The word 'halal' means 'lawful' in Arabic, and is a key term in the Holy Qur'an. There are strict standards, documented procedures and certifications in Australia, adhered to by major meat companies working with Islamic organisations.
With a worldwide market of over 1.7 billion Muslims worldwide, Halal meat is an important produce item for Australia, a world leader in the industry. The Australian meat standard states that all animals must be effectively stunned (unconscious) prior to slaughter.
Many Australians show little interest in Halal meat, however chances are that they have already eaten and enjoyed it, either at a kebab shop, an Indian or Turkish restaurant or even from their favourite takeaway. These Halal restaurants and suppliers are a great place to start:
Shiraz, Surfers Paradise
Shiraz, named after a city that's the cultural hub of southwest Iran, is situated near the heart of Surfers Paradise. Restaurant manager Erfan Jalilian is happy to tell us more about food eaten in Iran today.
"Iranian cuisine is very diverse," he tells us. "Dishes as well as food habits vary from region to region. Kebabs are the best known Persian food in Australia, but for most Iranians they are a 'going out' food, eaten only at festive events. In large cities, rice and bread are the favourite staple dishes. Rice is slow-cooked, a process involving washing, boiling then steaming. Much of our meat is slow-cooked as well. We have both Chelo (plain rice) as well as Polo rice here, which is like a pilaf, cooked with other ingredients, and there are many variations on this dish.”
We often decide on a rice dish when we visit Shiraz: Baghali Polo or Green Rice cooked with broad beans, dill, herbs and Persian spices served with slow-cooked Lamb shank, Fesenjān, a thick chicken stew made from pomegranate paste and ground walnuts, or a Shiraz mixed plate of skewers, rice and salad. Each dish contains balanced subtle flavours of spices both known and unfamiliar, as well as varying textures. There are many vegetarian options, as well as dips, breads and soup.
"For us, food is a great hobby and a major part of life," Erfan tells us. This is our common ground. As we sit sipping Persian tea from an exquisite cup, enjoying tiny sweet morsels of baklava, listening and learning, I'm reminded of the words of Fernand Point, the Master of French cuisine: "If the divine creator has taken pains to give us delicious and exquisite things to eat, the least we can do is prepare them well and serve them with ceremony."
Note: Shiraz is not licensed; neither does it allow BYO. Parking is available just around the corner in the Bruce Bishop Car Park.
Hard Rock Cafe, Surfers Paradise
It's been over forty years since the first Hard Rock Cafe opened, and thirty-five since legendary musician Eric Clapton donated a guitar for restaurant owners Isaac Tigrett and Peter Morton to mark his dining spot. 70,000 guitars later, the cafe itself has become a part of rock and roll history.
The Gold Coast's Hard Rock Cafe is situated in Jim Cavill's former Surfers Paradise Hotel. It was the first hotel in the suburb formerly been known as 'Elston'. Once the 'Birdwatcher's Bar', the outside verandah remains. The Surfers restaurant revolves around a central circular bar, its waiters jiving and pouring beneath a huge globe and the motto: "Love all, Serve all", everyone welcome, irrespective of age, sex or race. There's a caring, sharing attitude evident, with a part of the downstairs shop's profit going to charity, the altruistic streak courtesy of founder Tigrett.
Why not try the Jumbo Combo platter, best shared as an entree between three or four people! It contains a Warm spinach and artichoke dip rarely seen here, bruschetta, onion rings, southwest skins and Rockin' wings, one of the cafe's signature dishes, made the same in every Hard Rock Cafe worldwide. Smoked in house, the wings are smothered in Hickory BBQ sauce, the finger licking, chin dribbling glaze on many dishes.
Famous for their chicken wings and ribs, Hard Rock is moving towards 100% Halal food. At present, chicken and all burgers hold certification, with prime meat certification pending. There are also vegetarian dishes available. Whatever you choose, you won't go home hungry, and you'll have a rocking good time.
NOTE: Hard Rock Cafe is fully licensed.
Saffron Indian Gourmet, Broadbeach
Saffron is the most elegant and luxurious Indian restaurant on the Gold Coast, situated directly opposite Pacific Fair and the Broadbeach South tram station. With plush velvet lounges, sateen and velvet chairs, linen-clad tables, mosaic tile and wood floors, chandeliers and candles, it's a very ambient venue either for a date or for a group celebration. The restaurant is divided into sections to cater for both.
Saffron's menu is an eclectic mix of modern Indian cuisine. The tandoor is the source of most of the entrees, however there are several variations on the marinade: lasoni (with yoghurt, cheese and garlic), aangarch (with bird's eye chilli) and hariyali kebab, moist portions of chicken rich with the flavours of spinach, mint, coriander and spices.
