Temperatures over 90°F set the mood for our Spoon team members before we entered the 2015 Halal Food Festival—we were parched and burnt before we stepped foot into the event.
We wanted drinks. We wanted food.
We got boba. We got Mexican-Cajun fusion burritos. But most of all, we got a deeper sense of how food can bring people together.
It’s a bold statement to place “America’s Largest Halal Food & Eid Festival” at the headline of the event’s website, but it’s not an overstatement. Roughly 8,000 – 10,000 people attended the event in the past two years and its organizers expected similar numbers this year.
The festival, located off Mowry Avenue in Newark, filled thousands of empty parking spaces in what would otherwise be a ghostly mall parking lot. There was the merchandise area, the entertainment stage, the carnival area, and most importantly…
The Food Area:
With over 21 food trucks and booths to choose from, it was difficult deciding where to eat. The food was decently priced (everything was under $10), and the vendor workers were as vibrant and inviting as the food variety.
We could choose from: pepperoni pizza, noodles, kulfi, donuts, falafels, boba, chicken and waffles, cakes, bean and carrot pies, gyros, mango lassis, samosas, beef jerky, tri-tip, shawarma, baklava and much more.
We ended up trying:
The classic chicken gyro: fresh lettuce, creamy ranch dressing and gamey protein. The lettuce had enough water content to balance the sauce’s richness. For an added kick, we added hot sauce to the gyro to intensify the ranch’s tanginess.
This burrito had twice the amount of chicken you wish you got served at Chipotle, all for the same price. We loved the contrasting textures between the lumpy beans, crunchy greens and tender chicken.
When we ordered at Curry Up Now, the employee asked us how spicy we wanted our samosa (mild or spicy) and challenged us to choose spicy. We accepted and failed that challenge in the hardest way possible, but our scorched tongues loved how true-to-taste these open-faced samosas were.
Hawaiian-Style Shaved Ice
While the heat seemed to be an overarching theme to the festival, there were plenty of options to cool off. This “Island Breeze” shaved ice was our first choice over all the boba, ice cream and smoothies that were down the food booth lineup.
Thankfully, most of the lines were short. With the heat beating down on the festival the entire day, attendees naturally crowded towards the shaded tents. Families tuned into mellow acoustic music and smooth jazz, and every child seemed to be holding (or dropping) a shaved ice cone in one of the colors of the rainbow. Classic carnival games and rides entertained children, while powerful spoken word performances moved adults.
Ultimately, the festival was best reflected by the prayer area where attendees were allowed to pray without disturbance. At its heart, the festival is safe and family-friendly. It is a place where culture is accepted wholeheartedly and where families can get away for a while. There was something at the festival for everybody, and it seemed like everybody found their own ways to cool off.
Spoon entered the festival feeling exhausted from the heat, but left refreshed with money well spent. The wide food variety and rotating entertainment were uplifting, but the most rewarding part of the festival was being able to see how well food is able to bring people together. For only $5 per entry, we’d say it’s a good idea to plan for next year’s event.