Halal Snack Pack: The Kotaku Review

The Halal Snack Pack (AKA HSP, or "Snacky") is a modern Australian delicacy that combines the best of Middle Eastern and British cuisine in a single dish.

Typically served in a styrofoam box, it consists of a giant heap of kebab meat, a number of sauces mixed together, some hot chips, and, if your heart is up for it, some melted cheese as well.

I'm going to be reviewing the box (pictured above) I had the other day, but before we get started, I think it's important we have a little history lesson.

In 1915, as part of an ill-fated Allied campaign aimed at opening up a second front against Germany, Australian forces invaded Turkey, storming the beaches of Gallipoli. We got our arses kicked, and were forced to retreat (for what it's worth it was a very good retreat), but at war's end there remained little animosity between the two sides. Both had respected the other's tenacity, and both were aware that they'd only been fighting each other in the first place because of the whims of their side's leading powers.

In the century that followed Gallipoli became something of a secular shrine for Australians, while in the 1960s Turkey became the first non-European nation to sign an Assisted Passage Agreement with Australia, which basically meant the Australian government - short on immigrants needed to expand the local economy - would subsidise the travel costs for foreigners to move down here.

Beer for scale.

Over the next few decades Turkish immigration to Australian exploded, and just like every other ethnic group to move to these shores, Turks left their most immediate mark on our tastebuds, introducing Australians to the joys of kebabs and, in particular, kebabs at 2AM after too many beers.

Turkish food is now as established a part of Australian diets as Chinese, Thai and Indian, but as the 21st century rolled on, something special happened. A bizarre hybrid of Turkish and traditional Australian cuisine, served quietly on menus for 30 years without much fuss, began to emerge into the country's wider culinary consciousness. It was called the Halal Snack Pack.

Unrelated peoples, brought together from across the seas, had combined menus to create something new, something better, something magical. That's part of the joy of the HSP: It isn't just bloody delicious, but its origin story is in many ways the story of modern Australia itself, forging something in a new world cobbled together from parts of the old.

"I would say it's an Australian dish," Oktay Ali Sahin told SBS last year. "Cheese isn't used in Turkish dishes with chips and meat. Ultimately it's a multicultural dish, doner meat is from Turkey, Lebanon and the Middle East, and everyone eats chips."

Dig beneath the meat and sauce to find a pillow made of hot chips.

The construction of a HSP traditionally begins with a serving of hot chips layered at the bottom of the box. Cheese is then poured over the top (which quickly melts), followed by a generous slab of kebab meat, which is generally either chicken or lamb.

The Snacky is then topped with the "Holy Trinity": A combination of BBQ, garlic and chilli sauce, laid on so thickly as to completely cover the rest of the dish.

There are of course variations on this: Some might alter the sauces, some places offer Tabouli on top, while other maniacs like to destroy the entire thing by adding pineapple. I'm a fan of the traditional HSP, though, so that's what I'm reviewing here.

The first and most important thing you need to know about the HSP is that it is dense. This is, despite the name, very much not a snack. This is an undertaking, for both your stomach and your arteries.

It's the sauce that gets you first. There's just so much of it that gets everywhere, almost overwhelming you with the creamy garlic and the kick of the chilli.

A big strip of lamb kebab meat.

Get past that though and the bulk of the protein/death you encounter in every HSP is the meat. I like to mix chicken and lamb not just for the taste, but for the texture: Kebab lamb is unrecognisable from actual sheep flesh, usually served in long, thin strips (almost like meat tape), while the chicken tends to be grilled and arrives in smaller, more recognisable chunks.

The lamb has this spongy, sausage-like feel to it, and the chicken tends to have the smoky taste of something that's been spinning over a fire all day. Because HSPs tend to be big, requiring you to do a lot of eating, it's a nice break for your tastebuds to be working their way through two types of meat instead of just one.

The chips, though, are what make a HSP. Kebab meat tends to be pretty similar across the country (and even the world), but chips/fries are not, and the Turkish takeout that skimps on its chips is undermining the bedrock of their Snacky.

Every time you take a bite, you'll be getting the sauce and meat, yeah, but you'll also be getting some chip, which helps keep things light and adds... I dunno, some vegetables to the ingredients? My basic point is that chips make up around 50 per cent of a HSP's overall volume, so good chips makes for a good HSP. And my local place - which serves fresh, crinkle-cut chips with chicken seasoning - does good chips.

They're the ballast. They're the soft mattress cushioning the hammer blows your mouth is taking from everything else up top. On their own, hot chips are just a side dish, and on its own, a box full of just kebab meat and sauce would taste like a bag of spicy fat. They need each other to complete the HSP.

I am not going to sit here and pretend this meal is for everyone. It is very bad for you, and has a real heavy taste that won't be to everyone's liking. Plus, HSPs tend to be as renowned for their size as their flavour, so anyone looking for a light refreshment might want to try something smaller.

But if the idea of a portable heart attack made mostly of spice, meat and chips sounds like a good time, then the HSP is definitely for you.


Comments

    Fun fact - in South Australia these were known as an abortion due to their presentation (or lack thereof) for a long long time at two of our most famous places that have them in North Adelaide: The Blue and White Cafe and the Adelaide Burger Bar(also known as the Red and white due to being a few doors down to the blue and white and being coloured as such)

    Anyone local can argue who has the best but they've been doing these for years and are now known as "ABs" as the previous name was not considered politically correct... I think the name change occurred around 10 or so years ago but that's from my early 20s drink filled memories in North Adelaide...

    Now most places do ABs around adelaide and a lot of pizza joints even offer AB pizzas, some complete with chips on top - trust me its good but messy and feels gross after eating one!

    So if you are in Adelaide and looking for a Halal Snack Pack, look no further than North Adelaide and go get one of our most famous ABs... Or the local chip shop down the road will usually have them now too.

    Last edited 08/11/17 12:23 pm

      yannis on the Parade do a good one too. nice tasting meat.
      also, i have heard AB used to abbreviate After Birth as well as Abortion.

    Don't know if this is a regional thing, but I'm in wollongong, and doner kebab is labelled on all the menus as a beef kebab. I always thought that meat is beef. Or mostly beef, anyway.

    Haven't tried a halal snack pack as it looks too greasy for me. But love me a good kebab or gozleme or pide.

      As a fellow Illawarran, this seems pretty similar to Souva King's atomic bomb rather than Esen's or Omar's meats with chips.

        Yeah, I agree. It's totally like the atomic bomb. I found it a bit too sloppy.

        It's just that the writer said doner kebab is lamb, when I've always known it to be beef and identified on menus as beef.

        I didn't realise Esen or Omar's did chips. I always thought a lot of the kebab shops don't around here and that's why we don't get HSPs so much. Omar's is amazing though. I struggle to get through their jumbo kebab but I keep ordering it.

          Not sure if its on their menu of not, but we used to get them back in the day from Esen. Though it was probably more a hidden menu thing that a standard option. I've seen it elsewhere though.

          I don't think its limited to one type of meat either. The mince seems to be a blend of lamb chicken, and beef, so what we see as a lamb and beef kebab may be exactly the same. Chicken kebab's seem to specifically be chicken though

      Yeah "doner kebabs" are beef, not lamb. A lamb kebab would explicitly say it's lamb. I'm in Sydney and when you order a doner kebab you are definitely ordering beef - although many places don't use the word "doner" anymore and just have beef, lamb or chicken kebab options on the menu.

      I like the occasional snack pack but only occasionally. I'll usually have either plain beef, or a mixture of beef and chicken, but without the chilli sauce.

        “Doner” just references the style of cooking and seasoning, that rotisserie style they carve the meat off.

        Regionally it seems to have often taken on different meanings. Or sometimes by franchise.

