The growing number of halal and Muslim-owned food establishments has highlighted the latest facet in our f&b scene: Halal dining is now hipper than ever. We weigh in on the trend, get some insights from restaurants and cafe owners, and suss out foodie finds for you.

Halal food and drinks simply refer to those which Muslims are allowed to consume under Islamic laws. There are specifications on what foods are allowed and how they should be prepared. Also, the food must come from suppliers which adhere to Halal practices. “People have a misconception that Halal is only for Muslims, or that it’s a type of cuisine”, explains Joy Mahbubani, owner of J’s Restaurant, on perceptions of Halal food. Halal food is commonly associated with Malay cuisine due to the composition of Singapore’s Muslim community, but as the appetite for global trends expands, so have the options for Halal cuisine. Many new F&B owners have innovated and capitalised on that fact to cater to a larger community, bringing in delicious grub like BBQ beef ribs, to Eurasian devil curry’s and dim sum.

The increase in Halal F&B establishments and their offerings now have grown to encompass other cuisines–such as European and Vietnamese–making Halal outlets more multi-racial than it was before. Muslim-owned and  “no pork no lard”  places are also gaining traction amongst some Muslim diners, even though the food places may not have the Halal certificate; the booming Halal and Muslim-owned cafe scene is testament to that. Chinese cuisine too, is not off-limits–we now see offerings like Peking duck and tze char.

“We are actually one of those cafes that rode on the [Halal cafe] wave. We might have started around then, but now there’s even more. You can really see the expansion, which is really quite beautiful.”, enthuses the youthful Fizah Nizam, co-owner of Rouse.

Currently, more than 2,000 premises are certified by MUIS (Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura), the only authority in Singapore which can award the Halal certificates to restaurants, manufacturing facilities, food outlets etc. But note: having a Halal-certified kitchen and a Halal-certified restaurant are not exactly the same–the former will still be able to serve alcoholic beverages, while serving food from the Halal-certified preparation area.
Motivations for serving a Halal menu in the restaurant may differ for each owner. For Joy, obtaining the Halal certificate meant ensuring that everybody can enjoy the food  and Muslim customers can dine without worrying about the source of their food or how it was prepared.

“From the get-go, we knew we wanted be inclusive and community-centric”,  says Shannon Lua, owner of Butter Studio, on having a Halal-certified cafe. All three F&B owners that we spoke to agree that Halal is hip, but Joy emphasises, “Halal should have been hip a long time ago.”

We sussed out Halal and Muslim-owned food places that you can check out. Also, you can refer to the handy list of Halal-certified establishments at www.halal.sg

CAFES

1) Sarah’s The Pancake Café [Muslim owned]
#01-62 East Village, 430 Upper Changi Road.
Tel: 9688 4163

First opened in September last year, this friendly neighbourhood cafe serves more than 10 variations–both sweet and savoury options–of pancakes. Owned by husband and wife duo, Kamil and Alina, bestsellers include The MJ ($14)–dark and white chocolate chip pancakes served with brown caramelised bananas and caramel whipped cream–and the Al Istanbul Ver2.0 ($14), featuring a pancake stack served with lamb merguez and traditional homemade hummus.

2) Toasties [Halal]
#01-1171 Block 201D Tampines Street 21.
Tel: 6786 8336
Helmed by young entrepreneur Atwell Lim, this Halal sub sandwich store plans to fill in the gap for Halal sub stores in Singapore. The health-conscious in the East can look forward to sandwiches (from $4.90 for 6-inch) including the Italian Trio and smoked chicken breast. Westies: they’re opening a second store this month at 321 Clementi shopping mall.

3) Rouse [Muslim owned]
36 Dunlop Street. Tel: 6292 2642
The enterprising quartet behind this popular cafe aims to awaken and invigorate their
customers with their offerings, hence the name. Their food has been especially raved about, with standouts such as the steak & salsa fries ($17.90)–featuring juicy sirloin strips–and Chickie Chomper ($11.90), a hearty chicken burger. The house blend coffee supplied by Dutch Colony Coffee Roasters is also one of the draws.

