For the longest time ever, I thought “Halal Food” referred to the food served in the food carts with rice, lettuce, chicken, lamb, white and barbeque sauce. It was not until a friend explained that “halal”, in Arabic, means permissible and that Halal meat is meat that has been slaughtered according to Islamic law, as laid out in the Qu’ran until I realized the true meaning. This particular type of slaughter is called dhabiha.
It’s a very specific method of killing animals for food, one that also involves draining all the blood and ensuring that no live animals ever see another animal slaughtered. According to the Muslims in Dietetics and Nutrition, a member group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Halal food can never contain pork or pork products, or any alcohol. Rasheed Ahmed, founder and president of the Muslim Consumer Group, which both certifies Halal food and educates Muslims about different foods’ Halal status, says that to be truly Halal, how the animals are raised is taken into account. Animals must be fed vegetarian diets, which means that many chickens and cows raised on U.S. farms don’t qualify. Halal animals also can’t be treated with antibiotics or growth hormones, since the hormones may contain pork-based ingredients.
Halal animals must be slaughtered by a Muslim, who says a blessing, and by hand, not by machine. Once killed, the animal’s blood must drain completely, since Muslims who eat Halal do not consume the fresh blood of animals.
After doing this research, a question that raises is, “Are all carts that are considered ‘Halal carts’ actually halal?”
In class, we discussed authentic Chinese food as compared to the American- styled Chinese food. Growing up in an immigrant family from China, I’ve experienced both sides. I’ve grown up eating General Tso’s Chicken, Sweet ’n’ Sour Chicken, Egg Rolls, and the famous fortune cookies, but I’ve also eating the real deal. To me, good food is good food and it doesn’t matter much if it’s labeled as “authentic” or not. However, I think there is nothing inauthentic about American-Chinese dishes. I think a lot of these restaurant were created by Chinese people for the Chinese people. During the 1840s Gold Rush in California, many Chinese immigrants began to flood the country but they had no or extremely limited access to traditional Chinese ingredients. Because of this lack in ingredients, it was impossible to recreate the exact same dish. So these Chinese immigrants used what they could find in their homes to create these new dishes, including chop sued, one of the first Chinese dishes invented in the United States.
During this time, white Americans wanted almost nothing to do with the social and culinary customs of Chinese immigrants. Chop sued and many of the other American-Chinese basics that we know today weren’t created to satisfy the the palates of white Americans but rather the cravings of real Chinese people.
According to CNN, it wasn’t until after World War II in 1945 that mainstream Americans began eating and appreciating Chinese food in large numbers. By this time, the American-Chinese menu was already well established.
It’s not a question that American Chinese food is not the same as authentic Chinese food, but you can’t call it inauthentic either.