Some of my ex-classmates and I were trying to arrange some dinner get together via mass emails this week. In between the usual teasings there were R-rated jokes about pinafore, school uniforms that look like Sailor Moon uniforms, black/lacy bras and asking: "Do you prefer your women with or without bras?" (We are all about asking the important questions) – we managed to agree on a place and time for dinner.
All plans went out the window when a Muslim friend asked for restaurant with halal certification. We are back to Square One on where to go, what to do.
In a nutshell, halal certification means the food served at an establishment has to be prepared in accordance with Islamic dietary laws. For example, pork is strictly forbidden, and there are strict rituals involved in the slaughter of the animals for food.
Some people think vegetarian food = halal, because no meat or lard is involved. However, sometimes wine or alcohol may be used in the cooking, and so it is not safe to assume all vegetarian dishes are suitable for Muslims.
A friend very kindly googled the Malay Muslim restaurants around town. She thought there will definitely be some vegetables for me. Unfortunately, most restaurants here focus on meat dishes. With Asian cuisines, often there will be some shrimp paste, fish paste or chicken/fish stock involved.
Trying to find a place that can cater for a group with a Muslim, a vegetarian, and a fatty meat-loving lawyer is almost impossible. Somehow we keep trying though, because there is a genuine fondness between us. It seems incredible, that we first knew each other when we were 16. Sixteen years later we are still friends who try our best to meet up at least once a year. We try to catch up (who's married, with children, engaged, single, finally came out of the closet.) Not forgetting of course the exchange of barbed insults.
Still, I have no idea where we are going for dinner.
Right now the meat-loving lawyer is making snide remarks about the Muslim and the vegetarian. He just wants thick slab of red meat with lots of fat on it. I am usually indifferent to people who cook and consume meat in front of me. But even I think his meaty diet is gross.