Halal Cart Chicken & Rice

While you'll still find the classic Sabrett hot dog carts on the streets of New York City, so-called halal carts have become a more common sight. Halal usually refers to the method of slaughter that makes meat acceptable for Muslims to eat, but in NYC it's shorthand for the halal carts serving street meat, most often a plate of chicken and rice topped with a pair of contrasting sauces and served with a simple iceberg and tomato salad.

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For about $8 it's an affordably delicious meal in a notoriously expensive city. Street food's history in New York goes way back, and there's more about the evolution of the halal carts online if you're interested. We spent a week in the big city recently, and I liked the chicken and rice so much I wanted to make something like it. Here's my version:

The chicken is usually boneless thigh, but any chicken cut from the bone works. Since there are two sauces to keep the whole thing juicy, this might be the best use for the often-dry breast meat from a rotisserie chicken. Toss the uncooked chicken with olive oil, salt, and, if you feel like it, one or more herb or spice (cumin, oregano, coriander, thyme or a vaguely middle eastern spice blend). Cook uncovered in a 350F oven until done, about 20 minutes for boneless thighs. Let cool a little and chop into bite-sized pieces.

Halal cart rice is always yellow, so I boiled some Kokuho Rose brown rice with a chunk of fresh turmeric (cook rice at an active boil for 35 minutes, drain, cover, let sit).

For the creamy white sauce, mix about 2/3 cup Greek-style yogurt with 1/3 cup mayonnaise, and a splash each of Katz Sparkling Wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. Some finely chopped mint or parsley is a good addition, or a pinch of dry herbs. Ditto garlic. Some say the red sauce came from north African harissa, but the halal carts' versions are more sweet, less spicy. Make your own (google harissa for recipes) or buy it.

I love iceberg lettuce, but wanted a more substantial salad, so I shredded my favorite vegetable, green cabbage, for the salad. I had a few tomatoes from the garden, but if it's past the season, just skip them.

Scoop some rice into a large bowl alongside about the same amount of finely sliced green cabbage (soak it ice water for a few minutes to make it even crisper) with the tomatoes if you've got them. Add a layer of the cooked chicken, a few spoonfuls of the white sauce and a slightly smaller amount of the red. Drizzle with olive oil, pull up a curb, and eat.