You don’t think too much beyond the sound of heated haggling and the smell of motor oil (among similarly gritty things) when anybody suggests going to Nasr City’s 7th District (El 7ai El Sabe3). Apart from getting your tailpipe readjusted, there’s not much to invest in, time-wise. But nestled just a minute behind El Sabe3’s infamous stretch of automotive hell is an inconspicuous little slice of Uighur culinary culture dubbed Halal City, and funnily enough, a building or two next to it would be Nile Thailand; Nasr City’s most enduring authentic Thai spot.
You can easily pass it by if you’re not looking
Halal City, although just a bit over a year or so old, was around for far longer, but under a different moniker; Aslam Aghiury Restaurant (you can still see the old sign inside). Back then, it was primarily geared for Asian migrants and students of El Azhar, and it wasn’t very open to more local clientele; the folks inside were visibly shook that Egyptians were on their turf, and the menus were all in what I can only assume was Chinese. They had one ‘remarkable’ waiter; a fellow we’d come to call Zamalek, mostly because of his iconic Zamalek soccer tee, and the fact that he was straight out of 1989 (mustache and all).
The food, once you got past everything else, was an experience that, at the time, I was lamenting; I knew it had to end at some point, and I didn’t know what I’d have to do to get those flavour profiles back (besides order again, which I did, two times).
Eventually, they realised that if your atmosphere is more welcoming to hungry folks, or at the very least, a neutral environment where food can be served without a moderately short Asian young man staring at you like you were responsible for Nanjing, things tend to workout. And so it was that Halal City was born, and with it, a bounty of edible treasure.
Full onion aesthetic
Imagine, for a brief few moments, a massive, unruly mound of dough. A strange, burly figure emerges from the depths of the kitchen, cracking his knuckles before going UFC 2016 all over it. I’ve seen people take beatings like that and stay in a wheelchair for a while, but it seemed that, for every thunderous blow that man would sensually deliver to the dough blob, more flavour (or knuckle sweat) would be imparted on the end result. He romantically punches it, folds it, kneads it, practically plants a Xinjiang flag on it, and then turns it into the thickest, chewiest strands of Asian culture you’ll ever eat this side of the Nile.
After that, he subjects it to boiling water, meanwhile preparing everything else that goes into the EGP 40 bowl of “Gambyan Somyan” that you so sheepishly ordered. After the flurry of preparation goes by (which you can watch at your own leisure), you are presented with what appears to be one giant noodle, encircling itself in and out of a quantum dimension (that’s how you do Sci Fi) similar to ours, but with less war, and more flavour.
I don’t know what this is but I agree
The sauce, whatever it may be, is not too oily, but not thick at all. Ethereal is a term I’d use, smoky as all hell is also a term I’d apply, the overall flavour takes a hold of your senses and tells them, eloquently yet brutally, that they earned this. If you had the audacity to order it spicy, you’ll have to have a surgeon on standby to replace whichever number of sphincters you’ll inevitably blow out. They don’t just add essence of spice; half of the long, cylindrical objects we found in that dish were entire dried peppers, waiting for you to touch them.
The protein in the dish – meat or chicken depending on your preference – was initially dainty; some flakes of beef or a chicken bone here and there. Thankfully, business has been booming, and so has the meat in every dish. Each noodle was a passionate fight, each slurp was an expression of true appreciation, never has there been a culinary experience where I felt things only another person could make me feel more intimately.
Swim in it
And that was just the basic noodle bowl. Halal City, being an Uighur restaurant, serves dishes from many an origin: Afghanistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Mongolia and obviously China (google Xinjiang and have fun with that assignment). Whether you want a nice steamy plate of plov, some authentic pilmen, a deliciously slurpy bowl of Tokhlagman or just straight up Kofta (which they do wonderfully), it’s all there.
What’s more, for the price of a McWhatever with a side of diarrhea at any of your local burger holes, you can have an entire four-person feast all to yourself. Seriously, spending EGP 200 or so at Halal City guarantees you a meal akin to that given to an ancient warlord after capturing Athens for the umpteenth time. It’s intense, homemade, and it’s best not to count any calories while you’re there.
Noods for days
Zamalek is still the waiter, but his bedside manner has drastically improved. He’ll be one of the folks taking your orders apart from head chef (and all-around wonderful man) Murod, who enjoys giving you free Asian mille-feuille cake (that tastes insanely good for what it is) with your order, as well as having a selfie with you to add to the Facebook page (or his private scrapbook, whatever, he gets what he wants).
Magic food man
The locale itself isn’t very picturesque; you’re not at Mantis here, nor are you at the Nasr City Peking (which is the best Peking, fight me). You’re in a place that was revived by migrants from the storied Xinjiang autonomous region, having fought through miles of bureaucracy, religious segregation and the woes of uprooting, all to make an honest living (they vehemently refuse tips) and to give folks around a slice of their own home.
So all in all, I’d give Halal City a healthy four out of five arbitrary Konafas. So take your family, friends, loved ones, lovers, and even your dog (don’t though) to Halal City, for there is no more sincere and heartwarming show of affection to your fellow man than to bathe their senses in warm, wholesome food.
Make sure to check out Halal City’s Facebook page for updates and location details.