It should probably go without saying that The Halal Guys serves tasty, halal food. However, I just had my first experience with this eatery with my husband and kids. I was amazed that my kids with food allergies could eat almost everything on the menu. The food allergens that we avoid are egg, dairy, nuts, seafood, peanuts, and fish. We were recently in Southern California and we stopped into The Halal Guys. We had to ask our typical rundown of questions (i.e., what type of oil do you use? what are the ingredients used to make that dish? etc…). I was pleasantly surprised that peanut oil wasn’t used and there was only one item (other than the obvious off limits baklava) that was off limits due to the egg yolk content. Even though I am from NYC and live in the SF Bay Area, which are both full of The Halal Guys locations, I had never been or tasted their delicious dishes. If you’re in the mood for tasty, quick, and halal (and food allergy friendly) food, check out a location near you. Always ask about your food allergens as each location may have a slightly different menu. Bon Appetit!
It is really typical to have a day (or week) when you do not want to cook. As an Allergic Halal Foodie, you might feel like it is your obligation to cook, but it isn’t the whole truth. There is always a way to eat good food cooked by someone other than you. I like to remember when I was a little girl in New York City, my mother would have a night when she didn’t cook dinner, rather she ordered takeout food. For us it was Fridays, but takeout food day can any day you choose. The first thing I would suggest to do is to pick a cuisine and call up those places. Tell them about your food allergies and ask if they can make accomodations (like cook without peanut oil or hold of on the grated cheese). Also ask if them for their meat and chicken supplier. Then you can check on your own time if their supplier is halal. Many restaurants may serve halal meat and chicken, but may not put a visible halal sign or may not obtain halal certification for a variety of reasons.
I like the Hot Shop located in Albany, CA. I found it unexpectedly while driving througn the town. This eatery is a family friendly and family owned place. It is a popular place to eat and all without a website. I walked in and loved that I can see the whole kitchen. This is helpful to ensure that my order is correct and there isn’t any cross contamination. The food is Mexican cuisine and there are some specialty dishes including one with an Afghan cuisine flavor. At the end of the day, we all found something to eat and their food is delicious. Try these tips at your local Mexican cuisine place and enjoy your “takeout food day” at your convenience.
There are always great finds at Costco. Even though I shop at various grocery stores to complete my grocery shopping list, the bulk (literally and figuratively) of the items on my list are at Costco. What does an Allergic Halal Foodie need that isn’t from a health food store and doesn’t break the bank? Well, take a peek here at July’s Costco haul.
- Organic Raisins. Two huge bags of organic raisins for your delight are available at Costco. I like to put them in my couscous, oatmeal, and homemade dairy- and nut-free trail mixes.
- Nature’s Path Organic Cereal Flakes. How do you take grains like spelt, barley, and more and make it into a very tasty cereal? Nature’s Path successfully found a way. Plus this cereal has a great amount of protein. Add the organic raisins that you just purchased from Costco and you will have a high protein and healthier “Raisin Bran”-ish cereal. I also add these flakes to a homemade trail mix.
- Organic Blueberries. Blueberries are so great and nutritious. My kids loved blueberries since infancy. There is a good size list of things to eat with your blueberries. If you are not sure where to start your blueberry path, here is a dairy- and egg-free recipe for blueberry muffins.
- Organic Quinoa. Typically expensive for a small box, this huge bag of quinoa is the best deal around. The amount of protein along with its health benefits makes this item always on the Costco list.
- Organic Ketchup. What else goes well with sweet potato fries, halal chicken bites, and meat patties? Ketchup and lots of it! You get a twin pack of big organic ketchup bottles at a price that is unmatched elsewhere.
All self-proclaimed Foodies love eating great food. We’re not in the habit of making up holidays around food. We truly appreciate food daily. However, I would be doing a disservice to Foodies everywhere if I didn’t inform you (albeit late in the day) that July 13th is French Fries Day. This day does not mean we have a green light to eat French Fries all day long. Because we can eat fries all day long any day of the year, I just want to discuss the history of the French Fry. The French Fry didn’t even orignate from France. A very long time ago, the Belgians fried small pieces of potatoes when their small fish that they typically fried was not accessible to fry (sounds like an Allergic Halal Foodie move finding substitutions for your food “restrictions”). English speaking folks saw and heard this and thought it was French language and cuisine and thus we have the name, French Fry.
