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To many people of Middle Eastern descent, Halal means "allowed" or "permitted," as in the food that is legally allowed by Islamic Sharia law. Similar to the Jewish faith's Kosher laws of Kashrut, Islam's Halal prohibitions dictate how animals should be killed, how meats and other products should be prepared, and which foods are completely off-limits. Several outlets for Halal Indian food exist, from Hahal kebobs on street corners to Halal chicken nuggets at McDonald's.
Owing to Islam's centuries-long immersion in largely Hindu India as well as the country's widespread disdain for pork and beef, almost every food or recipe available as Indian cuisine is available in a Halal version. Muslims make up about 15 percent of the total population — the third-largest Muslim population in the world — so many Indian dining establishments across the country cater to this clientele by ensuring that some or all menu items are Halal. Although Halal Indian food can be found all over the country, the most Halal establishments are likely to be found in the states of Kashmir, Lakshadweep and Jammu, which boast Muslim majorities. In many major cities, even American fast-food giants like McDonald's, KFC and Pizza Hut have set up shop with Halal stamps.
Halal Indian food establishments will often be identified by the logo of a Halal certification body in the country. A common stamp is that of Halal India, which ensures that its registered restaurants, markets and food manufacturing operations are strictly observing Sharia strictures. These range from jugular slaughtering and full blood draining to requirements for prayer and prohibitions against pork, carrion and animals that have died accidentally or brutally. Eggs and milk also must be obtained from animals raised Halal.
Some foods have been declared sacred by Muhammad in the Qur'an, and these can be often found in Halal Indian food. A dish called tharid, a braised meat soup, was one of Muhammad's wives' favorite dishes. Dates, honey, milk and pumpkin also have divine attachments and are common ingredients in Halal food.
Aside from the prohibitions against pork and blood and the requirements for animals to be ritually sacrificed and not die in any other fashion, the options are endless. Any ingredient that can be found in traditional Indian food can be made Halal, though many strict Muslims eat only food that bears a certifying stamp. The reason for this is because food in 2011 is often processed or seasoned with emulsifiers, enzymes, glycerin and many other compounds that may have been derived from non-Halal sources.
@anamur-- I think you've understood the meaning of "halal" correctly.
I personally eat halal meat, but when it comes to everything else like cheese, milk, eggs, bread, etc., I'm fine with what's offered at the supermarkets. I was taught by my parents to never eat pork and to only eat halal chicken, and meat. Fish is halal as it is.
But there are different sects in Islam that might be more strict about food. I mean, there are Sunni Muslims, and Shia Muslims and the Shia also have sects within themselves. From what I know, halal pertains only to meat and meat by-products and to nothing else.
There are basically three categories -- halal or lawful food, unlawful food (pigs, animals with paws) and then recommended food, like olives, dates, etc.
@alisha-- My roommate is an Indian Muslim and she adheres to the Islamic dietary rules strictly. She also buys halal meat like you do from the Indian store and avoids a lot of foods at the supermarket.
From what I understand, halal only pertains to meat and meat products, and anything which comes from animal meat right?
I understand that gelatin may or may not be halal but what about cheese or bread? My roommate makes her own bread at home because she says the breads at the market is not halal.
Do you know why this is? Can practically any food be "halal" or "not halal?"
I buy all of my meat products from a Halal Indian grocery store. The store is owned by Indian Muslims and they carry Indian and Middle Eastern groceries in addition to halal meat.
I'm actually Middle Eastern but there aren't that many Middle Eastern groceries where I live. I'm pretty lucky that this Indian grocery carries halal meat because it can be hard to come by in many small towns and cities in the US where there aren't a lot of Muslims.
I go to this store specifically for halal meat but I do buy a lot of the other products too. I like to buy the pre-packaged dessert mixes and frozen snacks because I know they're
all halal. I can find similar products in a regular grocery store but the problem is that many American products don't specify where the gelatin and other ingredients come from.
A lot of Indians and Middle Easterners also shop at this store even if they are not Muslim. I have a friend who is a Catholic Indian and he likes to buy lamb from there because it's really fresh.
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