Vegetarian, curry and dosa lovers are well catered for with innovative twists on dishes which will delight gourmets. We head for the separate 'gourmet menu' containing such dishes as Chicken Softa (a chicken breast stuffed with pistachio and cottage cheese) and our Lazeez Champan, tender grilled lamb cutlets rubbed with ginger and ground peppercorns. This dish is served with saffron rice, salad and garlic naan. Delicious modern Indian food!
Note: Saffron is fully licensed. There's an extensive drinks list packed with boutique and fine world wines and spirits. This is a premium selection, well-priced but with little attempt to feature local ale. The well-priced cocktail list also travels the world with fusion creations such as an Indian Martini, Shochupolitan and Saffron Caipiroska.
Jamroc, Mermaid Waters
Jamroc for me was love at first bite! When Joy Parkes (Mama Jamroc) and her family moved to the Gold Coast in 2010, she missed the flavours of Jamaica so much that she decided to bring them here to Mermaid Waters. No one Jamaican dish would speak to Aussies more, she thought, than Jerk chicken, so the family business Jamroc was born. Within a couple of years, Jamroc chicken was famous enough to be a food of choice of the West Indian Cricket Team on their Australian visit.
Jamroc BBQ 'Jerk' Chicken is the centrepiece of Jamroc's menu. Following recipes handed down through generations, the chicken is twice marinated for over 24 hours using Caribbean herbs and spices (jerk) before it is char-grilled. Halal, gluten free and dairy free (there aren't many cows in Jamaica), it's nutritious and ticks all the right boxes. Choose your heat level, choose the way you want your chicken served (burger, skewers, partial or whole bird) and the size of your meal.
If you're really adventurous, try one of Mama Jamroc's daily specials from her Caribbean Kitchen, but for us it's all about the Jerk Chicken. As my teeth sink into a succulently spiced smoky flavoured breast, served with Jamroc's slaw and deliciously crunchy chips, juices dripping down my chin, I'm heard to murmur, "I won't eat another chicken again unless it's this good!" Love at first bite!
NOTE: Jamroc is not licensed but allows BYO.
Mecca Bah Gold Coast, Broadbeach
Mecca Bah Gold Coast forms an essential piece of the multicultural mosaic of Oracle Boulevard,Broadbeach. Here, cuisines from far flung realms form part of a newly-formed Gold Coast playground for tourists and locals alike to enjoy.
In Mecca Bah's Bedouin-like venue, the dominant feature is the taboon, the heart of any Middle Eastern home, framed by a row of tagines stacked along the counter.
Yet while Mecca Bah contains traditional elements, its design signifies the Gold Coast's modern take on the East, the elongated restaurant flanked by concertina windows which open to the summer breeze, making the whole dining area semi-alfresco.
With not a Turkish rug in sight, on weekend nights Mecca Bah can seem more like a Turkish bazaar, bulging with twenty-somethings, eager to seek the pleasures of Arabian Nights sharing platters of food and exotic cocktails before embarking on the night's festivities.
Like the decor, the menu is also modern Middle Eastern, a melange of Moroccan, Turkish and North African cuisine: mezze, Middle Eastern salads, Turkish pizza, Tunisian tagines, kofte and other grills, with pastries and specialty ice creams for dessert.
Sunday lunch is one of our favourite times to dine at Mecca Bah, with a special on offer giving small tastes of a few core dishes. Combined with a chicken Gozleme it's enough to share between two.
Note: Mecca Bah is fully licensed.
Arabesque Bazaar, Surfers Paradise
Feeling like a cup of coffee in an exotic setting, maybe a Turkish or Saudi coffee, or even a cup of Arabian Sage tea? Then head on down to Arabesque Bazaar. There you can relax with coffee and a halal sweet in privacy, or even watch some Arab cable TV.
Part cafe and espresso bar serving platters, cold and hot mezze, Middle Eastern sweets, coffees and beverages, Arabesque is also a shop. You'll be surrounded by ornate Middle Eastern furniture, Egyptian souvenirs and exotic decorative glassware.
In late afternoons and evenings, there's a sheesha menu available, including a healthy hose. Flavours include Watermelon with mint, Chocolate, Grape, Berry with mint, Lemon and Apple. It's a touch of the East in the middle of Surfers Paradise.
La Rustica, Surfers Paradise
La Rustica has been a local favourite for thirty years, known for its rustic charm, its home-cooked food and friendly service. Owned and operated by Italian siblings, Barbara and Stefano Lapenna, and Barbara's Turkish partner, Sam, La Rustica offers a good range of traditional Italian cuisine: pasta and risotto, pizza, veal, chicken, steak and seafood, alongside mezze and shish dishes from Turkey. With only a country between, it seems like a fitting blend, each dish accompanied on the menu by its country of origin's flag. We notice too that La Rustica offers halal, kosher, and vegetarian meals.
We decided to try dishes from both countries to share between four: a family size Rustica pizza, Chicken shish for something Turkish, and Cannelloni. It's the really tasty generous serve comfort food you'd be served in a family home and excellent value. If you dine inside, you're reminded of the food's heritage, with a photo of the Italian football team on the wall beside a Turkish plate. It's an intimate cosy space, but with lots going on outside, we decide to eat alfresco to soak up the passing parade.
