“I love a traditional kebab,” says Shane Delia, chef at Biggie Smalls. “But that’s not what we’re about. We’re about fun, rhymes and good times.”
Since the modern, upmarket kebab (or “kbab”) shop opened on Smith Street last December, its bread has been concealing some untraditional fillings. Take the Dirty South, with fried chicken, lettuce and pickled onion. Or the Juicy, stuffed with beef, cheese, lettuce and mustard mayo. “It tastes like a burger,” says Delia. “It’s not very Middle Eastern at all.”
There’s now also the Piggy Smalls. Crammed with pork belly, chilli jam, kewpie mayo, pickled-carrot slaw and spring onions, it’s more like “a crispy, funky bánh mì” than a kebab. But there’s a catch: it’s not available in-store. It can only be ordered via Deliveroo.
Delia says there’s a highly considered process behind Biggie Smalls’ only off-menu item. The pork belly is braised for hours in a master stock, then pressed into shape. It’s then dusted with a seasoned flour and fried until the skin puffs and turns crispy. From there the meat is rolled in house-made chilli jam, then added to bread with house-pickled carrot slaw, salad and mayo.
“It’s got that soft meat and crunchy skin, so when you bite into it you get a salty, crunchy, sweet tang,” says Delia. “It’s tasty as.”
The creation of the unusual concoction can be traced to Delia’s restlessness. “When Biggie Smalls started we had a standard format of what our kebabs were going to be,” he says. “It was a protein, a flavoured hummus and a standard garnish. But I got bored of that pretty quick, both as a consumer and a cook.”
The secret to Biggie Smalls isn’t just untraditional fillings. It’s the quality of the ingredients, and how they’re treated. “We don’t take shortcuts,” says Delia, who is also head chef at Middle Eastern restaurant Maha in the CBD. “We buy from the same suppliers we use for Maha, and we cook with the same quality product.” Everything is made from scratch – even down to the satay mayo in Biggie Smalls’s East Coast kebab, which is cooked with ginger, galangal and palm sugar.
Delia acknowledges he’s not the first to modernise the kebab. But at Biggie Smalls, it’s as much about the experience as it is the food. “It’s not enough to just be cooking good food,” he says. “We’ve really invested in creating a total experience. Whether it’s sitting in the bathroom looking at the graffiti, or the amazing architecture, or even the smart packaging we’re doing for Deliveroo.
“We get people sitting here who have finished eating and we ask them if they need anything else, and they say, ‘No, we’re just listening to the music, thanks.’”
Hungry and north of the city? Biggie Smalls’ Piggy Smalls is available now, only via Deliveroo.
If you’re southside, try Radio Mexico’s black bean with pork and pickled cactus. If you’re in the city, try Belleville’s Jack Cheddar and Truffle Mac & Cheese (with bacon-Cheezle crumbs).