4) Flavour Flings [Muslim owned]
#01-1348 Block 121 Hougang Avenue 1.
Tel: 6286 0051

This new cafe aims to bring their own twist to classic American and French dishes. Specialties include carbonara pasta, which uses egg yolk sauce instead of cream sauce (as the traditional Italian way), and the Eggs Jupiter–their take on the perennial cafe fave eggs Benedict by replacing the hollandaise sauce with nacho cheese sauce. Though not Halal-certified, it is partially Muslim-owned and serves a Muslim-friendly menu with their products from Halal-certified suppliers.

5) The Lab SG [Muslim owned]
1 Jalan Pisang, Tel: 6299 5681
With a slogan like “we experiment” , you can look forward to quirky food and beverages. Modelled to look like an underground lab, diners can create their own drink concoctions over the counter and even order drinks which come with syringes. Complete the fun meal with the Heisenberger ($15)–their signature beef burger served with blue cheese and hand-cut sweet potato fries on the side.

BAKERIES

1) Cake Love [Muslim owned]
27 Bali Lane. Tel: 8222 5558
Starting as a humble bakery selling takeaways and customised cakes, Cake Love has since grown to serving their desserts in a cafe setting at Jalan Pisang and now, a two-storey space at Bali Lane where diners can satisfy their dessert cravings. Signatures include their delightful macarons and their selection of cakes.

2) Fluff bakery [Muslim owned]
12 Jalan Pisang
Known for the snaking queues outside the store even before they open, this bakery not only sells classic cupcakes ($4 each) such as the salted caramel and red velvet, but also quirky and innovative ones like their Solero ice cream and bandung.

3) Butter Studio [Halal]
147 Jalan Besar. Tel: 6294 7115
This cafe is a breath of fresh air along Jalan Besar–a road filled with small eateries and shops selling spare parts for cars. Baked offerings, like the best-selling sea salt caramel red velvet cake ($7.90/slice) and sea salt Nutella tart ($6.90), are all made from scratch. They try to incorporate local flavours in their desserts and results include salted egg cupcakes. However, we love their new rose-infused items. The rose latte ($5.50) pleases with the sweet rose notes in your caffeine fix, while the Ispahan cake ($7.90/ slice) looks (and tastes) delicious with its subtle pink colour and lychee rose scent.

4) And All Things Delicious [Muslim owned]
#01-61 462 Crawford Lane. Tel: 6291 4252
With a mission to serve only the good stuff, their baked goods are made using organic sugar, with no artificial colourings or flavours. Their sticky toffee pudding ($5.90/slice) is a decadent treat made with Tunisian deglet nour dates and drizzled with their made-from-scratch toffee sauce. Their carrot cake ($6.20/slice) topped with roasted walnuts is another must-try.

5) Lynn’s Cakes and Coffee [Muslim owned]
11 Eng Kong Terrace. Tel: 6314 2886
Specialising in confections like rainbow cake and Oreo cheesecake, this bakerycafe also does customised cakes for events such as weddings and birthdays. Expect beautifully decorated cakes as Lynn–the resident baker–attended classes in sugar floristry at a renowned cake academy in London.

PLACES FOR STEAKS

1) Badoque [Muslim owned]
298 Bedok Road / 246 Upper Thomson Road. Tel: 6446 6928 / 65521646
First opened in 2008, Badoque has grown to become one of the most popular Halal cafe establishments in Singapore. A favourite with the Muslim community, Badoque is also synonymous with the hearty portions that they serve. Opt for their ribeye steak ($32), or their popular beef ribs ($36) which can very well feed up to two people.

2) Le Steak [Muslim owned]
19/21/23 Mackenzie Road / 248 Jalan Kayu. Tel: 62380609 / 6556 3588
Started by celebrity chef Amri Azim in 2013 at Jalan Kayu with the aim of selling quality Halal steaks, they have since expanded to two outlets. Their signature is the Wagyu Ribeye MS6 ($49)–which some claim to be the best Halal steak in Singapore. All their products are Halal-certified though their MUIS certification is still pending. Come during weekends for fresh oysters ($24/ half dozen). This Ramadhan, they are offering an authentic gourmet buffet at their Jalan Kayu outlet. Their a la carte menu can still be found at the Mackenzie outlet.

