Senator Sam Dastyari's guide to halal snack packs

Let's get one thing straight: the halal snack pack is an Aussie invention.

The HSP's rise from humble late night post-party pit stop (devised by drunk uni students who couldn't decided between chips or a kebab, according to urban legend) to bona fide cultural icon has been nothing short of meteoric, helped in part by a 156,000 member strong Facebook appreciation society and a certain politician.

When Labor senator Sam Dastyari invited his anti-halal colleague Pauline Hanson to share one of the kebab shop specials, he almost broke the internet (and has an email from Facebook to prove it), garnering 1.9 million views of the televised invite.

The senator has been repeatedly called Sydney's president of HSPs after delivering a passionate review of Campbelltown's King Kebabs number in Parliament earlier this year.

Sam Dastyari's top three Sydney HSP spots

1. King Kebab House

2/171-179 Queen Street, Campbelltown, 02 4656 1707, kingkebabhouse.com.au

2. New Star Kebabs, Auburn

15 Auburn Road, Auburn, 02 9643 8433, facebook.com/New-Star-Kebabs

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3. Metro One, Ashfield

309 Liverpool Road, Ashfield, 02 9797 1034, metrooneashfield.com.au 

Good Food/News. Halal from Senator Sam Dastyari on How to make a halal snack pack.
VIDEO: of sam making a halal snack pack. Photograph by Edwina Pickles. Taken on 12th July 2016.

A halal snack pack from King Kebab House, Campbelltown. Photograph by Edwina Pickles.

He took Good Food to the HSP hot spot to teach us the fine art of constructing a snack pack, and explain why the kebab does far more than ease a hangover.  

"What's important here isn't just the food, but the fact that's being used to make a political statement," he said.

"It's an embracement of the diversity of Sydney and multiculturalism. Look at who is eating these; they've probably never fasted in their life, but they are respecting and embracing what halal food is. People are using food to make a political statement. It's the modern equivalent of a peaceful rally, and it's become quite powerful as a result."

Good Food/News. Senator Sam Dastyari on How to make a halal snack pack.
VIDEO: of sam making a halal snack pack. Photograph by Edwina Pickles. Taken on 12th July 2016.

Senator Sam Dastyari samples a halal snack pack. Photograph by Edwina Pickles. 

The fun side? A good halal snack pack is really bloody delicious.

"At a simple level, it's chips and meat with the holy trinity of sauces: garlic, chilli and barbecue," Dastyari said.

"The trick is to achieve a delicate balance between the juiciness of the meat and crispiness of the chips without any sogginess."

To construct, you layer up hot chips (cooked in fresh oil, preferably), chicken salt and grated cheese, shaved chopped kebab meat, more cheese, and top with an aesthetically pleasing pattern of sauce.

Pauline Hanson, a former fish and chip shop operator, has repeatedly slammed halal food, and said she's "not interested" in sampling a HSP.

Most meat in Australia is halal. Yet, when Dastyari visited the far north Queensland electorate of George Christenson, a staunch anti-halal campaigner, he said the local kebab shop was forced to hide all halal signage after repeatedly being abused over it. 

"It's about giving people that space and confidence to embrace their cultural and their identity without feeling like they're being excluded. That's what becomes a social movement - it may not be the initial intention, but it's giving store owners that confidence."

Good Food/News. Halal from Senator Sam Dastyari on How to make a halal snack pack.
VIDEO: of sam making a halal snack pack. Photograph by Edwina Pickles. Taken on 12th July 2016.

A halal snack pack. Photograph by Edwina Pickles.

Halal certification, which businesses are charged to obtain in the same fashion of organic or animal cruelty certification, is crucial to our export market, which services some of the two billion Muslims (almost 30 percent of the world's population), worldwide. Most of the meat in Australia is already halal, and has been certified as such for close to a century. 

"The export standard is very rigid, and as our entire beef industry is build on export markets, if there was to be any doubt of the halal standards, it could result in a country such as Saudi Arabia turning around and banning Australian meat, which would have devastating effects," Dastyari explains.

"The act of halal certification makes meat cheaper for all of us in our grocery stores, because it extends that market. All kosher meat is halal, but not all halal meat is kosher - kosher goes a step further. Halal certification just means that Islamic tradition must be respected during the production of the meat and processing of animals, including making sure that there is no contact with products related to pigs, and that prior to slaughter, animals are given prayers and rights."

Dastyari's number one pick for a halal snack pack is the now-famous King Kebab House, in Campbelltown - "without a doubt the best place in Sydney," he said. New Star Kebabs in Auburn and Metro One in Ashfield are also favourites. 

Mevlana Cific, owner of King Kebab House, is a HSP expert, having manned kebab snack shops and even worked in a kebab factory for the past 16 years. He has his kebabs made to order, to his specific recipe of undisclosed herbs and spices, and delivered each morning, and uses super fresh oil to ensure his chips are as crisp as possible. On a Tuesday at 10am, half of the suburban store is chowing down on the famous packs, which are some of the cheapest in Sydney, forcing whole tables into silence until the entire massive sauce-laden plates are completely clear. 

HSPAS (Halal Snack Pack Appreciation Society) has deemed Cific's store as HSP "mecca", organising a 2000-person strong pilgrimage to the store earlier in the year, prompting Cific to add on optional donations to support local and African charities. 

"It doesn't matter if they are Muslim, not Muslim, Christian or Buddhist - when they eat it [the HSP], they are laughing and happy. We have no trouble here. It's not a Turkish food - it's an Australian food." he said. 

"If Pauline Hanson knew what halal is, she wouldn't complain about it. Everyone that comes in here complains about Pauline Hanson. This is my country, too. I love this country. My kids love this country. A lot of different people come to this place - they're not thinking about what is halal, they are just enjoying their meal. African, Vietnamese, Chinese - they come to this place, and no one is angry, they just enjoy their meal."