STATEN ISLAND, NY — Despite only being in existence for a year, Halal Stock back home has established a loyal fan base from across the borough. The market features fresh produce, a wide range of spices, dairy products, frozen products, prepared foods, tea, bread and sweets. In the heart of the Dungan Hills operation is a butcher shop with steaks made to order as well as young goats and lambs for a feast at home.
The words Al-Watan are translated from Arabic as “the motherland”. Owners Samia Abu Hamdeh, her husband Azzam Abouta, and son-in-law Mohamed Abouta bring Middle Eastern fare to the East Coast at 1449 Hylan Avenue.
Samia tends the shop with other family members daily and is on hand to give advice on how to cook certain items. For example, with pita bread or a fluffy panini disk, the home cook can whip up an easy snack on the stovetop—spritz olive oil in a skillet to toast the bread on both sides. On one side of the bread, sprinkle thyme, a versatile seasoning that mixes sesame seeds, dried thyme, and oregano or marjoram.
“it is delicious!” Samia said the result.
The thyme blend varies by brand and regional preferences, and sometimes includes sumac, which is a pleasant astringency, and crushed red flakes with an almost lemony taste. Sumac can be the finishing touch to lamb rice or basmati rice, which adds a touch of color as well.
From the busy butcher’s section, Samia explains how the shop has attracted a cross section of Staten Islanders – Egyptians, Pakistanis, and from across the Middle East and Palestine, the country her family hails from.
“We have Americans here. We have Hispanics here. A lot of people like meat. They like the fact that it’s not frozen. Everything is fresh,” she said. Plus, there’s bull’s tail, sheep’s head and organ meats, which were hard to come by. Find them once in Staten Island without digging into the frozen section of the market.
Also bonus: Patrons can order three different grinds for chicken, beef, lamb, and goat—fine, coarse, and one for making sausages like sujuk, stuffed pastrami, and merguez. Pre-made proteins for fillings can be used along with rice in gray squash, zucchini, and eggplant for stir-frying or stewing.
Halal is a diet in the Islamic tradition. Samia explained that the term is used for how the animal is placed – with one slice in the jugular and the blood is drained right away. Muslims consider this practice healthy for the consumer and humane for the animal.
Al Watan does not carry any pork or alcohol product. This means that marshmallows and children’s vitamins are halal. These items usually get their luster from gelatin, which is made from pig. Also, ghee such as vanilla is offered in powdered form rather than a liquid that contains alcohol. Soft drinks and malt drinks are available all the time, as are fruit syrups to spice up your water or sparkling soft drinks.
With Al Watan getting into business in another groove, Samia said it will grow into prepared foods, restaurants and household goods. It estimates that expansion will be about six months away.
“When the store expands to include prepared foods, we’ll have a big one-day feast for everyone to come!” Samia said.
Home is located at 1449 Hylan Avenue, Dungan Hills. 347-855-2533. Open daily from 9am to 9pm and Sunday from 10am to 8pm
Pamela Silvestri is the advanced food editor. It can be accessed at email@example.com.
Editor’s note: This is the tenth episode of the “Eat Around the World on Staten Island” series, which explores the amazing range of delicious dining possibilities in the town. Plus, viewers can peek into some of the amazing kitchens to see how some of the takeaway came to be. Food expert Pamela Silvestri handpicks the best tastes in town you won’t want to miss.
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