I wrote about New York's halal carts a couple of years back as one of the very first lunch suggestions I ever threw out there. That's because I've been eating combo rice since I was a wee thing. I find a container of meat-laden rice covered with tart yogurt sauce and fiery harissa to be a little styrofoam-contained piece of heaven. And then I did something crazy. To be perfectly truthful, I blame society for my actions. But I stand by them.
I have naysayer friends and family alike who say "gross, street meat." It is served from a cart on the street, okay, it didn't come from there. Halal meat is some good quality meat — better than the mass-processed stuff you buy in styrofoam packages at the supermarket, to be sure. The falafel is fried-to-order, the chicken is thigh (by far the best part of the chicken) and the lamb is from those legit doner cones.
While we're talking about what is legit, it's important to mention that there is a wealth of truly terrible halal carts around the city in every locale and neighborhood. These landmines are so numerous you're in constant danger of picking up a container of something that makes people naysayers. So when you find a good cart, like the one parked RIGHT outside my building by the grace of…uh…whomever, stick with it. The good ones have cute Lebanese dudes in their mid-20s working the grill, but however you want to feel it out for yourself is fine.
So what did I do to my last combo rice that has me all shaken up? Well, we did a cooking demo Google+ Hangout with John Stage, founder and owner of the mighty Dinosaur Bar-B-Que which resulted in 5 pounds of pulled pork (which we all swarmed and demolished) and several large bottles of Dino's magical Slathering Sauce. I absconded with one. Several days later at home, I found myself staring down a combo rice and reaching for the bottle of Dino sauce.
"Do it!" my palate screamed.
Powerless, I tipped the bottle over my lunch and prepared to taste this abomination. It. Was. Awesome.
And while I'm not going to be dousing my beloved combo in Dino sauce every single time, it's kind of like the second you realize pineapple and ham really do go on pizza, try as your brain might to convince you they don't. You don't want it every time, but sometimes the greatest comfort foods of all need a brass knuckle-punch to the face. Southern pork sauce meets Yankee halal food. There is such beauty in this world.
More Middle Eastern food for lunch on Food Republic: