Photo by @westbourne via Instagram

Halva is all over New York City breakfast menus

Rebecca Firkser
July 27, 2018

Halva is a soft candy that's popular all over the world, with myriad recipe variations and cultural specificities. Lately, I’ve noticed it popping up more and more in breakfast dishes at restaurants in New York City. The halva I’m seeing around town is the nut butter-based version of the candy, popular throughout the Middle East. Made with tahini and sugar, halva is a sweet, slightly nutty, crumbly confection, sort of a blend between maple candy and fudge. Essentially, it is a miracle food and I never want to not be eating it.

“Halva is a great way to dress up breakfast with little sweet and savory notes,” Zoe Kanan, head baker at Studio, told me in an email. “We mix shreds of it into granola just out of the oven. Some of it melts and coats the oats and seeds with a sweet-bitter shellac that keeps them crisp once they hit a bowl of yogurt.” But the best part is yet to come in this mixture of granola, yogurt, and preserves: “The remaining shreds start to dissolve in the bowl and sweeten it all up, which mimics the familiar flavor of cereal milk.”

Kanan’s dish at Studio is just one of a few I’ve seen just in the last few weeks with halva on their breakfast menu. During brunch service at Dez, Chef Eden Grinshpan leans into halva’s Middle Eastern roots with her take on a PB&J. She tops thick slices of toast with sumac-roasted strawberry jam and drippy tahini, and tops the bread with toasted sesame seeds and a shower of crumbled halva.

Westbourne, an all-day cafe, serves Los Angeles-style food, but they’re not afraid to let things get a little sweet. Their “Center Your Chia” bowl pairs coconut chia pudding, a toasted almond crumble, raspberries, and mint with rose halva. Each bite tastes less like hippie chow—as chia pudding is wont to do—and more like a luxurious creamy dessert.

“Using halva in breakfast dishes is a great way to add a little intrigue to the meal while still referencing the sweet-salty-savory elements we all crave in the morning," Kanan says.

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