What Exactly is a Halal “Italian” Sausage
Ever since I was a kid, the street festival Italian sausage has been a summer tradition for me. Yes, it’s overpriced, yes the fests all end up being sock-sellers and dorm room poster, but there’s something about a hot Italian sausage with hot and sweet peppers on a crusty bun that takes me back to my New York childhood.
Somehow this summer, I didn’t manage to have one at all and as the last week or so has proven, summer is definitely over. Then I noticed that halal carts all over town have started selling Italian sausages. (Well, maybe they were there all along… but it’s only recently that I noticed the signs!) I was intrigued. Halal and pork don’t typically mix, but I wouldn’t tell if they wouldn’t.
All over town I’ve been seeing these same posters from halal carts and trucks. The XPL that Mamacita reviewed last week uses the same signs as does Mediterranean Healthy Food cart on 35th Street off of 5th Avenue, where I decided to sample for research purposes.
First and foremost, it should be clear that, despite all my hopes, these sausages are not pork. In fact, it’s not really anything like an Italian sausage. If I hadn’t seen another similar sign proclaiming that these are in fact beef sausages, I’d say it tastes awfully like gyro meat forced into a sausage casing. The meat has a slightly sweet spice to it, that could be cinnamon, but it certainly wasn’t fennel and red pepper flakes!
The sausage was split and browned on the griddle then put in a pretty big roll and topped with sauteed green peppers and onions. After that, the guy asked if I wanted white sauce on top, which really threw me for a loop. When I said “uh…no,” he seemed almost disappointed and asked if I was sure. I relented.
It’s a weird thing. And not in a ‘weird/interesting/good’ kind of way… more like a ‘it’s weird that I’m eating this’ kind of way. The casing lacks the snap of a traditional sausage and instead each bite involves a slight tearing feeling as you have to rip it apart in order to eat it. Inside, the meat had pockets of gristle that definitely didn’t make me appreciate the meal any more. The sandwich wasn’t terrible, but I don’t have any plans to order it again. Ever. Consider yourself warned.
I know Papa Perrone does sausage with peppers and onions, but 55th is a bit of a hike for me. Anybody have an Italian sausage from a street meat cart goto that they would recommend? Put it in the comments.