Muslims are among the many religious groups that obey strict laws on food intake. They only eat halal food or food permissible under the Islamic Law as defined in the Koran. Anything that is NOT halal is called haram or non-permissible. Blood, pork, meat of strangulated animals, and intoxicating substances like alcohol are among the food considered haram or not halal.
Despite the diet restrictions, Muslim cuisine is actually very dynamic and sumptuous. There may be zero pork, but it has an array of preparations for exquisite meats like beef, lamb, and chevon (goat meat). It’s also multifaceted in that it contains great balance of flavors and textures, making it a truly an interesting and enjoyable gastronomic experience.
The entire Philippines enjoy no-work holidays to honor the faith of our Muslim brothers and sisters. Non-Muslim Filipinos usually think Muslim holidays are all about fasting, but they aren’t. Although there is a period of fasting, Muslims also know how to feast, which they usually do right after. This involves careful preparation of bountiful halal dishes, which they share among themselves, and also with others outside the Islamic community.
If you haven’t tried Muslim food yet, here are ten reasons why you should.
Beer, wine and other alcoholic, intoxicating food and drinks are haram. If you are someone who wants to steer clear from alcohol, perhaps you have liver problems, or simply want to avoid getting intoxicated, your best bet is to shop and eat at halal stores and restaurants. If your barkada is a Muslim and you’re open to embrace his or her eating lifestyle, you’re certain you’ll never get drunk.
- Spice and Heat
Spices and herbs add varied layers of flavor to the food, giving it complexity and depth. Nutritionists even encourage use of spices to flavor food to help avoid use of large amounts of salt and other unhealthy additives. Hot and spicy food may not be for everyone, but if you love spicy stuff or are adventurous enough to try, you might want to give halal food a try. Muslims are exceptionally great at making curry dishes.
- Hello, Yellow Rice
Speaking of curry, halal cuisine is never without the infamous yellow rice. The main coloring agent in yellow rice is turmeric, as well as a bunch of other spices like paprika, cayenne, cardamom, and cumin. Besides their depth of flavors, spices also have nutritional value. Yellow rice when paired with whole spices, vegetables and some cuts of meat becomes a complete meal as in the case of biryani. The color and flavor of yellow rice make it more appealing to eat than just plain rice.
- Halal Meat Wraps
Perhaps your first introduction to Middle Eastern cuisine is shawarma you bought from a stall. That’s great. You know how intense, how flavorful and how enjoyable halal meat wraps can be. Plus they contain delicious bits of grilled beef and finely chopped fresh vegetables, you know they’re healthy and good for your tummy. Halal meat wraps are essentially the Middle East’s version of a burger or sandwich. It’s great food on the go.
- Tasty Muslim Desserts
Muslims love desserts, too. They have their own rice cake preparations such as the dudol, which is like kalamay from Bohol made with rice flour, coconut milk and sugar. They also enjoy sweets such as tiyatug (crispy rice noodle rolls, deep fried with sugar), browa (a Muslim version of soft cookie or mammon), milk pudding (some sort of panna cotta or maja blanca), and a whole lot more.
- Vegetable Overload
Since all vegetables are halal, by definition, Muslims are free to eat them and have been utilizing them to make their food. Legumes like lentil, chickpeas and mung beans are famous among our Muslim brothers and sisters. They make really delicious soups, cakes, and dips with these ingredients. They also use a bunch of other vegetables such as eggplant, squash and tomato to make soups and salads.
- Lean Protein
Muslims are known for their recipes for certain proteins such as beef, lamb, chevon (goat meat), and veal, as well as poultry like chicken and turkey. These are very lean proteins, and are very appropriate for people who want to increase their protein intake but avoid fatty meats. If you are trying to have a high-protein, high-fiber diet, consider dining at a halal restaurant to increase your options.
Muslims don’t just kill animals for nothing. They kill them for food or for self-preservation (predators or poisonous animals that attack). When slaughtering animals, Muslims use very sharp knives to cut through its throat, and draw out all its blood. As long as these animals are considered permissible to eat and were slaughtered according to Islamic rituals, and did not die because of falling, strangulation, and beating (blood was not drawn from the carcass), they are good for Muslim diet. You can be sure there’s no double-dead meat among the Muslims. Their meat is fresh and carefully prepared.
- Free from Gross-Factor
Muslims don’t eat anything gross like frogs, snails and snakes. They also don’t slaughter sick and disabled animals – those that are blind or lame. In addition, Muslims do not offer animals that are very young because they have a prescribed age for sacrificial animals. If you want to be sure your food doesn’t have mysterious or suspicious ingredients in them, try eating halal food.
- Good Food Freely Shared
Muslims are quite a generous bunch. They freely share blessings to the needy and poor, particularly within the Islamic community. They also share with non-Muslims in the essence of upholding their belief and giving praise to Allah for blessing them abundantly. They are forbidden to share haram food, so whenever a Muslim friend or neighbor shares some food with you, expect it to be halal.
As you can see, Muslim halal food is clean, well prepared, healthy and nutritious. If not for sharing the Islamic faith, try eating halal food to experience the Muslim culture, enjoy its health benefits, and to add variety to your culinary options. Other than music and art, food is considered a cosmopolitan language. Share this article with your friends and loved ones. After all, Muslim halal food is more than just shawarma.