Tag: lamb

NYC Food Adventures: Mama Halal Food

Notes from a New York City Foodie Trip

The halal cart phenomenon continues unabated in NYC, and with good reason.

Forget about hotdogs, for several decades now, the New York City street food par excellence has been halal fare. Originally referring to the types of foods permitted for Muslims – think Kosher but far less strict -, halal carts are understood to serve food of Mediterranean origins, mainly shawarmas and kababs, either served on pita or as part of a rice bowl. Halal carts broke into the NYC street scene in the 1980’s, when Greek carts were still a thing, but really blew up in the 1990’s. By the end of the millennium, there were over 500 halal carts in NYC, and their numbers have only grown since then.

Perhaps the most famous halal cart, and one of the first, is Halal Guys. Over the decades, they have not only expanded throughout the city but nationwide, operating both carts and brick and mortar restaurants. Like many of the current carts, it was operated by Egyptian immigrants. They are famous for their white and red sauces – the former apparently a mint yogurt sauce and the latter apparently shattah, a peppery sauce. -, something which other carts seem to have imitated. In addition to Egyptians, many halal carts are operated by Bangladeshi and Afghan immigrants/refugees, and the menus of their specific carts may reflect these interests.

Getting food from a halal cart was one of my “NYC must do’s” and we were lucky that one of the two halal carts located immediately across the street from our hotel – there were probably a dozen or so within a couple of blocks -, got very good reviews. Thus on our second night in the City, after attending a taping of the Colbert show, we got halal take out at Mama Halal Food and ate it in our hotel.

lamb gyro

I went with the lamb gyro ($8.50) and I was very happy. The lamb cubes were impossible tender and flavorful, and after I removed some lettuce, the pita sandwich was well balanced. I had it just with the white sauce. The gyro was perhaps a tad small, but fortunately I wasn’t terribly hungry. I’d definitely order it again if I was in the area.

chicken tikka masala

Mike had the chicken tikka masala bowl ($10.50), with both white and red sauces, and he was very happy with it. I, personally, didn’t think it tasted much like tikka masala, and the red sauce had made it too spicy for my taste, but I appreciated how tender the chicken was. He’d order it again, I wouldn’t.

Drinks were cheap, just $2 for cans, if I recall correctly. There was almost no wait on that cold February Monday night, and service was friendly and efficient. In addition to the W 51st location that we visited, Mama Halal Food has carts at W54st/8Ave, W50st/9Ave and 121st/LibertyAve (Queens).

Mama Halal Food
W 51st St. & 7th Ave.
(347) 207-5804
M-Su 10 AM - 3 AM


Meal Kit Review: Sun Basket’s Lamb korma with sweet potato mash and toasted naan

Rating: 8/10

I love lamb korma so when I saw this lamb korma with sweet potato mash and toasted naan kit on Sun Basket‘s menu, I knew I had to get it – even if I was a little suspicious of a meal kit being able to really being able to turn out one of my favorite dishes.

My suspicious were justified.  While this kit produced a very nicely spiced ground lamb, it didn’t taste like any korma I’ve ever had at an Indian restaurant – in the US, England or India itself.   Still, the “korma” sauce Sun Basket provided – and which is fully absorbed by the meat when you cook it -, enhanced the flavor of the lamb and made it very tasty.

The whole wheat naan bread was also much better than it had any right to be – though I wish there had been some sauce for it to soak in.  And adding balsamic vinegar to the mashed sweet potatoes was a glorious idea.  It transformed baby food into something quite tasty.

However, for whatever reason, I felt a little bit nauseous later that night and that nausea returns whenever I think of this kit.  My husband didn’t report a similar feeling, so it may just be me.

It took me about an hour to make this meal, but I’m a slow prepper/cooker. Probably the worst part about the meal, though, was the presentation.

While the produce in this kit was organic, the lamb was not, though I’m not sure that’s particularly important vis a vis lamb.  Everything seemed to be fresh.

All in all this was a good meal kit.  I paid a discounted price of $11 for the kit (which serves two), and it was definitely worth that, but I don’t think it was worth the $24 regular price.  For that amount of money I can get a large-enough-for-two order of real Indian lamb korma at my regular take-out Indian restaurant, in addition to rice and some pakoras or samosas – and I wouldn’t have to cook it myself.

Lamb Chops with Poached Pears and Balsamic Pan Sauce

Last week my sister came over for a visit, mostly – she says – so that I would cook for her. And because I love her that’s exactly what I did 🙂 One day I made milanesas, another curried peanut chicken and another, because lamb chops were on sale at Safeway, these lamb chops with balsamic sauce from an epicurious.com recipe. The recipe called for poached quince, but Kathy doesn’t like quince, so I substituted with pears. Alas, Mika loved the pears so much that she asked me to make them everyday for dinner – I haven’t yet. The lamb was also a HUGE winner with all of us. This is certainly a better-than-restaurant caliber recipe.
I didn’t make too many other changes to the recipe, though I did double the sauce (it was a bit too much, but it was sooooo yummy and went great with the Israeli couscous I served it with). I’ll definitely make this again.
Lamb Chops with Poached Pears and Balsamic Pan Sauce
* 2 cups unsweetened apple juice
* 1/4 cup sugar
* 2 pears, peeled, cored and cut into thick slices
* dried thyme
* 8 lamb chops
* salt & pepper to taste
* 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
* 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
* 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
* 1 tsp. chopped fresh oregano
* 1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
Put the apple juice and sugar in a medium-size saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves. Add the pears and a dash of thyme. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 20 minutes, until pears are tender. Remove pears from the juice and set both pears and juice aside.
Meanwhile, salt and pepper the lamb chops. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the lamb. Cook until it’s done, 2 1/2 to 5 minutes per side, depending on the sickness of the chops.  Transfer to a plate and keep warm.
Pour off the drippings from the skillet and place back on the burner. Turn down the heat to medium and add the apple juice. Boil until reduced to 1/2 cup – about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the vinegar, butter, oregano, rosemary and a sprinkle of thyme. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve the lamb with the sauce and poached pears.
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