Kwik Meal Cart's Lamb from 'New York a la Cart'


[Photograph: Clay Williams]

Hear talk of New York street food and the words "halal meat cart" will probably come up, followed by the words "white sauce" and "hot sauce." As a non-native, I had little idea what New Yorkers were actually describing before trying this recipe from New York a la Cart. Authors Alexandra Penfold and Siobhan Wallace highlight one particularly well-known halal cart called Kwik Meal.

Kwik Meal's signature dish is lamb, as opposed to the more typical chicken, marinated in yogurt, mashed green papaya, and a few choice spices. Served over rice with white sauce and hot sauce (Penfold and Wallace suggest cooking down spicy salsa verde for 10 minutes or so to replicate the hot sauce), this lamb is relatively mild in spice yet super tender, with a nice balance of acidity to rich meat.

Why I picked this recipe: Not being a New Yorker, I'd never experienced halal cart meat with white sauce and hot sauce before. I figured I needed to fix that, stat.

What worked: The two-step cooking process worked great; the lamb was indeed tender inside with a crisp exterior. Yogurt and green papaya in the marinade lent welcome acidity to the rich, gamey meat.

What didn't: I wasn't totally sure how to mash a green papaya, so I chopped it into smallish bits and muddled it around in my mortar and pestle until it got a little broken up. I imagine a food processor would do a better job.

Suggested tweaks: The lamb makes a good entree over rice as well as stuffed into pita. If you can't find green papaya, you could try using pineapple instead. (It contains a different chemical with similar tenderizing properties.)

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of New York a la Cart to give away this week.