Shawarma is one of Israel’s most popular street foods, and a new confection, Chocolate Shawarma or Choco-Kebab, is taking that obsession—and Israelis’ newfound love of chocolate—to the next level. The concept is simple: The giant rotating meat stack is replaced by an Italian chocolate stack with layers of milk and white chocolate, which instead of being heated are refrigerated. The chocolate is shaved off into a pita-crepe, a slightly thicker version of the French crepe that replaces the original pita or lafah in which the meat shawarma would be served. Instead of hummus or tahini you can top the crepe with dulce de leche, maple syrup, halva, baby marshmallows, Adashim (essentially the Israeli version of M&M’s), whipped cream, chocolate sauce, nuts, granola, and chocolate sprinkles.
Surprisingly, the Chocolate Shawarma isn’t an Israeli concept. Oded Cohen, an ex-clerk who had never worked in the food industry, saw this rotating chocolate wonder on a family trip to Sicily and fell in love. He photographed the machine and decided that he wanted to import Choco-Kebab to Israel before even tasting it. Soon he traveled to Italy again—this time on a business mission—and paved the way to filling the land of shawarma with its chocolate doppelganger.
“The Choco-Kebab is an Italian concept and it is catching on in many different countries,” Cohen told me. “It’s very popular in Turkey and Lebanon and we’re going to make it a hit in Israel.”
The first branch opened in Jerusalem about four months ago. Three more branches followed, in Hod HaSharon, Modi’in, and Ness Ziona. A new batch of machines is on its way to Israel and in the next month 12 branches are expected to open all over the country, including one in Tel Aviv’s beach-front Opera Tower, plus Haifa, Nahariya, and Rishon LeZion.
“The Shawarma part of course is just a gimmick, but it’s a great dish for chocolate lovers,” Cohen explained. “It’s abundant in calories and not great for a diet, but it’s unbelievably delicious!” When I asked him whether it was nauseatingly sweet he assured me that the chocolate itself isn’t that sweet: “It reminds me of the taste of Nutella, and if you have a sweet tooth, the entire combo tastes like heaven.”
Dana Kessler has written for Maariv, Haaretz, Yediot Aharonot, and other Israeli publications. She is based in Tel Aviv.