The relevance for an Allergic Halal Foodie is that not all French Fries from real potatoes are edible. I say real potatoes because not all French Fries are from 100% potatoes. Watch a video here of partial potato French Fries. Are McDonald’s fries halal? No, because of the non-halal beef that is included in their fries. What type of oil were the fries fried in and what was previously fried in that same oil are questions to ask before you grab your bottle of ketchup, or vegan aioli, or vegan mayo, or halal chili, or…
Do people really know what the word organic means when referring to food? I will be honest and say that if you had asked me that question over 10 years ago, I wouldn’t know the definition of the word organic as it refers to food. Growing up as an Allergic Halal Foodie in New York City, I never saw or heard this word for food items. Actually, the first time I heard the word organic was when I was an undergraduate in New York studying organic chemistry. I never made any positive association with this word because the organic chemistry class had a reputation of being the hardest science class for aspiring medical students. I actually had an aversion to the word because of this preconceived notion. Ultimately, I receive an A- in the organic chemistry laboratory and a very bad grade in the organic chemistry lecture. I guess my Allergic Halal Foodie lifestyle spilled into my academic life as I liked synthesizing materials in the laboratory, yet despised sitting through a lecture that didn’t produce anything tanglible.
At the time, I did not see how this word fit into my life with food. Fast forward to today and I still don’t see how this word fits into my Allergic Halal Foodie lifestyle. However, others seem to think it is very applicable to an Allergic Halal Foodie’s lifestyle. Every time I eat outside of my home and ask about the ingredients, the first response is typically “it is organic” or somehow the word makes it into the conversation. People easily use this word and seem to associate it with allergic or halal. As if organic food satisfies the diet of an allergic person or one who only eats halal foods. Strangely, this same association isn’t made with the Foodie label. I guess folks assume that a Foodie will eat everything without asking questions. This couldn’t be farther from the truth and it is also insulting.
Organic food is food (or livestock) that hasn’t been grown (or raised) with modifications, pesticides, or additives. It is great for those who are conscientiously choosing to eat healthy foods. However, organic means nothing extraordinarily significant to the allergic individual, halal food only individual, or foodie individual. At the end of the day, organic milk is lethal to the highly allergic person and organic pork is haram for a Muslim.
How do you explain your dietary restrictions in a concise way without feeling like you’re defending your dissertation? I have a few handy phrases to share.
“Vegan, but I eat meat.” This says you’re dairy free, fish free, egg free, and seafood free. This statement doesn’t exclude the peanuts and nuts. In the event that there is food present that you want to eat, you can always ask if those are present.
“I am allergic.” This encompasses so much and usually doesn’t require much explanation. Unless someone asks for specifics, you’re usually left alone once you make that statement. This one also works if you’re not interested in the food that is being served and it is a manner in which you can politely decline. Warning: this statement can also mean “leave me alone”, “don’t feed me anything”, or “I will see what I can eat.” Sometimes a New York attitude tends to come out with this statement.
“I only eat halal.” This means that you have some dietary restrictions. Most people will interpret this statement as only excluding pork and alcohol. Nonetheless, the “buck will stop there” since most people avoid any topics surrounding or about religion. Unfortunately, the opportunity to further explain a halal diet is typically lost.
Here are a few practical tips that not only keep you safe from an allergic reaction, but also gives you a piece of mind regarding your dietary restrictions.
- Have a shelf, cabinet, or pantry in your home that only contains the allergen free items that you use. You can also maintain separate shelves in the fridge. You can have the space clearly marked. It helps keep everyone aware that the designated space exists and should be respected. It also helps to direct someone when you ask them to bring you something to eat. I’ve always made sure that the designated area(s) are easy for the kids to reach, too.
- Carry a clear bag of emergency medication (Epipen, Benadryl, breathing inhaler, gloves and an instant ice pack) when you leave your home. Clear and contained in one place makes it is easy to spot in the case of an emergency or if you want to switch bags or cars.
- Have touch free soap dispensers in the home. This will eliminate contaminated hands touching a soap pump causing you to get sick or have hives.
- Have a touch free garbage can to prevent cross contamination causing you to get sick or have hives.
- Have high length gloves for doing dishes to avoid getting sick or developing hives.