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Haila,
B-G-9 South City Apartment,
(Opposite South City Plaza),
Jalan Malaysia,
Persiaran Serdang Perdana,
Taman Serdang Perdana,
Seri Kembangan.

TAMAN Serdang Perdana was once part of the sleepy Serdang New Village in Selangor. Over the years, it has transformed into a little Middle East enclave with the influx of students from the region.

Along with its new population, came a slew of authentic Middle Eastern restaurants, one of the earliest contenders being Haila, an Iranian sandwich store.

Haila, which means “welcome” in Arabic, is a well-known cold sandwich fast-food chain back in its native Iran, similar to the American franchise store Subway.

However, the Malaysian version is not linked to the franchise but rather inspired by it.

Iranian sandwich store Haila is run by its ever enthusiastic owner, Reza Thahery, 41, who also handles the kitchen.

Iranian sandwich store Haila is run by its ever enthusiastic owner, Reza Thahery, 41, who also handles the kitchen.

Haila’s owner Reza Thahery, 41, followed his wife to Malaysia for her studies nearly a decade ago and started the restaurant out of homesickness for classic sandwiches.

The corner restaurant has an authentic decor – daybeds draped with Persian rugs and marble tables for those who prefer a more formal dining experience.

Keeping close to its inspiration, he initially only served Iranian-style sandwiches. Responding to demand for variety, the restaurant has since introduced Persian and Arabian rice dishes, kebabs, soups, pizzas and salads.

Reza said for lunch, locals tended to go for rice dishes like Banghali Polo with Lamb Shank (RM23) and koobideh kebab (RM14), while Middle Easterners opted for ghormeh sabzi and gheimeh, both types of hearty Persian beef soups.

The restaurant's decor features rugs draped over wood decks, where patrons while away the night with shisha.

The restaurant’s decor features rugs draped over wood decks, where patrons while away the night with shisha.

“There are many students from Iran and the Middle East here, so that’s why we serve affordable food until late,” Reza said, adding that Haila opened until 2.30am.

Their most popular dishes were hotdogs (RM11), the Haila special salami sandwich (RM13), cheese steak pizza (RM15) and falafel sandwiches (RM8).

While most of the hot sandwiches (top pic) were centred around cold cuts and roast beef, the falafels are a good alternative for vegetarians. Falafels, a Middle Eastern speciality, are rounded patties made of chickpeas and fava beans, similar to local potato-laden bergedil but crunchier.

Though the restaurant was inspired by a chain of cold sandwich stores, this Malaysian version has grown its menu to include a selection of pizzas.

Though the restaurant was inspired by a chain of cold sandwich stores, this Malaysian version has grown its menu to include a selection of pizzas.

Their pizzas, too, take a Middle Eastern twist, featuring cheese, olives and green peppers. The Special Pizza (RM16) was even dusted with chips, in a nod to fattoush, with fried pieces of pita bread that is usually mixed into salads.

Although the menu features burgers, hotdogs and sandwiches, everything comes in the same fresh toasted nearly foot-long loaves and ends up looking like a sandwich.

In addition to food, Haila has card games, backgammon and shisha for its late night diners.

Halia opens from noon to 2.30am, daily and is located at B-G-9 South City Apartment, (Opposite South City Plaza), Jalan Malaysia, Persiaran Serdang Perdana, Taman Serdang Perdana, Seri Kembangan.

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