Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tasty Tuesday: Halal Guys Chicken & Rice

Halal Guys Chicken and Rice
In my food travels (so, in pretty much all my travel experience) six seems to be a magic number. I’ve found that I can always
eat spectacularly well with six units of currency – see Exhibit A. This theory served me well when I went to Manhattan, where $6 USD bought me a fantastic box of the famous chicken and rice from Halal Guys.

This place is legendary; I’d been reading about it for years. It even used to have its own Wikipedia page (which has since been deleted, for some reason) and it has spawned imitations all over the city. This, in addition to Hide-Chan Ramen, was right at the top of my To Try list for New York.

Superwoman and I passed by 53rd and 6th, the intersection where this cart is located, on our way to the MoMA at noon on a week day. There was already a lineup, and to confuse things further, there were two identical carts on both corners south of 53rd.

Fellow Asian sisters getting their chicken and rice fix.
According to my research, the “right” cart to go to during the day time is on the southeast corner and after 7pm or so you should go to the southwest corner. This cart is open way into the wee hours, which is why a lot of people hit it up post-clubbing. The trick, I’ve read, is to look for the yellow bags, the bright orange rice, the individual packs of sauce (if you get takeout) or the all-you-can-squirt sauces if you eat it right away, and the word “Halal” on the servers’ shirts. Both carts had all of these things so I just went along with the time rule. We grabbed a box to go on our way back up to Westchester, to my aunt’s house.

However, it started pouring heavily on our way back to our car, so we ducked into a covered area against a building, waited a while, and then half jogged, half walked back to our car. On one of our jogs, a pack of hot sauce fell and I stepped on it, which produced a very satisfying SQUISH. As we continued back to our car, 70% soaked, I joked to my mom that things could’ve been worse – the hot sauce could’ve splattered all over me when I stepped on it.

When we finally reached our car, I noticed that my ankle and heel were feeling kind of warm, and then my mom pointed out to me with a whoop of laughter that I did, in fact, get hot sauce all over myself. I wiped it off, but my ankle started to burn and it got worse after a shower – so that hot sauce is serious business, guys!

I promise my legs look much better from a different angle! :P

When we finally got back to my aunt’s and had a chance to sit down and eat it, we thought it was probably not as good as if we ate it right on the street but it was quite, quite tasty anyway. The serving was very generous and the chicken covered the entire dish - a big deal for us because if you're used to eating (authentic) Chinese food, the main dish to rice ratio indicates the generosity and value of an eatery, you see.  :P Halal Guys passed with flying colours!

The chicken wasn’t as spiced or as juicy as I’d have liked but it was tender and very fragrant – as was the rice. The rice was similar to basmati, and it was just right – not mushy or undercooked, but with visible individual grains. There was some fresh lettuce in there, which was a nice contrast to the legendary white and hot sauces.  We were given two large packs of white sauce and two packs of hot sauce, but even with my one destroyed packet, I found that once hot sauce was absolutely enough.

See, the dish needs sauce because otherwise the whole thing would be kind of dry – the meat isn’t cooked in any liquid. I read so much about the sauces and I think I had my hopes up because I enjoyed the chicken and rice more than the sauces themselves. The white sauce was very creamy but kind of heavy (kind of like mayonnaise) and didn’t have much flavour to speak of – it just bound the chicken and rice together so that the grains won’t slip through fork spears. The hot sauce was quite savoury and tasty but it was intense too, so the white sauced acted like a good neutralizer.

All in all it was an excellent way to spend $6 in New York. I’d be hard pressed to find a meal of the same price that’s half as satisfying! Highly recommended.

Halal Guys
53rd & 6th

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