Tag Archives: Rant

I only eat chicken and rice…Not

I often meet people who immediately assume that when I say “I only eat halal food,” it must mean I only eat chicken and rice. Well, that is not the case.

I assure you, halal food is more than chicken and rice. Even when it’s the mouth watering entree in silver packaging sold on 53rd and 6th.

I don’t actually stand on lines three times a day for breakfast, lunch and dinner for grilled chicken, lamb or beef chunks sidled with yellow or brown rice, then drizzled with mystery white sauce, hot sauce or the occasional barbecue sauce and a sparing array of salad on the side. If I did, I’d choose different carts each time, and vary even then by day. They do say that variety is the spice of life.

But, really now.

In reality, halal just mean lawful in the sense that the meat was blessed with an Islamic prayer before slaughter. So all I’m saying is that when I’m out and about, I’m often limited to the carts or must choose from vegetarian or seafood options at restaurants not serving meat from a halal butcher shop.

As long as it is, I indulge in practically the same dishes as everyone else, but mostly at home. Home is where the halal is. My mom prepares Bengali meals, like biryani, and American ones, like steak and mashed potatoes, on any given day. So relax guys, I’m not quite so deprived, just particular.

I wish I could explain this one once and for all—because I have, often—but the misunderstanding continues. Sigh.

In fact, I asked a few friends about their perceptions of halal food just so you readers didn’t think this was all based on conjecture. And my, oh my, did most of them basically prove my assessment:

I asked, what is halal food? These were my friends’ well meaning responses:

“It’s chicken and rice. With white sauce,” said Alex Mikoulianitch

“What do you mean? I’m not understanding your question,” said Anas M. Uddin.

“Middle Eastern dishes,” said Brian Gottesman

(And then a light at the end of the tunnel)

“Halal food, to me is the meat, and it has to be prepared a certain way, and has to be blessed,” said David Ospino.

(But wait, there’s more)

“I guess, chicken and rice, and salad,” said Nakeisha Campbell

“The Arabic version of kosher food. And shish kebabs,” said Gizelle Lugo.

Close. But still, sigh.

It’s frustrating to say the least. But I’m confident that as New Yorkers, people will catch up. We understand what kosher is, right?

For instance, Dovilas Bukauskas said, “I think halal is just for meat. I think kosher is for everything.”

So, the concept isn’t completely out of our scope. But little does it matter in the foodie scheme of things when both the vendors and their hungry customers are happy. Especially around Baruch, where there are close to 5 halal food carts/trucks in something of a two block radius and chicken and rice reigns supreme.

My Egyptian buddy agrees, posing for the camera, then jokingly saying, “Now you pay for the photo.”

This halal food vendor by 25th and Lexington serves long lines of Baruch students everyday. At noon on this day, the lunch line is just beginning to form.

$5 dollars for a chicken and rice = halal food misnomer? “Ha-ha.” Certainly not.

Posted in Food, Food Rant / love song | Tagged | 4 Comments

BAM! Surprises Hit You Hard

If you’re aching for a taste of delicious Chinese cuisine and you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go? I am hoping that in engineering this question oh-so-subtly (and ingeniously), that you will arrive at the answer I am searching for. But if you still don’t know, here’s a REALLY BIG hint: remember that REALLY BIG landmass in Asia that’s in the shape of a rooster that all of you guys probably came across in your Social Studies class back in middle school? Yea, jog those memories of yours. I’m talking about China.

So what’s in China that you couldn’t find here? I’m sure all of you are thinking along the same lines as I am– the quasi-Communism that exists there and the daily propaganda that the Chinese government regularly feeds to their people, right?

Wait a second, hold up, OOPS. I’m talking about food.

Chinese takeout is something that just doesn’t have a smidgen of authenticity to it. Sesame chicken? General Tso’s chicken? Really? Really? Now, mind you, don’t think I’m hating on Chinese takeout because I’m really not. I’m not a hater– My dad works at Yee Garden, a takeout restaurant in Middle Village, so I firmly support the rights of Chinese takeout restaurants to exist.

In China, I thought I was in food heaven. It had everything I liked, from savory wontons in soup to my favorite noodles, zhajiang mian, to mouthwatering dishes with eggplant or stinky tofu, two things I absolutely abhorred before going to Nanjing.

So imagine my disappointment when I was studying abroad at Nanjing University for three-and-a-half months last fall and was desperately missing my mother’s delicious vegetarian baozi when I discovered that they didn’t have the kind my mom made. I’m not talking about any old vegetarian baozi, I’m talking about the kind that has glass noodles, small squares of tofu, slivers of carrots, and pieces of wood ear inside them. They are irresistible and apparently, hard to find in China. I mean, who knew right?

Now, I wouldn’t call myself a vegetarian, but my mother, being the health nut that she is, habitually cooks more greens than hearty strips of pork and savory slices of beef. Salt, sugar, and especially soy sauce, are never used in excess and sometimes, they’re even left out. I’m pretty used to it though and now, I think I love it.

Before we go on, let me make this clear. You can put just about anything in the fillings of baozi— there really isn’t anything, any combination of ingredients, that is wrong. It’s all based on your judgment, so if you think that combo A is probably better tasting together than combo B, than stick with combo A.

Because there is no right or wrong, though, it has made my life extremely difficult, or at least my pursuit of it. That perfect baozi seemed lost and hidden in the vastness of China. I mean, what’s the likelihood that people would put the exact same fillings in baozi anyway? Highly unlikely, no doubt about it.

Vegetarian baozi from Mama Su's

So when my boyfriend told me that I could find them at Mama Su’s Grill & Steam in Bayside, New York, I couldn’t believe my ears. Here in New York City of all places? I sighed. This was a scam, it just had to be. They were bewitched by these fakes, these poor imitations of the baozi my mom likes to make. Who else could recreate home, besides my mom?

Even despite all my negative sentiments, I still  wanted to try it. I just had to. I couldn’t very well not eat it, and lose an opportunity to say: “The ones from home are better.” So when two buns arrived in front of us, one for my boyfriend and the other for me, I was prepared to be disappointed. And suddenly, BAM. It hit me just like that. This was definitely a taste of home. I was shocked. Who knew that the vegetarian baozi that I had been searching for endlessly in China would be found right here in New York. Now that’s really surprising.

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