How East London’s oldest halal eatery survived the pandemic

How East London’s oldest halal eatery survived the pandemic
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The Halal Restuarant, located in the Aldgate neighborhood of London, is seen on Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021. (AP)
How East London’s oldest halal eatery survived the pandemic
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The dining room of the Halal Restuarant, located in the Aldgate neighborhood of London, is seen on Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021.(AP)
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Updated 04 January 2022

How East London’s oldest halal eatery survived the pandemic

How East London’s oldest halal eatery survived the pandemic
  • Halal Restaurant first opened in 1939 to serve the needs of Muslims in the maritime industry
  • The pandemic cut much of its office worker traffic, forcing the restaurant to rely on delivery and takeaway orders

LONDON: With the fate of East London’s oldest halal restaurant on the line, a desperate call went out on Twitter.
“Not one to do this,” wrote @mehnazmeh, “but my dad owns the oldest Indian restaurant in east London and has been struggling with customers, so please show some love! If you’re in Aldgate, come and have a curry, I’m biased, but it’s the best!”
Mehnaz Mahaboob included parallel images of both her father and grandfather seated in the restaurant over the decades. The tweet went viral, earning more than 40,000 interactions on Twitter, and for a few glorious weeks Halal Restaurant was packed.
“It really worked. There were people waiting outside the door because of the tweet. We had to turn people away for dinner, which is something we never had before,” said Mahaboob Narangoli, Mehnaz’s father and the current owner of Halal Restaurant, which serves a wide variety of South Asian food.
The brief boom brought in enough to keep the business afloat through a second pandemic lockdown in the UK, when the restaurant had to again close its doors for seven months, according to Narangoli.
Halal Restaurant first opened in 1939 to serve the needs of Muslims in the maritime industry. Over the ensuing decades the restaurant has changed with East London and now relies on the lunchtime crowds of bankers, shipping agents and insurance industry employees who work in the city of London. But the pandemic cut much of that traffic, forcing the restaurant to rely on delivery and takeaway orders as the normally packed streets of London went quiet.
“We have many customers who have been coming here even before my father took over. We just had someone in today who has been eating here since the 1960s,” said Narangoli.
The restaurant was originally part of London’s Hostel for Indian Seamen. In those days, the nearby Saint Katherine’s Docks, named for the church demolished in 1825 that once stood on the site, was a working part of London’s docklands. The area attracted many South Asians who worked as lascars aboard various ships.
In 1932, the Indian National Congress had estimated there were just over 7,000 South Asians living in the United Kingdom — many tied to the maritime industry.
The docks and the Tower of London, which is a five-minute walk away, were both heavily damaged during World War II. Even today, Halal Restaurant’s sparse tables seem to recall the establishment’s maritime heritage. A photo of the restaurant’s all-wooden interior in the 1970s could easily be mistaken for a mess hall on a ship.
Narangoli’s father, Usman Abubakar, was no stranger to the sea. Abubakar first came to London as a member of the Merchant Navy. In 1970, he started working as a waiter in The Halal Restaurant. By 1978, Abubakar was the proprietor, after purchasing the restaurant from its second owner.
The 1970s may have been a turbulent time in Britain with labor struggles and the 1976 currency crisis — but it was an important decade for the history of Indian food in the country, and by its end, South Asian cuisine had become a British staple. In 1971, on a stormy night in Glasgow, Scotland, a British Bangladeshi chef named Ali Ahmed Aslam improvised “Chicken tikka masala,” a dish now found on menus around the world, including at Halal Restaurant. Within five years, the United Kingdom boasted more than 2,000 “Indian” restaurants — the majority actually Bangladeshi operated — by some accounts, that number would grow to 3,000 by the decade’s close.
The building that houses Halal Restaurant dates to the 17th century and has witnessed the changing religious demographics of East London. On nearby Brick Lane, those changes are perhaps best expressed in the fate of a single building. A church opened by French Huguenots in the 18th century became a synagogue in the late 19th century and, in 1978, a mosque. The Brick Lane mosque took over the space to serve the growing Bangladeshi community as many Jewish families headed to the suburbs.
These cultural influences are apparent on Brick Lane where a person can find everything from kosher bagel sandwiches to halal tomahawk steaks. And it is not uncommon to find Muslim worshippers during Ramadan lined up for “salt beef beigels” in front of the area’s 24-hour Jewish bakeries.
Tower Hamlets, the area of East London where Halal Restaurant now sits, is home to more than 40 Islamic institutions and dozens of halal restaurants. Nearby is the East London Mosque, founded in 1985 and now one of Europe’s largest, able to accommodate 7,000 worshippers.
While estimates vary, today there are between 8,000 and 12,000 Indian restaurants in the United Kingdom, the majority of them halal. London itself is home to a diverse range of halal South Asian eateries. Dishoom, a small chain of restaurants that opened in 2010, pays homage to Parsi or (Zoroastrian) cafes, which are now vanishing across India. Meanwhile, Brig.s, which opened in 2018, is inspired by Indian military mess halls.
A number of new tourism-focused hotels have sprouted up near Halal Restaurant due to its proximity to the Tower of London. This has added a few extra evening diners, said Narangoli. East London’s seedy history has even become an unlikely tourist attraction.
Tours offer visits to sites associated with the Kray Brothers, twin brothers and East London gangsters, both portrayed by Tom Hardy in the 2015 film “Legend.” Another tour focuses on a different famous criminal: Jack the Ripper. That case was investigated in part by officers from the Leman Street Police Station, which opened in 1830. During its 20th-century heyday, many “bobbies” from the Leman Street Station packed Halal Restaurant until the station was shuttered in 1995.
The area’s edgy history and comparatively low rents have attracted a growing hipster scene. A coffee shop near the restaurant does a brisk trade and offers coffee laced with CBD. While hipster culture in the area is a relatively recent phenomenon, the its demographics may be changing again. Narangoli said the number of customers from East Asian countries is slowly increasing.
Social media campaign or not, the pandemic has made a dent in business, and there are nearby shops that have yet to re-open. Next door, a barbershop named Ahmed Scissorhands, a reference to the 1990 film “Edward Scissorhands,” remains shuttered. For a restaurant that survived the Blitz and the labor tumult of the 1970s, Narangoli is only cautiously optimistic about the long-term viability of the restaurant.
“Let’s see if things start to get better soon. We really hope the workers start coming to work again in the city (of London); that is when things can really turn around,” said Narangoli.


