Samui Wining & Dining
Halal on Samui

Halal food isn’t always easy to find, just ask where to go.

 Flip through Thai cookery books and you'll find plenty recipes that call for leaves.Samui can, once again, say it offers an extraordinary variety of different cuisines, cooking traditions and foodstuffs. There’s seemingly no end to all the diversity, and most visitors to the island are first surprised and then very satisfied to find out just how much is on offer here when it comes to food and drink.

An increasing demand is being seen across all of Thailand for Halal food, simply because there are so many Muslim visitors now choosing to come here on vacation. The government estimates the Halal food industry is already worth billions of baht every year, and seeks to spotlight how the nation is becoming ever more Halal-friendly to its visitors.

Halal foodstuffs in Thailand are well-regulated, and increasingly producers are keen to get Halal certification. At the turn of this century years there were only 500 food plants that had Halal certification. That number has grown exponentially; now it’s over 6,000.

There’s always been Halal food in Thailand, since the nation is already home to a very sizeable Muslim population. Always considered to be Buddhist, Thailand is at least 5% Muslim, so Halal food is part and parcel of the culture here. Samui is of course no different. It too has many Muslims, and even a Muslim fishing village, in Ban Hua Thanon. This is all good news if you're in search of a Halal restaurant here.

Halal simply means ‘permitted’. When used to refer to food it means that it’s been prepared according to Islamic precepts. Besides a strict ban on pork or food that contains it, meat has to come from animals that are slaughtered in the prescribed way, which should also be as painless as possible. Under Islamic law, animals have rights, and these centre on proper rearing, proper feeding, proper transportation and proper slaughter. It’s therefore definitely not permitted to cook anything alive, such as lobsters, which are routinely thrown alive into boiling water.

Halal food on Samui is already well-known and, as with the rest of the country, there are signs outside restaurants indicating that they serve Halal. However, if you're on vacation you'll maybe still need a helping hand to find it. Some research on Google is called for, but so too is asking local people; they're sure to be able to point you in the right direction. You can also ask your hotel receptionist; every hotel will have at least a few Muslim employees who’ll be happy to give some help. Indeed, your hotel may even offer some Halal food and just be waiting for guests to ask for it.

Many of the dishes that you'll try will be fairly standard Thai ones, eaten by local people. But Halal fare isn’t confined to any one culture, and some of the dishes have very ancient roots that go back to early Middle Eastern civilizations, while others are based on Moorish dishes or those of Byzantium, Persia and so on. The famed Silk Road with all its caravans and trade between Europe and China lay to the north, but its influence on culinary matters reached far to the south and the regions that were one day to become Thailand. Similarly, there were also influences from the south, with foods from Malaysia and Indonesia being adopted by Thais.

Thailand has always sought to have friendly relations with Muslim countries, whether close to home or much further away. This reflects too in the diversity of foods to be found in Thailand. Thai food, itself is a combination of spicy, sweet, sour and salty flavours but with differences according to which region you find yourself in. Head south from Samui and you'll find more coconut milk and turmeric in your food, while if you head off to the north-east you'll find the cuisine depends more on limes. But no matter what kind of Thai food you opt for, you can be sure that, as long as the type of meat is permitted, then it can be made according to Halal rules. Muslims have certainly added to what’s broadly known as Thai food. Halal reflects all of these different dishes, and in the south, home to a greater density of Muslims, there are an infinite number of Halal restaurants.

Many Muslim holidaymakers give up on Halal and simply opt for general foods that don’t call for any special certification. But simply driving around will be rewarding in itself. You're bound to find Halal places. Most will be small, often family-run. Currently there are no big food concerns on the island that are entirely Halal-orientated. A trio of favourites are to be found in the Chaweng to Maenam stretch, and are highly popular: Fareast Restaurant close to Central Festival in Chaweng on the Lake Road, offers a variety of both Thai and Middle East food. If you have a craving for Indian cuisine and dishes such as meat curries, spicy vegetables and naan try Noori India, again in Chaweng, with two outlets on the beach road but also with a small outlet in the food court at Central Festival. Meanwhile, over in Maenam head for Roman Turkish Restaurant, where you can feast on kebabs and a huge variety of Turkish food, all of it, of course, Halal.

There are even food carts and very small eateries that specialize in Halal food. For example, if you're looking for chicken from a spit you can find in Bangrak, close to the Family Mart opposite Seatran Pier. At Nathon night market, held in the port, you'll also find a couple of Halal vendors. As time goes by, there’s ever more Halal food to be found on the island, but for the moment, it’s still in a phase where it’s limited. But put in a little effort and you’re sure to be rewarded with some excellent meals, all Halal.


Dimitri Waring


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