Cracking the ingredient code
The Halal Guys are rightfully guarded about their secret sauce, revealing only that it’s mayonnaise-based. I hounded them to tell me if they at least make their own mayonnaise, and after several attempts, got an answer: “No, we don’t.”
That made my task slightly easier. I now just needed to buy vats of mayonnaise and mess around with it. Just another Wednesday at the Thrillist Test Kitchen.
Aside from that one major clue, I also had their brand-new sauce packet’s ingredient list as a starting point: soybean and/or canola oil, egg yolks, vinegar, water, salt, sugar, natural flavors, black pepper, xantham gum, and sodium benzoate. The first six ingredients are mayonnaise. There’s no added dairy, because that would have to be stated. The “natural flavors” is where the magic is.
I went crazy at my favorite spice shop, buying all kinds of packets and bottles, and in the end settled with four: caraway, turmeric, cardamom, and sumac. Lemon juice and sumac give the sauce its strong citrus flavor. Caraway brightens it up, giving it that refreshing note. Cardamom provides the flowery aroma. Turmeric enhances all those flavors and gives the sauce an ever-so-slight yellow tint, which matches the white sauce perfectly. I watered down the mayonnaise first, because the flavor needed to be subdued, then used xantham gum to thicken it back up. I think it comes pretty damn close.