Are you a ‘halaloodie?’ Meet the bloggers making life easy for halal diners

From mind-boggling burgers to delicious desserts, these Muslim foodies take their followers on an international tour of the world’s best halal eateries. (Shutterstock)
Updated 23 January 2018

Are you a ‘halaloodie?’ Meet the bloggers making life easy for halal diners

DUBAI: You can barely look at an Instagram feed now without encountering dozens of drool-worthy food photos. Social media has had an undeniable impact on how we view and consume food and, according to Dubai-based culinary personality Dima Sharif, how we “express and interact with food.
“People have become way more aware about food issues, (including) healthy eating, and even the cultural and historical impact of food around the world,” she told Arab News. “People have definitely become better cooks and developed a deeper appreciation for good food images too.”
Social media has even affected the hospitality industry to the extent of hotels and restaurants now thinking about their Instagram-friendliness when designing concepts. “The whole idea of Instagram-ability is catching on as restaurants and cafes are thinking about every detail in terms of both food and décor,” Fizzah, from The London Haloodie Instagram account, told Arab News.
But who among the social media world’s self-proclaimed foodies are wowing us with their images — while also being culturally sensitive? We trawled through Instagram to discover the culinary bloggers and influencers who not only specialize in halal food, but do so in style.
Curate your “following” list to include these, and you will have your gourmet inspiration sorted.
The London Haloodie
An eclectic combination of luxury restaurant meals, coffee and cakes (lots of it in fact), selfies, with the occasional travel pic thrown in for good measure, this is the Instagram feed you wish you had.
“I consider myself as showcasing the best halal places in London (and the places I travel to) that step away from the traditional notion of what halal food is, through the eyes of a modern Muslim,” said Fizzah. “In my opinion, just because we eat halal food it shouldn’t restrict us from trying different cuisines from all over the world.”
Sukaina Rajabali
No one does a flat lay quite like this self-taught food stylist and photographer. While her food shots feature a distinctive shabby chic aesthetic, her travel images are no less lust worthy. Her top tip for nailing the perfect flat lay? “Always think about balance in terms of how many items you have in the shot – odd numbers usually work better — and negative space.”
Dima Sharif Online
Dima Sharif’s Instagram account offers Middle Eastern cooking inspiration in spades, with beautiful shots from her cookbook. Drawing inspiration from “real food and real ingredients,” she also features ingredients, seasonal produce, as well as products from her own gourmet brand, DS Organic Mooneh. “I’m inspired by what’s going on in the world we live in, environmental issues and especially soil and farming,” she explained. And the bonus? Following her might also lead to giveaway wins.

DS Mooneh Story (Part 1, part 2 in the next post) “Quality Is My Legacy.” In the first decade of the 1900’s, my grandfather was a well known produce merchant in Jerusalem. He had a few fruit and vegetable shops opened in the ancient city, from where he supplied hotels, eateries, and the food industry back then with their produce requirements. He did very well and within just a few years he expanded his business to cover many different areas within Palestine. He believed that the key to his success and what makes or breaks any business is primarily the quality of the product and as importantly the building of a relationship with his customers, where his product is catered to their individual requirements. Those practices proved crucial to his career over the years and set him up to expand his business to eventually export his products to more Arab countries as well as Turkey and Europe. As the business expanded and grew, so did his clients’ requirements. And at that time it was somewhat difficult to control the quality of the produce supplied by the many individual farmers. He knew that in order to guarantee the quality he would have to control the production process. Also at that time, the whole modern farming processes were just starting and early versions of untested pesticides were rapidly filling the markets. The idea of ‘chemicals in his food’ did not sit well with him and so he opted to continue purchasing only from the farmers who did not use these chemicals in their farms. That proved easier said than done, as more and more farms were using those chemicals. That was when he decided to take the matter into his own hands and start producing the supply himself as a means to control the process and guarantee the standards and quality he was after. Therefore, in the early 1930’s, he bought pieces of land in the Jordan Valley, East of the River Jordan, and started his own fruit and vegetable farms. Those farms were the first man-made farms in Jordan and through the years became widely known as the oldest, largest and best quality farms in the whole of Jordan. Doing so, he was able to produce the quality he believed in (part 2 next)

