A New York street food fa­vorite finds a home in Manila


There are many things that come to mind when peo­ple think of New York City: the lights. Cen­tral Park. The Em­pire State Build­ing. SoHo. Car­rie Brad­shaw. For Jaime Daez, how­ever, what lin­gered in his mem­ory from his trip is the scent of freshly cooked falafels and gy­ros, Egyp­tian fare that found their way to the streets of The Big Ap­ple through two im­mi­grant broth­ers. I re­mem­ber how there was a long line for the food cart,” he shares. It was part of the tourist at­trac­tion but also some­thing that was part of the city’s lo­cal cul­ture.”

Daez then de­cided that the ex­pe­ri­ence he had is worth shar­ing with the lo­cal palate, so he in­tro­duced The Ha­lal Guys to the Filipino scene. The con­cept is pretty sim­ple: a straight-up menu of rice plates and sand­wiches with your choice of chicken, gyro, or falafel. All or­ders come with a gen­er­ous serv­ing of toma­toes, let­tuce, and onions.

Each dish is pre­pared to match the stan­dard of its Amer­i­can coun­ter­part. They use fresh chicken, as freez­ing poul­try would com­pro­mise the taste and con­sis­tency of the meat. As for the gyro, U.S. grade beef is grilled un­til ten­der and juicy. If you’re not up for any kind of meat, the falafel might be more to your lik­ing as they are ground chick­peas with herbs and spices, giv­ing off an ex­otic and fla­vor­ful bite. The gar­licky white sauce and the killer hot sauce that ac­com­pany the dishes are added af­ter to your lik­ing be­cause it’s all about find­ing a combo of your own. Street food is all about be­ing able to ad­just to the taste of each cus­tomer. It’s all about be­ing the peo­ple’s food,” Daez notes.

Set up in the mid­dle of a bustling food court, Daez also made sure he would be able to recre­ate what it’s like to or­der one of the famed sand­wiches just as though you were ac­tu­ally in New York. It’s all about be­ing able to eat it on-the-go and get­ting value for your money, with­out com­pro­mis­ing taste.” Though a few tweaks have been made to cater to the Filipino clien­tele, such as trad­ing in bas­mati rice for jas­mine rice and stick­ing to smaller por­tions (their New York Size serv­ings are ac­tu­ally the reg­u­lar-sized serv­ings abroad), ev­ery­thing else is kept to the fa­mous stan­dard.

Now that Daez got this ven­ture on the road, he looks for­ward to the sec­ond one. The Ha­lal Guys will soon set up an­other shop in Boni­fa­cio Global City this De­cem­ber, in front of a park so peo­ple can really take their fare to-go. From Egypt to New York, and now, to Manila, we can say that good food trav­els fast.

The Ha­lal Guys. 5/F SM Mega Food Hall, Mega Fash­ion Hall, SM Mega­mall, EDSA cor. J. Var­gas Ave., Man­daluy­ong City. 858-7000.

Their falafel sand­wich is one of the health­ier, more af­ford­able items on the menu of Ha­lal Guys.

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