Food & Culture

Anatomy of a dish: halal snack pack

The Middle East meets the milk bar in the tastiest of ways.

By Harriet Davidson
A halal snack pack (Photo: Alicia Taylor)
This Australian creation is more than a feed for punters seeking late-night ballast: it's a dish of our time and a symbol of Australia's cultural diversity, melding kebab shops with the traditions (and chips) of the old-school milk bar. Former Labor MP Sam Dastyari gave it a mention in federal parliament and it serves as the introduction to his 2017 memoir, One Halal of a Story: "We start with the container, because there'll be so much going on; things will need to be kept under control. Then there's the base – that is, the chips – the foundation from which we build our delicacy. Next comes the cheese, a layer of salty smoothness. On top of that we pile up the meat. Lastly, and most importantly, the holy trinity of sauces – garlic, BBQ and chilli."
Its popularity heightened through its dedicated, now 185,000 member-strong, Facebook group and it was named Macquarie Dictionary's 2016 People's Choice Word of the Year. We're not all for the styrofoam box and plastic fork but it's what's on the inside that matters, right?

1. The chips

Thick, crisp and hot, the chicken-salted, cheese-sprinkled chips are the base, soaking up the juices from the meat and all that sauce.

2. The sauces

Chilli, garlic and barbecue make up the "holy trinity". Each is squeezed across the meat in a criss-cross fashion, evenly saucing the calorific pile. Hummus, sweet chilli and tomato sauce are options, if you must.

3. The meat

Halal-certified doner kebab meat is shaved from a spit and gets a go on the grill before it tops the chips. Lamb, beef or chicken, or a mix for the truly bold, are the options here. Falafel is a meat-free alternative, but can you still call it an HSP?

4. The cheese

It gets two goes; pre- and post-meat. Shredded supermarket cheese is sprinkled over hot chips, then another layer added after the meat. "You can never have enough cheese," says Dastyari.

Where to find one

In Melbourne, Rumi's takeaway version takes things luxe: spiced roast lamb shoulder on fried potatoes tossed with toum, za'atar and three cheeses. For the classic, Sydneysiders hit King Kebab House in Campbelltown.
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