THE TRAVELING FARE
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.