3) Olivye [Halal]
#01-2009 Block 5 Changi Village Road.
Tel: 6543 9518

This east-side gem not only serves an affordable ribeye steak ($16.90), but also serves Halal-certified gelato to satisfy the sweettoothed diners. Their hazelnut, blueberry and durian flavours are especially popular. Students at Institute of Technical Education College Central and Nanyang Technological University can also head to canteens in their school for Olivye’s Western food offerings.

4) J’s Restaurant [Halal]
7 Purvis Street. Tel: 6887 4787
Joy Mahbubani believes that her restaurant is one “where great food is served with joy”, a tag line with a clever word play on her name. Having lived in Central America, she is familiar with Latin American flavours. Together with chef Darence’s (previously with the Les Amis Group) expertise, they re-invented the menu to add a modern European flair. Apart from their sirloin of beef ($32), standout dishes include scrambled egg with salmon ($19)–great for sharing, and made-from-scratch chipotle meatballs ($17). We also shared the very chunky and hearty quesadillas (from $22). Do not skip the desserts: we loved the churros with bananas & mangoes ($12) and the decadent Bocas Negras ($12)–a chocolate lava cake served with fresh berries.

5) The Royals Steakhouse [Pending Halal cert.]
10 Jalan Pisang
This newly opened steakhouse is by The Royals Group, which owns The Royals Café at Simei. Their signature dishes include the Cote de Beouf ($68)–which serves two–and the Royals Bad Boy burger ($22). While their other F&B ventures have been certified Halal, The Royals Steakhouse’s Halal certification is still pending at the time of printing, so call to enquire before visiting.

OTHER CUISINES

1) Orange Lantern [Halal]
73 Killiney Road / #01-98 HarbourFront Centre, 1 Maritime Square. Tel: 6732 8032/ 6274 1968
For a taste of authentic Halal Vietnamese cuisine, Orange Lantern will please. Their Vietnamese beef noodle soup ($11.90) is one of its bestsellers. Get the fresh rice paper rolls with prawn ($6.90) to complement your hearty meal.

2) Casa Bom Vento [Halal]
477 Joo Chiat Road. Tel: 6440 0196
Not all Peranakan and Eurasian restaurants are Halal, so Casa Bom Vento neatly fills the niche. Meaning “House of the Good Winds” in Portuguese, this popular restaurant along Joo Chiat Road is named for its seafaring forebears. Serving Singapore’s largest Tok Panjang (means ’long table’ in Malay)–a food celebration in Peranakan culture, this restaurant counts the devil curry, pan fried stingray with peppercorn and kachang botol salad as some of its most popular dishes.

3) Tang Tea House [Halal]
357 Bedok Road / 242 Jalan Kayu.
Tel: 6445 9100 / 6483 2298

For your Halal fix of chicken pau, siew mai and steamed chicken dumplings, Tang Tea House is the place to go. A household name among Muslims, this restaurant also serves tze char dishes like assam fish head ($30) and signature pan-fried crispy bee hoon (from $10).

4) Bumbu Restaurant [Halal]
44 Kandahar Street. Tel: 6392 8628
Located in an intricately decorated shop house, this ThaiIndonesian Halal restaurant has gotten many rave reviews. Interesting chicken dishes include the pandan leaf chicken ($3.20) and the buah keluak option ($10.80). Their menu of seafood dishes also tantalise, with choices like the butter oat squid ($11.80) and green curry prawn ($22.80).

5) Nur Indah [Muslim owned]
#03-1111, Block 2 Joo Chiat Complex.
Tel: 8488 1122

You might have never thought of Halal Peking duck ($68), but Nur Indah has. Tuck into authentic and traditional kampung dishes at their buffet ($21.80 adult, $11.80 child in primary school) and end off the hearty meal with Malay desserts like roti jala, bubur kacang durian and goreng pisang. Children aged six and below dine for free.

