Singapore Fine-Dining Restaurants Going Halal

It's time to realise Halal-certified doesn't mean an eatery only serving Malay food.
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Halal food has been slowly but surely climbing up the gourmet ladder in Singapore, from only Muslim-owned food stalls cooking up Malay dishes, to casual eateries trying their hand at pastas and burgers. Now, the halal certification is finding its way into fine restaurants as well, as more chefs and restaurateurs recognise the need to cater to an emerging young crowd with more adventurous appetites.

One such restaurant is Halia at Singapore Botanic Gardens. Snuggled comfortably amidst the lush greenery, the restaurant was officially Halal-certified by Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (MUIS) in May this year. "We have always received great interest from the Muslim community in Singapore and abroad regarding dining and events, due to our unique ambience, especially now that the Gardens has been inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site," shares Esther Wee, managing director at Halia.

Over at Santaro by Gion in Amara Hotel, the Japanese restaurant became the first Halal-certified eatery to offer premium Japanese cuisine when it received its certificate last year.
At Santaro by Gion, guests can choose to dine in private rooms where they sit on tatami floors.
At Santaro by Gion, guests can choose to dine in private rooms where they sit on tatami floors.
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Hot on its heels is a new halal ramen concept slated to open at new hipster-style foodcourt FOMO later this year, by the group who owns Jimoto Ya, a ramen restaurant with a Michelin connection (their specialty ramen is created by chef Nobumasa Mieda of Michelin-starred restaurant Mieda in Hokkaido).

On The Menu
Step into Halia now and you'll find the menu features new dishes such as lightly-smoked kingfish, done beautifully with all the right elements — fresh slices of chilled cucumber, almonds for some crunch, and chilli and ginger for a lingering heat.

"A misconception of halal food is that the ingredients could taste different from non-Halal ingredients. As halal ingredients are governed by strict criteria, this ensures that the meat prepared for consumption not only does not contain pork or alcohol, but also meets really high hygiene standards," says Wee. "Neither does it mean the meats will differ in taste; that is up to the marinades and cooking processes employed by chefs. If anything, it's a win for diners."

SEE ALSO: 7 Michelin-Listed Halal Eateries In Singapore To Try
Lamb Rack & Braised Spice Islands Marinade Rump Stew from Halia.
Lamb Rack & Braised Spice Islands Marinade Rump Stew from Halia.
Sean McCully, director of Jimoto Ya's parent company Saiun, has also put in the same thought and care into crafting an equally good bowl of halal ramen for the group's newest concept. While Jimoto Ya uses a broth that is a blend of amaebi (shrimp) and pork, McCully shares that the combination of ebi and chicken broth will not work well here. Instead, the soup here will be shio (salt)-based, in a clear Kobe-style and a creamy Tokyo-style. The noodles are specially developed for McCully by popular Japanese ramen brand, Ippudo.

"There is growing interest in halal-friendly Japanese food now, and we wanted to show that fast-food like ramen doesn't mean we use cheap ingredients," says McCully.


SEE ALSO: Our Take On Jimoto Ya's Ebi Ramen Here
Yuzu Gateaux from Halia
Yuzu Gateaux from Halia
Working Around Challenges

To be sure, the decision to be a halal-certified restaurant comes with its own set of challenges. Besides having to use specific suppliers and being careful not to use pork or lard while cooking, there's also the matter of alcohol. Says Wee: "Western cuisine often recommends the pairing of certain food with wine. However, being a Halal restaurant, Halia cannot offer alcohol." To make up for this, the restaurant has come up with drinks that use interesting herbs and spices to add flavour.

Over at Santaro by Gion, the challenge is in the sauces the restaurant uses. "Many Japanese sauces use mirin (alcohol-based) and animal-based gelatine traditionally, as it adds a sweetness to the sauce," shares a representative from the restaurant. Since the restaurant could no longer use commercial seasonings, the team set about coming up with their own sauces.

"After years of trial and error, our Master Chef Matsuno has created a special Halal yakiniku sauce. The sauce is made from fresh ingredients such as spring onions, combined in strict proportions and cooked to exact standards to match that natural sweetness we are looking for," says the representative.
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