La Rustica exudes the authenticity of unpretentious people who are there to share their culture and love of cooking.
"Chi mangia a La Rustica, mangia bene."
"Who eats at La Rustica, eats well."
Since its opening, Taboon has established a reputation for fresh, vibrant modern Middle Eastern cuisine drawing on flavours from Marrakesh to Istanbul, Cairo to Beirut with a big stop in Tel Aviv. Consistency has been the key to its success, together with the freshness of its food.
Owner Steven Isaacs brings his experience as a restaurateur and manager both in Sydney and the Middle East to Taboon in Robina. Pastries and flatbreads (so essential to this cuisine) are baked daily on the stone floor of the stone taboon, the heart of this restaurant. Dips and desserts are handmade, and food is prepared and cooked to order.
Just as Middle Eastern culture centres on the oven and the bread it produces, so Taboon is the ideal place to share food. A trio of dips with pita bread, small salad, and pizza or grilled meat could easily serve two people. The mixed plate for two is a generous introduction to the restaurant's food, including a number of skewers, shooftas, Egyptian rice, vegetable couscous and a tasty fatoush salad. The lunch menu includes options such as pocket pitas, salads and lunch bowls, all delicious generous serves. Mains can be made gluten-free on request.
We especially love the weekend breakfast at Taboon, a different take on morning fare: Shukshooka (eggs in spicy tomato sauce) or Baked eggs on zahtar pita with Middle Eastern salad and yoghurt sauce - my idea of a fabulous breakfast. Taboon also has a small takeaway store at The Pines Shopping Centre, Elanora.
NOTE: Taboon is licensed but allows BYO.
Krish Indian, Robina, Varsity Lakes and Worongary
Established in 1988 by the Prasad family, Krish Indian is a popular local favourite. There are three restaurant locations, which share a common menu.
While the entree section of the menu carries Indian dishes such as Samosa, Bhaji, Pakora, Tandoori chicken and Tikka Chicken, mains branch out into less known territory. Along with North Indian cuisine you'll find some Fijian Indian dishes, such as Fijian chicken curry, Prawn Malabar and Jingha Alu and even a few fusion dishes, such as Aniseed-infused bugs.
Dining with a group, we've chosen a diverse range of dishes: Butter chicken (a family favourite, which is rich and creamy), Beef Madras (be warned that our medium was quite hot) as well as Fijian fish curry and Prawn Malabar. We're led astray a little as the 'dry' fish curry described by our waitress was quite wet and far too similar to the Prawn Malabar to be complementary. Both were tasty enough, however we were far more impressed with the Cheese naan and Pappadams, both of which were freshly made and delicious! Krish runs weekly specials, advertised on their social media pages.
NOTE: Krish is not licensed but allows BYO.
Mt Lebanon Deli, Nobby Beach
One of the original ethnic providores on the coast, Mt Lebanon Deli began in 2002 and moved to its present premises,Nobby Beach, in 2004. It's one of the standout delis on the southern end of the Gold Coast, and with a wholesale and retail running from this storefront, it's a mecca for foodies throughout the coast. The store stocks Middle Eastern groceries and specialty foods, such as syrups and cordials made from sour cherry, tamarind, rosewater and orange blossom, pickles and a large range of halva. There are huge bins of spices, dried noodles, legumes and beans, za'atar in smaller bags, wood coal for your cooker and even fresh figs. Many people travel here to purchase the olive oil soap which contains no chemicals or additives. There are so many wonderful ingredients to inspire the home chef, with vegetarian and halal well catered for.
Sara & Sevda Persian Supermarket, Southport
The Sara & Sevda Supermarket in Southport specialises in the culinary delights of the Middle East, specifically Persian, Afghani, Turkish and Arabic groceries and smallgoods. The shelves are packed with specialist foods for Ramadan, many vegetarian items such as dried legumes and nuts, a score of different basmati rice in 20kg sacks, dolmas, eight varieties of burghul, spices and pickles, even henna to decorate your hands. This shop is your source of many varieties of rosewater, mint water, and assorted exotic cordials. You'll also find tart syrupy pomegranate molasses here, an essential ingredient in Middle Eastern cookery. A range of Turkish and pita breads are delivered daily, but it's the only Gold Coast outlet for traditional (and newly trendy) Afghani bread, sourced twice a week from Brisbane.
Perhaps you'd like to buy some Turkish coffee or some Middle Eastern tea, which you can enjoy while sucking a cube of lemon or cardamom sugar. The newly added coffee bar at the front of the shop means that you can now purchase Turkish coffee to go! Accompany that with specialty biscuits, the freshest dates from Persia or cubes of Turkish delight. There are so many exotic temptations in this store that you will not leave empty handed.