A story I recently produced on the growing role of Halal food culture in New York City, where thousands of food carts have branded and marketed “Halal” (Islamic dietary practices) as a uniquely New York cultural phenomenon. Link to video
MORAD: In New York ethnicities and cultures from every part of the world meet and compete to announce their presence in many different areas, including food. In the midst of this variety and richness, Halal food has been able to gain a foothold over the last decade.
MORAD: More than 5000 food carts are spread around New York selling Halal food, welcomed by New Yorkers due to its taste, the variety of its ingredients, its inexpensive price, and its quick preparation; accompanying the fast rhythm of New York life.
SAMEER SARMAST, PRESIDENT OF “SAMEER’S EATS”: Yes I believe Halal food has become NYC culture. I’ll tell you why. It started initially when immigrants came form the Middle East, opened up their carts, serving a lot of the Muslim people, Middle Eastern people, Arabs, Indians, Pakistanis, etc.
MORAD: Halal Guys- the name of the first Halal food cart in New York. Taxi drivers, many of them Muslim, had a key role in promoting the cart. Today it has become a destination for many New Yorkers, tourists and visitors. Its owner is a veterinarian and explained the importance of hygiene in Halal food.
MOHAMMED ABU AL-AINEEN, FOUNDER OF HALAL GUYS: We began to speak to the customers and explain that the blood is drained completely from the body, removing the germs. That’s what drains from the livestock, making the meat really really fresh.
MAX FALKOWITZ, NEW YORK EDITOR OF SERIOUS EATS: A number of years ago you had people like the Halal Guys and everyone else move in and sell something that isn’t especially remarkable but completely different than what the street food scene had seen before.
MORAD: It is remarkable that many Halal food fans do not know what the meaning of “Halal food” is when asked.
CUSTOMER 1: I don’t know. Do you?
CUSTOMER 2: When I see Halal what do I think? I just think like…a seahorse animal.
CUSTOMER 3: I just know it means that its in accordance with certain religious preparations.
CUSTOMER 4: I like to think that its a little bit healthier, since its been through a process and been inspected than your regular stuff.
MORAD: Most customers of Halal carts are non-Muslim. This response has produced a brisk market…cart owners and workers sometimes are not Muslim as well. Morad Hashim, al-Jazeera, New York.
About MeNews producer. Blogger on politics and culture of the Middle East, specializing in issues of public diplomacy.
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