Chicken and Rice. If you are a foodie and live in or around New York city, chances are that the words “chicken and rice” immediately invoke an image and a taste-sensation in your brain.
In the New York city street-food scene, The Halal Guys are quite the trendsetters. Always situated at 53rd and 6th across from the Hilton Hotel, their food cart is sought by many each day and night (they have been known to serve food till 2-3 am each night). Yet no matter when you pass them by, you are bound to see a line leading to their cart. Often times, the wait can be as much as an hour and half – quite simply because of their cult-like following.
The Halal Guys made Chicken and Rice so popular that lately there are tons of Chicken and Rice food carts found all over the city. Each a little different and each trying to cash in on the popularity of this dish. Obviously every foodie has his/her favorites, but the die-hard Chicken and Rice connoisseurs will tell you that there is one and only Chicken and Rice cart to hit: The Halal Guys on 53rd and 6th. End of story!
So what’s the big deal, you ask? Well! After hearing a lot of my family members rave about it for years, I finally decided to give it a try. I hit The Halal Guys cart on a cold winter evening last week. Thankfully, the cold deterred folks from getting in line. There were two groups ahead of me, yet my turn came within minutes. Once you are at the front of the line, you find it hard to think straight. It’s a really small menu, yet all the wonderful aromas make you want to have a taste of everything.
I was instructed by family that lamb and chicken over rice is a good starting point. And that I MUST be sure to get the red and the white sauces. So that is what I did. The whole process of ordering, paying and getting my food in my hands took no more than 2 minutes. Incredible!
So I settled in my car and opened the container to take a peek. At one glance, it looks almost like baby food! I kid you not. There is nothing fancy about its appearance. Sautéed ground meat over yellow rice with a side of lettuce and the two sauces. I was stunned for a moment until the aromatic whiff from my food container beckoned me to take my first bite. WOW! It was so unique, so tasty, so spicy (not as in hot spicy…but as in flavorful spicy). The meat was tender. Clearly marinated and then cooked in a wonderful blend of spices. I got hints of cinnamon, coriander, cumin and much much more. Once you start eating this stuff, you will find that you cannot stop. How simple in appearance and presentation, and yet how dynamite to taste!
The red sauce is quite spicy…so be careful with how much you use. The white sauce is calming with its creamy texture. I believe it is made with sour cream, yogurt with a dash of vinegar, salt and pepper. It was the perfect complement to the dish.
I came back home that night and felt compelled to research this phenomenon a bit more. There is a lot of chatter on the web about it. It appears that many folks have tried to guess the method and ingredients that go into this closely guarded recipe. One thing is for sure: this is not food for the health food or organic food conscious, obviously. One may even be concerned about the cooking conditions, and food safety. But tell you what, that ain’t going to stop me from getting some more of this stuff next time I am in the vicinity of 53rd and 6th.
The Halal Guys Food Cart| 53rd and 6th, NYC, across from Hilton Hotel