Adding peanuts to young children’s diet can help avoid allergy: study

Adding peanuts to young children’s diet can help avoid allergy: study
Updated 21 January 2022

Adding peanuts to young children’s diet can help avoid allergy: study

Adding peanuts to young children’s diet can help avoid allergy: study
  • Six months after the treatment, the children in remission could tolerate a dose equivalent to 16 peanuts

PARIS: Including peanuts in children’s diets early in life could help stave off allergies against the legume, which can be fatal and affect swathes of youngsters globally, according to a new study Friday.
Researchers found that introducing peanut products to babies and infants, and gradually increasing exposure, led to greater tolerance for the common allergen.
The peer-reviewed study, published in The Lancet, involved 146 peanut-allergic children aged between zero and three over two-and-a-half years.
Of the group, 96 were given peanut protein powder every day, with the dose increasing progressively to the equivalent of six peanuts. The other children received a placebo of oat flour.
Twenty of the children who received peanut powder showed allergy remission, meaning no allergic reaction occurred six months after the therapy ended.
One child in the placebo group showed remission.
Six months after the treatment, the children in remission could tolerate a dose equivalent to 16 peanuts.
An additional 20 children who received peanut powder were considered ‘desensitised’, meaning they had a higher allergic threshold but were not considered in remission.
These children could tolerate a dose equivalent to between six and 12 peanuts six months after the treatment ended.
The youngest children in the study experienced remission the most often, and the best results were in those under 12 months.
“Very early interventions may provide the best opportunity to achieve remission,” said co-author Stacie Jones.
Peanut allergies affect two percent of children in Western countries, according to the study, and can last a lifetime.
Affected children must avoid eating peanuts and have self-injectable adrenaline available to fight allergic shocks, which can be fatal if they are accidentally exposed.
Exposure can even occur when a child hugs someone who has just consumed peanuts.
“There are no treatment options, resulting in a considerable burden on allergic children and their caregivers to avoid accidental exposure,” said co-author Wesley Burks.
“In severe cases, this can restrict peanut-allergic children’s freedoms, particularly when it comes to navigating daycare or schools and public spaces where access to a safe diet is in jeopardy,” he added.
Previous studies have produced similar results but the length of the latest studies makes it unique.
Although it provided important results, it may not reflect the behavior of the children’s bodies in real-world conditions.
The study was conducted under close medical supervision, and adrenaline injections were administered on 21 children during the trial.


