How to Build an Ethnic Pantry: Halal

Hidden between two stores on 74th Street and Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights is a halal market that carries a number of products that attract Muslim customers daily. The place seems sparse at first look, but a close observation reveals a shelf lined with unique spices and a small fridge filled with different kinds of raw meat.

Halal food has become a mainstay in New York cuisine, and markets such as Yusuf Mohammad’s are taking advantage of its popularity. In fact, people of various backgrounds have visited his market. Mohammad, a Bangladeshi who works the store’s cash register, said that Bangladeshi, Indian, Chinese and American visitors have purchased goods, and he was more than eager to share the kinds of ingredients that should be found in every Muslim pantry:

  1. Tumeric
  2. Chili Powder
  3. Garlic
  4. Ginger
  5. Onions

Mohammad stressed that spices make up an important part of halal food and added that many of the ones he listed are commonly found in some popular halal dishes, including chicken, beef and fish curry. Some of the spices can also be found in Bengali Khichuri, a comfort food composed of rice and lentils.

Still, what makes halal food ultimately stand out, Mohammad maintained, is its freshness.

“Customers buy halal food because they know it’s clean,” he said. “It’s a lot better than haraam food [food forbidden by Islamic law].”

Read more on how to build other ethnic pantries: