Monday, January 17, 2011

What the Hell Is Halal? (Hint: Heavenly)

One of the biggest complaints about Seattle's light-rail system is the distance between stops. If you live between two stations, it's a bit of a schlep--a miserable experience on a rainy day. As someone who mostly rides the train for the food, it means that I see dozens of restaurants that pique my curiosity but which are a longer haul from my stop than my level of hunger is usually willing to wait.
But it's time those cafes (and my post-holiday muffin top) got some attention. The stretch between the Columbia City station and the Othello is especially rich with diverse food possibilities--Chinese, African, Vietnamese, and barbecue line Martin Luther King Jr. Way. So from the latter, I jumped off and headed north.
The Cafe: While riding light rail, a sign I see frequently is "Halal," usually followed by some descriptor like "African Meats." Frustrated by my own ignorance, I found myself under the bright, welcoming sign at Moga's Market (6727-B MLK Jr. Way S., 723-3588).
Inside were shelves of culinary basics: flour, sugar, and the like. Racks of clothing filled an adjacent room. Hanging from the racks were the burqas and hijab headdresses worn by the women chatting at the counter. There were also stands filled with long beautiful skirts that made me wish I were six inches taller. But there was no sign of these halal meats, so finally I asked.

"Halal is from God," one of the women at the counter explained. "At Safeway, that meat isn't Halal. Like Allah."
With the language barrier making details a little difficult, I did some Wikipedia sleuthing back home. Based on the Internet encyclopedia and my conversation at Moga's, it appears Halal is a designation similar to kosher. Halal meat is slaughtered in a ritual method known as dhabiha.
"And you sell Halal meat here?" I asked the woman, glancing around the store.
"It's in the back, we cut it," she replied. "Do you want beef? Goat? Chicken?"
I ordered a pound of halal steak and another woman headed for the back. 15 minutes later she returned with a gorgeous red chunk of beef that looked well over a pound. "$3.99," she said.

I don't think I've ever paid that little for such pretty meat.

Courtesy by: Seattle Weakly

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