Pandemic hasn’t slowed China’s love for US lobster

A lobster rears its claws after being caught off Spruce Head, Maine, Aug. 31, 2021. (AP)
A lobster rears its claws after being caught off Spruce Head, Maine, Aug. 31, 2021. (AP)
Updated 18 January 2022

Pandemic hasn’t slowed China’s love for US lobster

A lobster rears its claws after being caught off Spruce Head, Maine, Aug. 31, 2021. (AP)
  • American exporters sent more than 13.2 million pounds (6 million kilograms) of lobster to China during the first 11 months of 2021

PORTLAND, Maine: China is showing no signs of slowing its demand for American lobster this year despite disruption to the supply chain and international trade caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Chinese demand for the crustaceans grew dramatically during the 2010s in part because of the expansion of the country’s middle class. The lobsters are especially sought after in winter because they are a popular delicacy on Chinese New Year, which is Feb. 1 this year.
American exporters sent more than 13.2 million pounds (6 million kilograms) of lobster to China during the first 11 months of 2021. That was about 6 percent more than the same time period the previous year.
The pandemic has made the already difficult task of sending live seafood across the globe more challenging, but Maine lobster exporters are gearing up for a decent Chinese New Year, said Bill Bruns. The operations manager at The Lobster Co. in Arundel said shipments are complicated by the fact the company can’t send lobsters to Beijing because of COVID-19 restrictions — but they are able to send to other airports, such as Shenzhen.
“Chinese New Year is always a crapshoot the last couple years,” Bruns said. “But I’m prepared for it. I have the staff. Because otherwise it’s going to be a long spring.”
China buys lobsters from the US — where the industry is based mostly in Maine — and Canada, where the industry is situated in the Atlantic provinces. Exports from Canada were up even more than the US the first 11 months of 2021 compared to 2020, said John Sackton, an industry analyst and founder of SeafoodNews.com.
Signs point to a strong season for the industry, Sackton said. Consumption of seafood could also get a boost from the Beijing Winter Olympics, which are set to start a few days after Chinese New Year, he said.
“I’ve seen nothing that consumption of lobsters at Chinese New Year this year won’t exceed last year’s,” Sackton said.
The US lobster industry weathered similar challenges during the first year of the pandemic in 2020 and ultimately had a strong export season. The value of exports was down from the record year of 2018, but still well over $100 million.
High prices for lobsters have played a role in the value of this year’s exports. The price of a live 1.25-pound hard shell lobster was $11.25 per pound in New England this month, according to business publishing company Urner Barry. That was more than a third higher than January 2021.
To send lobsters to China, American and Canadian fishermen have to trap them in the cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Bad weather has made that difficult for Maine fishermen this year, but harvesters are still having a decent winter on the water, said Kristan Porter, president of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association.
“When guys get out there, they are doing OK,” Porter said. “It takes someone hardier than me to fish the wintertime.”


A taste of what’s to come: What food trends can we expect in 2022?

A taste of what’s to come: What food trends can we expect in 2022?
Updated 17 January 2022

A taste of what’s to come: What food trends can we expect in 2022?

A taste of what’s to come: What food trends can we expect in 2022?

DUBAI: Entrepreneurs and husband and wife duo Luma Makhlouf and Haider Al-Assam are the founders of Dubai’s hugely popular Maiz Tacos and Good Burger. Here, Makhlouf pens her thoughts on the food trends we can expect to see in the region in 2022.

Coming off the back of a challenging year largely centered around the pandemic, we are declaring 2022 the year of health and rebuilding.  Looking forward, food trends will incorporate a return to local produce, entertaining and sustainable food practices.

 Luma Makhlouf. Supplied 

Homegrown produce

More than ever before, consumers are focusing on their health and are looking to strengthen their immune system, making fresh local produce their preferred choice. What used to be an industry that knew no borders, the pandemic meant importing food became more expensive and less timely. Returning to basics, consumers will choose organic, local produce and clean ingredients. Post pandemic, some of the most successful brands are the homegrown ones that built up their resilience under tough conditions. Local suppliers offering authentic “farm to fork” produce will resonate with consumers seeking to focus on their health.

Return to entertaining

As people start to celebrate events they missed out on during the pandemic, catering demand is set to increase. Consumers are looking to create new, out of the box experiences and are therefore seeking tailored, personalized catering solutions. We are seeing increased corporate marketing budgets as demand for events such as product launches increase in line with the reduction of pandemic restrictions.

Sustainability

Photo: Getty Images

Consumers are increasingly choosing sustainable produce as they become more aware of their carbon footprint and the impact of their choices. As the population increases, so too will food production. Aquaculture and hydroponic farming are two aspects that will help the UAE in particular create a more sustainable food industry, and consumers will favor the health benefits of fresher, healthier produce. An increase in plant-based diets means consumers’ choices will be less taxing on the environment and they will be looking for ethical, sustainable ingredients that can help them achieve their health goals.

