
- 6 pitas
- 1 medium tomato, chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 cups shredded lettuce
For Donair Meat
- 1 lb of medium ground beef (for better texture have the butcher run the beef through the grinder at least 3 times)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp flour
- 1 tsp ground oregano
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp onion powder
- ½ tsp Italian seasoning
- ½ tsp pepper
- ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
For the Sauce
- 1 can evaporated milk
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk
- 2 tbsp of garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 4 tbsp white vinegar
For Donair meat
- Place ground beef in a large metal bowl and set aside to bring to room temperature.
- Mix all the spices together in a small bowl(I use a morter & pestle to grind them.)
- Add spice mix to the meat a little at a time, working it through well. Pick the meat up and throw it down into the bowl(or if you have a large cutting board use it). Do this 20-30 times, kneading it after each throw.(When throwing the meat you need to do so with force, this gives the meat the proper texture).
- Heat oven to 350°F
- Form the meat into a loaf patting it down like you would a hamburger, but making it into a single flat loaf shape. Place the loaf on a broiler pan (if you don’t have one a cookie sheet will do).
- Bake for 1¼ hrs (turning over half way through).
- Remove from oven and let the meat cool down somewhat before cutting it into strips.
- Fry the slices before assembly if you want your meat crispy.
For the Sauce
- Combine both milks with onion powder and garlic in a medium glass or metal bowl(not plastic, as for some reason it doesn’t set up right in one).
- Slowly add vinegar and stir lightly with a fork just until mixture begins to thicken. Stir it too much and it will become runny.
- Refrigerate until ready to use. (This sauce will last a very long time if refrigerated)
- Warm a frying pan over medium heat. Slightly wet each pita and warm it in the pan, turning until softened.
- Lightly coat a pita on one side with donair sauce.
- Place some of the meat on the pita and pour more sauce over it.
- Add shredded lettuce, chopped onion & tomato before folding and serve right away with plenty of napkins.