        The kebabs I grew up with doner was actually a mixture of beef and lamb. Elsewhere I’ve seen it be pure lamb or beef though usually labeled as such. Rarely small shops just don’t label it but you could always ask.

    Here in S.A. they are known as an AB
    its not a pretty acronym and if you are from SA you'll know what it means, but im not feeling right putting it down on here, because you probably wont look at the dish the same again.
    on another note, they taste amazing AF. love a good lamb AB with BBQ, tomato and garlic sauce. hmmm, mouth is now watering, must resist urge to go get one for lunch.

    Last edited 08/11/17 12:36 pm

    Having just come back from a holiday in Turkey, I can honestly say the doner kebab wraps are better in OZ. The kebab (or "kebap" as they spell it there) plates, though, are pretty awesome. Slow cooked lamb from the oven ... mmmm.

    Local kebab shop owner remember what my partner and I want in our snack pack :P

    Never seen any place that sells a HSP before. AFAIK my local kebab place doesn't do it, unless it's just an off menu thing you need to ask for. Have to say that the top pic does look damn fine. I'd fucking murder one of those right now. Reading about it makes me want a mix of chicken, lamb and sour cream. Maybe a bit of another sauce, but even just sour cream would be ace.
    Of course, as much as I'd like to think I could murder one atm, my stomach probably has other ideas. Given my current condition, I'd probably be on the verge of vomiting after several mouthfuls.

      Most places either do, are starting to or will do it if you ask. It might be an off menu item, just ask them. They're delicious!

      It's been an off the menu but still available for the asking sort of thing in many places for quite a long time but with the sudden recent enthusiasm for them a lot of places are now putting it on their menu or practically making it the main selling point of their shop. Sydney CBD especially you see this a lot nowadays.
      I remember I asked a local Greek takeout place if they did them (Yeeros on the menu but no mention of HSP) a few months back and their response was "Oh yeah we've done them for years but all of a sudden everyone wants them".

    Is that chocolate sauce and garlic yoghurt???

    My son and I get these every fortnight on payday. They're goddamn delicious.

    Personally, I get onion, cheese, tabouli, beef and lamb, then yoghurt and hot chilli sauce. It's beautiful. That hot chilli taste, but the yoghurt takes it down a notch or two.

    My boy just gets cheese and BBQ sauce... the chicken lol

      Nah just one of the thicker, creamier garlic sauces. (Cream isn't the right word, but texturally it's about on point)

    We moved into a new unit a few weeks ago north of Melbourne, and found a Turkish joint about 100m across the road. I had one of their "small" HSPs for dinner on Sunday, and boy howdy, was that a challenge. I could see two people eating in down the other end of the store sharing a large, and it would have been at least the size of an average dinner plate, but piled up about 2 inches thick with the chips and toppings...

    Gonna go out on a limb here and dispute the unique 'Australianness' of this dish. I never heard of a Halal Snack Pack before about 12 months ago - something to do with Pauline Hanson?. Could be because I'm in Qld, and they seem to be more of a NSW/Vic/SA sort of thing.

    However, I was in Albania about 18 months and what is being referred to here as HSP is pretty common from takeaways over there. Can't remember what they call it. But the HSP is definitely uniquely Australian.

    Man ive always wanted to try one of these. Mostly just to annoy those in PHON.

    Fuck the chips, I go all meat. Garlic yoghurt and hot chilli sauce.

    Before trying a snack pack, the closest dish I had was poutine with smoked meat in Montreal. It's a different meat and different sauce, but the texture was very similar.

    I more of a gyro man, where the meat is more flavorful than a HSP. Although never did had a great HSP yet, any recommendations where to buy one that's good?

      A lot of places are good just give it a go, I suggest chicken with garlic sauce and cheese (comes with chips) If you're in NSW Auburn has the best hands down imo.

    The charcoal chicken nearby does great meat boxes, I get some salad in mine too, and just limit it to garlic sauce with lamb strips. Holy shit is it great, and the perfect size for when you're really hungry

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