The increase in demand for healthy, nutritious and sustainably sourced foods will shape the food industry this year. Consumers will look for foods and catering options with nutritional benefits as healthy eating becomes mainstream and entertaining with our loved ones finally returns.


Where We Are Going Today: Flour & Firewood

Photo/Supplied
Photo/Supplied
Updated 10 January 2022

Where We Are Going Today: Flour & Firewood

Photo/Supplied
  • For salad lovers, the salmon salad and the house salad are top-rated dishes

Flour & Firewood is a staple for freshly baked bread and gourmet pizza in Riyadh.
Located on Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Road in the Sulaymaniyah district, the restaurant is the perfect location for a cozy and casual family brunch.
Here, most of the dishes on the menu are served with excellent bread, but you can also order a slice of sourdough served with butter and oil.
Brunch lovers who prefer a lighter breakfast selection over pizza and pasta should try the sunny eggs platter served with grilled halloumi and bacon, or the sweet and fluffy French toast.
For starters, we recommend trying the shrimp pil-pil, which pairs surprisingly well with the shiitake mushroom pasta. The creamy and decadent pasta wraps around freshly sliced shiitake mushrooms to create the perfect blend of flavors.
For salad lovers, the salmon salad and the house salad are top-rated dishes. The portions are generous and each dish in the restaurant is served for sharing.


Hitting the gym in 2022? Try these expert tips to reduce muscle soreness

Hitting the gym in 2022? Try these expert tips to reduce muscle soreness
Updated 08 January 2022

Hitting the gym in 2022? Try these expert tips to reduce muscle soreness

Hitting the gym in 2022? Try these expert tips to reduce muscle soreness

DUBAI: Dubai-based former professional rugby player and current fitness coach Nino Barbu, who comes armed with a master’s degree in sports performance, walks us through the process of easing muscle stiffness that comes after an intense workout. If you plan to hit the gym to kick of 2022, make sure to follow these expert tips. 

For the past few decades fitness and health experts have been trying to find a way to explain or cure muscle soreness usually felt after an intense workout.

The bad news is that a complete cure has not been found, but the good news is exercise physiologists discovered some methods that can ease the symptoms of muscle soreness.

Researchers found that when muscle temperature is increased, blood flow increases, bringing fresh oxygen and healing nutrients to the sore area. (Shutterstock)

What is muscle soreness or delayed onset muscle soreness, also knowns as DOMS?

Specialists describe it as the gradually increasing discomfort that occurs between 24 and 48 hours after activity, and it is perfectly normal and is simply an indication that muscles are adapting to your fitness regimen. The mild muscle strain during the effort creates microscopic damage to the muscle fibers. Scientists believe this damage, coupled with the inflammation that accompanies these tears, is the cause of the symptoms.

Here are some tips to reduce these symptoms…

Stretching

Stretching is one of the most underrated remedies and best performed straight after a workout during the cool down period. If you are not sure how to stretch the muscles you worked out, find some inspiration on the internet where there are a multitude of resources to guide you.

Apply heat 

Brigham Young University in Utah has researched the use of heat remedies to treat muscle soreness. Researchers found that when muscle temperature is increased, blood flow increases, bringing fresh oxygen and healing nutrients to the sore area. 

Ice baths

Ice baths or cold showers can also ease symptoms due to the fact that they lower the damaged tissue’s temperature and constrict the blood vessels. This helps reduce swelling and inflammation, and even numbs the nerve endings, usually bringing immediate relief. Ice baths can also help your central nervous system by aiding in sleep, and consequently, making you feel better by reducing fatigue. They can be performed after each workout for intervals of 3-6 minutes. In order to maximize the benefits of cold therapy combine it with hot therapy (a hot shower or sauna). The recommended routine for an athlete would be three rounds alternating three minutes of a hot shower or sauna with three minutes of a cold shower or ice bath.

Anti-inflammatory treatment

A naturally occurring anti-inflammatory compound is curcumin. Research suggests that curcumin can help in the management of oxidative and inflammatory conditions, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, anxiety and hyperlipidemia. It may also help in the management of exercise-induced inflammation and muscle soreness, thus enhancing recovery and subsequent performance in active people. Speak to your doctor about other anti-inflammatory treatments if you wish to take the allopathic route. 

Rest

In more severe DOMS cases, the best solution might be to give your muscles a chance to heal by themselves and repair. Ideally, it is recommended to skip any kind of high-intensity cardio or power lifting sessions when sore which may only worsen and delay recovery.