In Islam, a set of dietary regulations determines what you can eat. Here’s how to serve up a meal according to the basic rules.
Step 1: Understand the terminology Learn the correct terms. Halal means permissible, lawful, or recommended in Arabic, while haram means illicit. These two words are often used to describe foods that are either allowed or forbidden.
Step 2: Plan your menu When planning your menu, keep in mind that Islamic law has several different schools of interpretation. All agree that fish with scales are halal, for example, but there are differing opinions on shellfish.
TIP: If you're in doubt about whether a certain food is halal, check with the imam at your mosque.
Step 3: Steer clear of pork Islamic law forbids the consumption of pork. Look carefully at ingredient labels—meatballs, hot dogs, and even marshmallows can contain pork or pork products.
Step 4: Eat correctly slaughtered meat Other meats are not automatically halal. Animals must be ritually slaughtered in the name of Allah with one slit to the throat, and then drained of all blood. This slaughtering method is called zabihah.
Step 5: Steer clear of carnivores and carrion Carnivorous animals, birds of prey, and animals killed by accident or by another animal are all haram.
Step 6: Avoid alcohol Islamic law forbids alcohol consumption, which includes cooking with alcohol. In recipes calling for wine, beer, or liquor, substitute mixtures of vegetable stock, fruit juice, and vinegar.
TIP: Check with an authority before using vinegar. Some Islamic schools of thought consider it haram because of its alcohol content.
Step 7: Eat your veggies Eat as many vegetables and legumes as you want. They’re all halal.
Step 8: Beware of vanilla When making dessert, beware of vanilla, a common ingredient in sweets. Vanilla extract's alcohol content makes it haram, but pure vanilla beans are halal. Synthetic vanilla flavor may be permitted if the manufacturer used no alcohol to process it.
Step 9: Hit the stores Once you've chosen your menu, it's time to buy the ingredients. Many cities offer halal butchers, and your local market may offer halal packaged foods.
TIP: Different countries have different certification authorities and symbols. Find out which label is used in your area. Also look for the word halal written on packaging in English or Arabic.
Step 10: Cook your meal Cook your meal. Once you know your ingredients are halal, there are no more restrictions, and you can adapt any cuisine to these rules.
Step 11: Give thanks and eat Before eating, remember to give thanks to Allah for the food before you. During the meal, always pass to the right.
Step 12: Share your meal Invite others to your table. When the prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam, was asked what his favorite food was, he replied, "The one I am sharing."
FACT: As of 2007, halal products accounted for 12 percent of the global food trade.