MA: MUSLIMS FIND MORE HALAL RESTAURANTS AND FOOD PROVIDERS
Chicken tandoori, shami kebab, and lamb korma are among the exotic dishes offered at Grain and Salt, a new South Asian eatery in Allston. But Salim Nguyen, an observant Muslim from Wayland who eats only halal, the Islamic equivalent of kosher, is drawn to Grain and Salt’s American fare.
“I can get Indo-Pakistani food at home,” says Nguyen, 36, who grew up in Natick on the Indian cooking of his mother. Today he enjoys the Pakistani cuisine his wife prepares. But he’s seldom been able to indulge in the foods his non-Muslim friends ate, like burgers, burritos, and chicken tenders because the meat wasn’t zabihah — slaughtered according to Islamic rites — and thus wasn’t halal. “Grain and Salt enabled me to eat Buffalo wings, which I always craved for but I couldn’t have.”
Halal restaurants and groceries catering to devout Muslims are proliferating across America, and Boston is no exception. On zabihah.com, sort of a Muslim Zagat’s, where diners can rate halal restaurants, there are more than 19,000 reviews for more than 5,000 restaurants and grocers, including 72 in and around Boston. But zabihah meat is no longer just for curries and kebabs or other dishes common in the Islamic world. As more Muslims are born in or come to the United States at an early age and experience what other American palates experience, zabihah meat is landing in everything from tacos and teriyaki to Philly cheese-steaks and chicken chow mein.
In Arabic, halal means permitted, and pertains not only to food, but also cosmetics and personal care products, as well as behavior and ethics. According to the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of North America, one of several US-based certifiers of halal products, all food and drink are generally considered halal except pork, carnivorous animals, birds of prey , and land animals without external ears, as well as animals that were dead before slaughtering or improperly slaughtered, and blood.