There was a real buzz about the local halal food scene in 2015 and one month into the New Year, we're happy to report that things are still very much happening. These are some of the halal food trends that look set to take off (plus two we're just trying to make happen for selfish reasons).
The opening of Gion Dining at Royal Plaza on Scotts, which already has one other halal restaurant Carousel, shows the market is opening up to pricier options. Another sign of finer feasts to come is the continuing onslaught of creative dishes, plus the introduction of alcohol-removed wine and artisanal mocktails in the menu. If you're a TV and film buff, you'll agree with us - there's just something about the clinking of glasses at a restaurant that sets the tone for a fancy meal.
High-speed halal delivery
PHOTO: DELIVEROO'S FACEBOOK
It could've been the SG50 effect, but Singaporeans were somehow their busiest and most demanding in 2015. Stepping up to the plate were already reliable websites like Deliveroo and Foodpanda who can now deliver yummy halal food in as soon as 30 minutes, but there have also been Muslim-owned entries into the game, including the restaurants themselves and platforms like Halal on Click and Halal Takeaway. So far, none of the latter have been very impressive, but we have faith that it'll only be a matter of time before they find their groove.
PHOTO: HALAL IN THE CITY
Move over, cronut and ramen burger - other strange, but beautiful couples have arrived. This year, you can continue to enjoy sweet-savoury combinations by Fluff Bakery and One Cupcake a Day (cornbeef potato cupcake, anyone?), variations of the gorpis (goreng pisang and cheese), mee rebus tulang and other custom mixes of your favourite local dishes, but save room for more because the possibilities are endless.
PHOTO: THE MALAYAN COUNCIL'S FACEBOOK
Speaking of mash-ups, here's one that's really going to get serious this year. Besides the more evergreen options like laksa spaghetti and rendang burger, we're seeing some new executions of Malay fusion that are going to keep people excited all year. On our radar? The Malayan Council's assam pedas fish and chips and Ultimate Lopez cake. We've also got our eye on the new beef dendeng burger at Working Title. Co-founder Calvin Seah told Halal in the City the Mexican menu at their sister outlet Afterwit will soon be getting the same treatment - in fact, their beef briyani and nasi lemak burritos are ready for their first customers.
PHOTO: INSTAGRAM / FIONAAAJOY
As Muslim diners here continue to be exposed to foreign cuisines, their cravings have evolved as well. Already we're seeing "cleaner" home-cooked meals on Instagram, inspired by chefs and cookbooks of the West, and we reckon these will soon spill onto the picnic mat. Co-founder of one-year-old event planner Picneeds, Khairul Amri, told Halal in the City customers are beginning to look beyond "beehoon birthday" and spicy Ayamas when choosing their picnic menu. "They're increasingly asking for foods they've seen being served at restaurants," said Amri. "So far we've had orders for truffle-flavoured fries, specialty meats and even a cheese platter."
The proliferation of home-based startups in Singapore last year meant that there was something you could go to almost every weekend. Thanks to the rise in Islamic fashion plus new independent organisers like Laloolalang, there have been bake sales, flea markets and Instagram showcases beyond those at the annual Geylang Ramadan Bazaar and Singapore Expo. Individual restaurants are also looking to roll out their own events. One of them is burger specialist Kaw Kaw SG. "This is one way to strengthen our branding," said co-founder Aina Zulkarnain, who added that their first event to celebrate the restaurant's first anniversary, was already in the works.
PHOTO: FLAVOUR FLINGS' FACEBOOK
And what else should kick off the trend, but salted egg yolk sauce? "Salted egg yolk is so 2015, though!" Tell that to newly halal-certified cafe Flavour Flings, who've become so swamped with orders for their new salted egg yolk croissant that they've limited purchase to just five evenings a week. The trend is believed to have trickled down from Hong Kong to KL's Le Bread Days and since that cafe also fills their breads with peanut butter and almond custard, we figure it's only a matter of time before Singapore comes up with some of its own versions.
PHOTOS: HALAL IN THE CITY (TOP), SECRET RECIPE
This Turkish sweet has become the halal food souvenir de jour in practically every other country but Singapore. And there's no reason it shouldn't be, which is why we're putting our foot down this year and insisting that we get served variations of those gorgeous filo layers at restaurants, and receiving them in ribboned boxes at engagement and house warming parties. In the meantime, Secret Recipe's Turkish Indulgence cake with its pistachio crumble ala baklava and bits of Turkish delight is quite yummy.
Healthy, diet-friendly food
PHOTO: LEAN BENTO'S FACEBOOK
The Health Ministry and Health Promotion Board have been trying since at least three years ago to improve the Malay population's incidence of illnesses like kidney failure, heart attacks and stroke. With the local Muslim population being predominantly Malay, we think it's about time the local halal food scene stepped up to the plate with not just bottled cold-pressed juices but also lactose, gluten and sugar-free options. Dream scenario? That there'll be as least as many businesses like Lean Bento (they deliver!) and HIC (which Halal in the City understands is targeting to be halal-certified by mid-2016) as there are monster steaks and milkshakes.