When my friend Shay added me to the Halal Snack Pack Appreciation Society Facebook page, I am not ashamed to admit that I was pretty confused. An entire page devoted to kebab shop snack packs? How is this a thing? Being the curious person that I am, I decided to stick around.
For the uninitiated, the Halal Snack Pack is a box containing hot chips, doner kebab meat, cheese, and sauce. From what I can gather, there are a few specific details: the chips must have chicken salt. No vegetable should adorn the meal. The sauce needs to be either chilli and garlic, or bbq and garlic – tomato sauce is not permitted, and will result in scorn and abuse from other HSP aficionados. It is preferred that the meal is served in a styrofoam container, however both cardboard boxes and plates are permissible in certain circumstances.
The purpose of the HSPAS is to provide passionate snack pack consumers with a place to share reviews, recommendations and photos of the humble meal. A celebration of greasy goodness. Given that the membership of the group is currently sitting at over eighteen thousand members, it is safe to say that love for this combination of carbs, grease, and protein is felt widely throughout the community.
As I spent more and more time perusing the reviews and interactions of fellow members on the page, I noticed that some of the most popular and highly regarded kebab shops on the HSPAS are in the Greater Western Sydney area. As a resident of South West Sydney, this excited me immensely. Not only was it some wonderful, free publicity for the many hardworking family owned kebab shops in the area, it also meant that I was living in the snack pack hub of the entire state! In fact, one of the most popular HSP spots was a mere five minute drive from my home. And, as Shay was the person who introduced me to the wonders of the HSP, I knew that she was the person I wanted to share this momentous occasion with.
So on a warm Saturday night, Shay and I dragged our families for an early meal at Watsup Brothers at Condell Park. Watsup has been my family’s preferred kebab shop for several years, but I had never experienced their HSP – in fact, I had not tried one at all. I was a HSP virgin. and Watsup was about to pop my HSP cherry. I was very excited.
In preparation for this momentous occasion, I had refrained from eating any substantial amount of food all day. This was actually pretty easy, I worked all night, so half the day was spent sleeping. The only time my resolve was tested was when I was found myself face to face with the BBQ in front of Bunnings – since Bunnings snag sangas are for the purpose of fundraising, I consider them to be calorie free, and I rarely leave the establishment without one. But I stayed strong, reminded myself that my discipline would soon be rewarded, and carried on, like a true HSP warrier woman.
I went in and ordered. Two mixed meat snack packs with chilli and garlic sauce, and one chicken with tomato sauce for the kids to share. While I realise that tomato sauce is not permissible as a HSP condiment, rules are meant to be broken, and hungry kids with the wrong sauce are a force like no other. I wanted to savour this moment without the unnecessary interruptions that HSP purity may have caused.
Not ten minutes later, the snack packs were on the table. Served in cardboard boxes, with plastic forks, they were massive. I’m not kidding. If I hadn’t spent the day preparing myself through fasting, there is no way I would have come even close to finishing it. The hot meat was smothered in sauce, and mixed with cheese. The smell was amazing. I took my little plastic fork, and dug in.
It was amazing. The chilli sauce was simultaneously sweet and spicy. It was complemented perfectly by the creamy bite of the fresh garlic sauce. Both condiments covered the meal in generous proportions. The chips, still hot and crisp under the huge pile of meat, were seasoned with kebab shop style chicken salt. And the meat. Oh, the meat! Fresh, hot, thin pieces of meat that had clearly been shaved directly off the rotisserie.
A quick check on the kids showed them equally enthused by their own meal. So enthused that it was impossible to get a photo of them smiling together – neither of them could resist shoving another forkful into their gobs. With the exception of the odd satisfied moan, we cheerfully stuffed our faces in silence.
Despite denying myself that Bunnings snag, and spending the entirety of my waking hours in a meditative state in preparation for this snack pack experience, in the end, the snack pack won. I simply could not finish it. I came close, but the box was the approximate weight of a newborn baby, and my stomach can only expand so much. It was delicious, however, to the very end.
We left Watsup Brothers with full bellies, and a new appreciation for my brothers and sisters in the HSPAS. Their dedication to this humble and delicious meal, their passion, their guidance. If you only make one commitment this year, make it a commitment to the consumption of a Halal Snack Pack. You won’t regret it.