To many people of Middle Eastern descent, Halal means "allowed" or "permitted," as in the food that is legally allowed by Islamic Sharia law. Similar to the Jewish faith's Kosher laws of Kashrut, Islam's Halal prohibitions dictate how animals should be killed, how meats and other products should be prepared, and which foods are completely off-limits. Several outlets for Halal Indian food exist, from Hahal kebobs on street corners to Halal chicken nuggets at McDonald's.
Owing to Islam's centuries-long immersion in largely Hindu India as well as the country's widespread disdain for pork and beef, almost every food or recipe available as Indian cuisine is available in a Halal version. Muslims make up about 15 percent of the total population — the third-largest Muslim population in the world — so many Indian dining establishments across the country cater to this clientele by ensuring that some or all menu items are Halal. Although Halal Indian food can be found all over the country, the most Halal establishments are likely to be found in the states of Kashmir, Lakshadweep and Jammu, which boast Muslim majorities. In many major cities, even American fast-food giants like McDonald's, KFC and Pizza Hut have set up shop with Halal stamps.
Halal Indian food establishments will often be identified by the logo of a Halal certification body in the country. A common stamp is that of Halal India, which ensures that its registered restaurants, markets and food manufacturing operations are strictly observing Sharia strictures. These range from jugular slaughtering and full blood draining to requirements for prayer and prohibitions against pork, carrion and animals that have died accidentally or brutally. Eggs and milk also must be obtained from animals raised Halal.
Some foods have been declared sacred by Muhammad in the Qur'an, and these can be often found in Halal Indian food. A dish called tharid, a braised meat soup, was one of Muhammad's wives' favorite dishes. Dates, honey, milk and pumpkin also have divine attachments and are common ingredients in Halal food.
Aside from the prohibitions against pork and blood and the requirements for animals to be ritually sacrificed and not die in any other fashion, the options are endless. Any ingredient that can be found in traditional Indian food can be made Halal, though many strict Muslims eat only food that bears a certifying stamp. The reason for this is because food in 2011 is often processed or seasoned with emulsifiers, enzymes, glycerin and many other compounds that may have been derived from non-Halal sources.