By Ava Stryker-Robbins
Moshakal is a combination platter offered at Gazala’s restaurant, including chicken, lamb, chicken shawarma, and kafta (beef and lamb). Each meat has its own flavor and goes well with the yogurt sauce provided.
Restaurant owner Gazala Halabi imports the spices that flavor the meats from Israel. Initially, they were mixed in her grandmother’s spice shop in Daliat el-Carmell, but since her passing, Halabi’s mother has been mixing and shipping the spices. Halabi recalls on a phone interview with WSR that one time when she went to Israel, she came home with three suitcases full of spices!
Halabi’s family has been making this dish since she was little. While she tries to make it similar to the Moshakal in Israel, she notes that the meat types available in the United States are very different, and she minimizes the salt level to appeal more to American consumers. “This dish is meant for meat lovers,” Halabi says, and her family fits the description. “My family is crazy about meat…I Iove it…I love it.”
Gazala’s celebrates the cuisine and culture of the Druze, “a conservative religious minority residing mainly throughout the Middle East,” her website explains. Hospitality is an integral part of the Druze culture, and they love indulging with family and friends, using recipes passed down from generation to generation. Halabi says that every day as a child, she would wake up at 7 AM to the aromas of food. “Food makes the family together,” she says.
In 2001, Halabi came to the United States. It was very painful to leave, she says, as her parents did not want her to go, and it meant the Druze community would lose another member. Homesick in America, Halabi cooked all day, catering meals and desserts from her home. After a few years, she was able to open her own restaurant. While it was something she never anticipated, it is an immense source of pride for her and her family. “I forgive myself for leaving them after I saw when they came to the United States how much they’re proud and how much they’re happy.”
While the restaurant’s first location is downtown, Halabi says,”I am very happy that my restaurant is also in the Upper West Side.” She calls the support from the neighborhood “immense.”
The Moshakal costs $34. It is served with rice and cabbage salad.
The Dish: Moshakal
The Restaurant: Gazala’s (447 Amsterdam Avenue between 81st and 82nd Streets)