Here’s our Tips on How to Find
Halal Foods when you are Travelling
How do you find Halal foods when you are travelling? I’ve been getting this same question from my religious Muslim friends every time we had a conversation about travelling overseas.
Now, let’s break this issue down to bite-sized pieces so our food-concerned friends could travel without having that big question mark in their minds.
I do agree that having ‘special’ dietary needs is quite a hassle when you’re travelling out of town. Some would even say, “how did you live without eating ______ ?”, and some went even further by saying “ahhh, you’re really missing out not getting to eat ________, it tastes amazing!”
You don’t always have to get stressed out looking for a halal-food, Arabic-food, Muslim-food restaurant or food-market which are mostly overpriced. Your travel doesn’t necessarily have to be costly.
What does HALAL mean?
In a nutshell, HALAL (har-lal) food are conceptually similar to “Kosher” foods for the Jewish people. Halal is Arabic for permissible, in the context of foods, means the source must be from a clean source. Eg. slaughtering of animals for food such as chicken, birds or cows must be according to the Shari’ah/Quran laws and regulations.
Usually Halal food have a stamp on the food packaging written in Arabic letters with accreditation by the Islamic council organisations. The accrediting bodies are usually very strict with the cleanliness of the food processing facilities, the method of preparation, etc.
It also mean that the food must be safe for consumption, something similar to a food safety rule that exists over hundreds or thousand years ago. Halal foods cannot have any non-natural occuring alcohol (eg. wine, beer, spirits), lard (pork), pork meat or its derivatives or exotic meats (animals that prey on other animals with their claws).
When travelling, if you’re seeking Halal food, all you have to do is, keep it simple. Stop focusing about finding Halal food, because there are so many things you can actually eat that are definitely halal.
Halal foods in abundance!
Here’s a quick list of things you could find almost anywhere:
Fish or Seafood (fresh, canned or dried)
Vegetables (salads, tomatoes, potatoes, preserved vegetables etc)
Most table sauces or condiments (eg. ketchup, mayo, mustard, etc)
Dried spices (chilli powder, cumin, pepper etc)
Soy based foods
Vegetarian food menus
Vegan food menus
With these basics, you could easily make a wholesome sandwich made from slices of bread, condiments, fish, leafy greens, tomatoes and some cheese.
If you can’t find Halal food because you don’t understand the language or can’t read the words of this foreign land, all you have to do is ask the eatery or restaurant if they serve vegan foods. Most countries would have Vegan or Vegetarian options.
Keep it simple with your taste-buds and you’ll do just fine.
Cooking at Home
If you’re living in big cities or major townships, you could easily find food markets that sells products from the Middle East or Asia or even by local Halal food manufacturers. Thus cooking at home won’t be a problem as you can source most ingredients easily.
Superstores in the UK such as Tesco have a Halal foods section for frozen foods and I believe that most European countries do have their local retailers that stocks up on such food groups.
Try to search on Google for Halal food market, I’m sure that you’ll find one not too far from your preferred locality.
Go Vegan or Vegetarian!
I’m not a Vegan nor a Vegetarian, but I know what they mean given that I’ve lived with both groups of people before.
A Vegan would eat anything plant based (soy/tofu, flours, vegetables, fruits, etc.) and avoid anything what come from animals such as fish, chicken, pork or beef, not even eggs, cheese or milk. Thus, to the Halal-foodies, the Vegan option would be compatible to your choice of food menu, just ask for no alcohol as some may have wine added to the dish.
A Vegetarian don’t eat any animal meat, such as fish, chicken, beef or pork. But they do eat eggs, milk and cheese. So this is also a good food menu for you to look for. Some may be cooked with small amounts of wine (eg. pasta or pastries).
In short, you can live on the Vegan or Vegetarian food menus if you have trouble looking for Halal food in your travel destination.
When travelling to different parts of the world, you may encounter such a question, “why do you not eat Pork?” Especially in the Americas or Europe.
Again, make it simple by saying that you’re a vegetarian, its whole lot simpler than going the whole thousand miles explaining your beliefs in religion and the arguments that may follow as it may be a sensitive topic in this day.
Most countries in Europe and America do at least recognize what Vegetarian or Vegan means, so you’ll be treated with respect if you say that you’re one.
Should you eat Halal food even if you’re not a Muslim?
Yes, why not? It simply means that the food is safe for consumption and it doesn’t say that you’re going to be a Muslim.
Back in Winter 2012, my sister Sierra and myself went to Camden Market (London) on our backpacking trip to explore the area. We got hungry and decided look for something to eat in the food-market area where they have a variety of foods from everywhere around the world.
One of the shops sold Chinese-Muslim foods and the cook was trying to promote his fresh cooked Fried Rice. One of the visitors that walked pass this shop went “no no no, I don’t want Halal food” when being offered to get a tester portion because it was labelled Halal on the shopfront.
That proves some are misinformed or just being ignorant about the meaning of the word itself.
I hope I’ve taken away some of your worries when travelling, and for the rest I’ve helped you understand what Halal food means.