Now in its fifth year, the Halal Guide Food Festival is poised to be the biggest event yet when it returns Aug. 5 to the grounds of Nassau Community College in Garden City. It will feature more than a 100 vendors offering food specialties from Pakistan, India, the Middle East, the Far East, Latin America and the Caribbean — plus apparel, live performances and kids’ entertainment.
The event is presented by The Halal Guide, a multifunctional platform that promotes halal restaurants in the Tri-State region through its Facebook community and food-delivery app.
“The Halal Food Festival is not just a celebration of delicious food, but also a celebration of diversity, unity, and the power of food to bring people together,” said Raza Dastir, the Dix Hills resident who co-launched The Halal Guide with his partner, Ammad Sheikh, in 2019.
The heart of the festival is the opportunity to sample a worldwide variety of halal food. Among the Long Island restaurants participating are Kababjees of Hicksville (Pakistani specialties and charcoal barbecue), Cafe Lahooti of Smithtown (bubble tea), Manny’s Sweet Treats of Mineola and Rockville Centre (waffles, ice cream, desserts), Sunshine of Hicksville (Chinese), Spice Hub of Syosset (traditional Indian dishes), Shaheen Sweets of Hicksville (Indian confections), Terry & Yaki (Japanese bowl truck) and Jazeera of Hicksville (Hyderbadi specialties such as biryani). For spicy food fans, Tex’s Chicken & Burgers, the New York-based chain with locations in Elmont, Hicksville and Centereach, will present a hot chicken tender eating competition.
The local halal scene is at an inflection point. "Halal" signifies a set of dietary restrictions followed by observant Muslims, many of which have to do with the way in which animals are slaughtered; pork and alcohol are also eschewed. For many non-Muslim Long Islanders, "halal" has become synonymous with a fast-casual restaurant that serves chicken or lamb over rice or in a pita. But eateries such as Shah’s Halal and Halal Guys actually represent a born-in-New York cuisine pioneered by street vendors, many of them from South Asia or the Middle East, who had only a rudimentary kitchen and a flat-top griddle at their disposal.
Any cuisine can be rendered in a halal fashion, which is why Long Islanders can find an ever-growing range of halal establishments serving Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, Latin-fusion, fried chicken and burgers.
The Halal Guide Food Festival, 1-9 p.m. Aug. 5 at Nassau County Community College, 1 Education Dr., Garden City. Admission is free.