Buffets

1) 1 Market [Halal]
#04-45/49 Plaza Singapura, 68 Orchard Road.
Tel: 6341 9159

This budget-friendly Halal buffet choice (from $37.45 nett for adult; $22.15 nett child aged 6-12 for Mon-Thu lunch) is a favourite at Plaza Singapura. More commonly known as the restaurant opened by chef Wan, the buffet spread includes their signature beef rendang, fresh seafood on ice, a roast meat section and a noodles station.

2) 21 at Rajah [Halal]
Days Hotel Singapore at Zhongshan Park, 1 Jalan Rajah. Tel: 6808 6847
For an all-you-can-eat meal away from the heart of town, this affordable option (from $29++ adult; $15++ child aged 5-12 for weekday lunch) delights with Mediterranean and local favourites. Expect seafood on ice and live cooking stations.

3) Asian Delights @ AquaMarine [Halal]
Level 4 Marina Mandarin Singapore, 6 Raffles Boulevard. Tel: 6845 1112
Find a mouth-watering variety of local, Asian and international delights at AquaMarine’s spread (from $60++ adult; $30++ child aged 5-12 for lunch daily). Be spoilt for choice with seafood offerings like the stone crabs and steamed live prawns. For meats, feast on roast beef and lamb from their live stations. Complement the decadent meal with their signature durian pengat and yummy kuehs.

4) Asian Market Café [Halal]
Level 2 Fairmont Singapore, 80 Bras Basah Road. Tel: 6431 6156
Their Halal-certified central kitchen will whet your appetite with offerings (from $55++ adult; $28++ child aged 6-12 for lunch daily) encompassing both Pan-Asian cuisine and local Malay favourites. Tuck into food from live stations, along with new additions like assorted satay, sushi and sashimi.

5) Buffet City [Halal]
#01-04 Tanjong Pagar Community Centre, 101 Cantonment Road. Tel: 6410 9084
Tucked away at Tanjong Pagar Community Centre, this international buffet offers an impressive spread (from $26.80+ adult; $17.80+ child aged 4-12 and below 1.4m for weekday lunch) of Japanese, Thai, Asian and Western cuisines. Pay through their website and get a 10% discount.

6) Carousel [Halal]
Royal Plaza on Scotts Hotel, 25 Scotts Road.
Tel: 6589 7799

One of the most popular Halal hotel buffets in Singapore aims to please with their extensive food offerings (from $52++ adult; $32++ child aged 4-11 for weekday lunch). Pick from a range of cuisines– Mediterranean, Asian and Japanese–and food from their French rotisserie. Their seafood spread will also impress crustacean fans. Those craving for desserts will be pleased with their three dessert stations.

7) Kublai Khan Mongolian BBQ [Halal]
#04-01 Park Mall, 9 Penang Road. Tel: 63344888

The most unusual pick on our list comes in the form of a unique smokeless and odourless Mongolian BBQ (from $29++ adult; $16.80++ child between 1.1-1.4m for Mon-Thu dinner). The restaurant, modelled after a Mongolian state, also impresses with its variety of over 150 dishes.

8) Penang Street buffet [Halal]
#05-11/12 Causeway Point, 1 Woodlands Square. Tel: 6894 7872
Chow down on unlimited servings of Hokkien prawn noodles, dim sum and rendang at this 90-minute buffet (from $16.90++ adult; $9.90 child below 12 or 1.4m for weekday lunch) of Penang delights. Top up $10++ for the premium buffet spread and enjoy a range of seafood which includes lobsters and fresh sashimi.

9) Seoul Garden [Halal]
#05-10 Ngee Ann City, 391A Orchard Road.
Tel: 6836 1339

Enjoy a Korean-style BBQ and steamboat buffet (from $21.99++ adult, $8.99++ child between 1-1.3m for Mon-Thu lunch) at this chain restaurant– which is also a popular after-school hangout.

10) The Landmark [Halal]
#05-01 Village Hotel Bugis, 390 Victoria Street.
Tel: 6299 1512

This affordable option (from $20++ adult; $13++ child aged 4-8 for lunch daily) features international cuisines–such as Asian, Indian and Mediterranean–and vegetarian food. Popular dishes include the butter chicken and mutton rogan josh.