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Halal Gems
The ultimate authority on halal restaurants in London and beyond, this Instagram account provides the inside scoop on where to find the best food — they have got a great eye for hidden gems — with a mouthwatering parade of images of burgers, bakes, ice cream and desserts.
Dalia’s Kitchen
This stylish Syrian-German based in Dubai combines images of things she cooks up in her (equally stylish) kitchen with quick recipe videos and endearing family pictures.
Saudi Food Eman
Providing much-needed insight into Saudi Arabian cuisine — and with it, Saudi culture — this YouTube star has curated her Instagram account into sequential posts highlighting ingredients, recipe videos and the final product. The pictures are as bright and colorful as the food itself.
Halal Girl About Town
Going by her Instagram feed, HGAT is probably the embodiment of the location-independent digital nomad. Her feed is flooded with all the yum stuff she eats at home base London — from pide to pizza — and delicious shots from her travels.
This lifestyle influencer has a great eye for top shots (cue, fabulous flat lays) for her food images, which she mixes up with fashion, luxury and parenting posts.

OPA: Enjoy a traditional Greek experience in Dubai

OPA, a Greek restaurant in the Fairmont hotel Dubai. (Supplied)
Updated 18 February 2019

OPA: Enjoy a traditional Greek experience in Dubai

  • OPA offers a range of traditional Greek dishes and treats
  • Take a step into Greece with OPA's lavish decor

DUBAI: Upon entering Dubai’s latest Greek restaurant OPA at the Fairmont Hotel, diners are transported from the concrete jungle to a lavish, plant-filled lobby with a tree growing right in the center of the room, before moving into the dining area that’s been made to look like a traditional Greek establishment, with white-painted walls and light blue linings.

OPA offers a range of traditional Greek dishes and treats, many of which are similar to those found in most Mediterranean cuisines, but with a fancier touch.
Before we even sat down at our round, saloon-style couched table, loud (like, loud!) Greek music burst from the speakers as the waiters, dressed in chiton and peplos — traditional Greek clothing — gathered around and began dancing across the restaurant, inviting guests to join the fun and be a part of the unique experience. White, clay plates were passed to every table and diners were encouraged to smash them on the floor. More people were willing to get involved in the latter. Who knew the dining experience would come with an anger-management class?
First up was a trifecta of spicy feta, tzatziki and tarama dips coupled with seasoned and toasted triangular pita bread. While the tarama dip was fishier than others I’ve tasted, the spicy feta and tzatziki dips were lick-the-bowl-clean good. After came a chunky and refreshing Greek salad (because why not) and a black truffle tuna tartare that hit the spot both taste-wise and texturally, as the velvety softness of the raw fish worked well with the crispy koulouri.

The hot appetizers rolled in later — grilled octopus, prawns saganaki, and grilled Cypriot halloumi. While the grilled octopus offered little to differentiate it from other restaurant offerings, the saganaki offered a twist to the traditional flaming saganaki, with its feta cheese and roasted peppers-infused spicy tomato sauce. The halloumi was on another level — the sweetness of the grilled fig and grape dressing went hand in hand with the saltiness of the cheese, making it a pleasant surprise to the taste buds.
The mains began with three lamb chops served with pickled cucumbers and tzatziki, a hearty and rich dish that will have you sucking at the bone just to get more of the lamb flavor. Next up was the lobster orzo “risotto” (according to the menu), a grilled half-lobster marinated with seaweed butter laying on a bed of orzo mixed with tomato sauce. While the dish sounded extravagantly rich, it was actually rather flat — the flavors never really reached their full potential: the sauce was a tad bland and the lobster-to-orzo ratio leaned heavily on the orzo.

For dessert, we were served the OPA baklava sundae, a large crispy filo cup stuffed with pistachio cream, caramel and Greek yoghurt ice-cream, pieces of baklava and topped with crumbled pistachios and caramel sauce. It resembled a massive Turkish cupcake, and was enough for a table of four hungry diners. If you’re skilled enough to dig through from the top to the bottom and manage to balance all its components without having one fall, then you’re in for an exciting mouthful.

All in all, OPA is well worth a visit. Whether you’re in a group celebrating a birthday, a couple going out on a date or even going solo to reward yourself for surviving yet another hectic work week, take a step into Greece and away from Dubai’s tall towers and traffic-filled roads.