As-salāmu ʿalaykum brothers and sisters. Transformed from cult late-night snack, to a worldwide social media phenomenon, the humble halal snack pack has been the one dish we’re all going to remember from 2016. We sat down with Luke Eagles, founder of the Halal Snack Pack Appreciation Society (HSPAS), to have a chat about the HSP—what they are, where they’ve come from, and what the future holds.
While the HSP has only really gained mainstream attention this year, Eagles tells me that these bad boys have been around for decades, and that they’re a uniquely Australian invention. If you’ve been living under a rock these past few months, a brief education is probably in order. For the authentic snackpack experience, you start with a styrofoam container from your nearest halal establishment and try not to think about the penguins. Hot chips form the base, your choice of meat (chicken, beef, lamb, or mixed) is shaved off the rotisserie then placed on top. Grated cheese covers the meat, and then the holy trinity of sauces (garlic, chilli, BBQ) are liberally applied on top. If it sounds like a one-way street to a triple bypass, that’s because it is.
If there’s a better way to end a decent night out, I’m yet to find it. Chips? Good. Meat? Good. Cheese? Good. Sauce? Goooood. As Eagles says, it might not be a very healthy option, but considering how many people stuff their faces with McDonalds and Hungry Jacks without a second thought, you might as well cut loose and go the full HSP. If you want to know how big these are getting, some loose cannon in Perth put together an absolute monster snacky. Measuring in at 2.4 metres long, the beast weighed a cool 75kg and was made up of 34 kilos of chips, 30 kilos of meat, 6 kilos of cheese, and 5 kilos of sauce.
In the early days of the Halal Snack Pack Appreciation Society, people were extremely harsh on anything that could be considered experimentation. Salads, different sauces, were all frowned upon. These days, it seems that tabbouleh is considered acceptable—although it should know its place and sit on the side. It’s in the sauces that there’s real room for the HSP to grow, and for individual restaurants to stand out. Eagles tells me about a meet-up with the legends from Metro One and how they whipped up their own version of the famous In ’n’ Out Burger sauce. Hoxton Park Kebab & Cafe get a shout out for their own home-made chilli sauce, as do Flame’n Good for their hand-made chipotle. In a crowded market, it’s the bold voices that stand out.
In a year where the ugly head of xenophobia has risen again, the HSPAS, numbering over 130,000 members at this point, has become a melting-pot of cultures. Arabic phrases are thrown about fluently, insults are bandied about, reviews are posted—and reviewed in turn, and dank memes are dropped. The thing that really strikes you is how entirely egalitarian it all is. It’s an Australia that could be, and, apparently, an Australia that is. Sometimes things get out of hand, it is the internet after all, but Eagles says he’s fortunate to have a really solid group of admins to help run the show.
One of the best outcomes of the growth of the HSPAS, has been the platform it’s given so many small business owners. Eagles says that he’s been contacted countless times by kebab store owners to thank him. Apparently even a few of them are now wearing HSPAS shirts as uniforms, and HSPAS stickers are going up in store windows as a sign of authenticity. As Eagles says, these are the kinds of people that deserve all the rise in business that they’ve seen.
There’s plenty to look forward to from the HSPAS. There are big events being planned in conjunction with HSP vendors Australia-wide. There’s a website and app in development, a game-changer according to Eagles, and other plans that he’s keeping under wraps for now.
Forget the multinational corporations selling you cardboard. Get down to your local kebab place, get a snacky, and support local business! If you don’t know where to start, here’s seven of Sydney’s best.
• King Kebab Queen St (Campbelltown)
• New Star Kebabs (Auburn)
• Metro One (Ashfield)
• Hoxton Park Kebabs & Cafe (Hoxton Park)
• Kebab Express (Blacktown)
• Hi Kebabs (Baulkham Hills)
• Flame’n Good (Belmore)
Want more delicious eats in Sydney? Check out our Directory!
Image credit: Federica Portentoso at Flame'n Good