Have you ever known the acute panic that comes from calling your favorite takeout place only to learn the line has been disconnected? Faced with the prospect of never tasting the world’s best—that’s right, best—chicken shawarma ever again, you may slip into denial, as I did. Maybe you drive by the shuttered storefront a few times, desperate for signage indicating this is only temporary. Then you begin ordering shawarma after shawarma, hoping someone else miraculously makes it exactly the same—garlicky, redolent of lemon and warming turmeric, and unmistakably chickeny.
Eventually, you have to move on, or, in my case, get in the kitchen and tinker until your weekly shawarma injection is restored. After several unsuccessful trials and far too much time spent scouring the internet for shawarma variations, I stumbled across chef and cookbook author Molly Yeh’s recipe for chicken shawarma tacos, which called for a sprinkling of that vintage pantry denizen: bouillon powder.