By: Eman Lim
I visited Global Halal Hub at Chai Chee yesterday. (I just happened to be in the same building so I thought might as well check it out. We were actually looking for a place to have dinner before shopping at Decathlon, Royz had a queue so we ventured into the building to find other options. Eventually we went to Andes which is supposed to be the Halal version of Astons, casual dining, tak menyesal (no regrets) man, their chicken and potato side dishes work.)
My impression of the place is that it is like a less decorated/no frills version of the NTUC Fairprice in any other neighbourhood, but without the Alcohol or pork products. The frozen food section stocks about the same stuff as Jusco or Aon in JB, decent variety of ready to fry stuff, nothing that seemed conspicuously atas (sophisticated). The price point seems to be slightly higher than what I could recall at that moment of the price point of similar items at Cold Storage.
I say it is a decent effort. I personally wouldn’t go out of my way to shop there (I pass by Giant and NTUC on the way home from work so they are more convenient for my situation.), but it is a good alternative for people who would normally willingly go all the way to JB to buy Halal frozen food and groceries for the family, as a more convenient option (than JB) because they save a trip across the causeway if they are willing to pay a premium for that convenience, but once you offset the time and petrol saved it doesn’t seem like a premium.
One thing however stoodout was that they had Tonkastu Sauce. ‘Tonkatsu’ translates in Japanese as ‘pork cutlet’. My first reaction was to laugh because it literally made the punchline “Halal Pork Cutlet Sauce lah siol! Hahaha!”.
Please note that it is the pork in the dish that is not Halal, not the sauce. If you make the same dish with chicken, it is called ‘Torikatsu’, and that can be halal. Obviously you can tell by now that chicken is ‘tori’ and pork is ‘ton’.
Obviously I have no problem with the sauce because I know that the sauce by itself is halal. It is just ‘katsu’ sauce, the soy based gravy sauce to be served on breaded fried cultets. I checked the ingredients, there is no actual pork in it, it really is Halal and the ingredients list tells me that I can eat it safely with my Torikatsu.
However given the name printed on the label literally says in Japanese Hiragana and Romanji ‘Pork Cutlet’ Sauce, it could be problematic because you have a Halal Certification Logo on a product that calls itself ‘Pork Cutlet Sauce’.
Though the sauce itself is Halal, the labelling could cause confusion and technically it conflicts with the recent stands taken by MUIS and JAKIM in regards to the naming of products.
JAKIM’s ‘hotdog’ fatwa set their precedent.
The precedent set by MUIS was by their recent fatwa on non-alcoholic versions of alcoholic beverages effectively renders that naming a product after another Haram product or marketing it in similar fashion is Haram to them. The consequence of this is that because alcoholic fermented grape, dates and grain drinks are intoxicants categorised as ‘khamr’ which is Haram, MUIS does not allow you to market non-alcoholic fermented grape, date or grain drinks as ‘Halal’ versions of those alcoholic drinks (e.g. wine, liqour, beer, etc.) and will not issue its MUIS Halal Certification for those products.
This precedent means that with regards to naming and marketing of products they don’t approve of marketing sparkling grape juice like it is a non-alcoholic champagne or wine or calling it “Halal wine”. This position takes the view that emulating or copying the lifestyle aspect of the culture associated with alcoholic beverages is haram. This position consequentially implies that the serving beverages in containers that resemble the same containers used to serve alcoholic beverages.
I personally feel that the fatwa should have just left it at the first point on Khamr which is hard to dispute. As it is clear cut in the Shafie Mazhab (which is the primary mazhab to be considered as dictated by the AMLA) that alcoholic grape, date and grain drinks are deemed haram when they are considered to be Khamr.
Their second point on emulation creates problems for existing Halal certified fine dining eateries and caterers because many of them emulate the westernised European style dining concept, the European fine dining culture around the appreciation of wine as seen by the types of drinking glasses they use. It is very common to see Halal Certified casual and fine dining eateries and caterers serving non-alcoholic beverages like water, juices and soft drinks drinks in wine glasses, bottles and carafe/pitchers. As far as I was taught, the position taken in the Shafie mazhab is that there is nothing wrong with using those types of containers or westernised style of fine dining or listening to music while dining as long as you are eating Halal food, and not drinking Khamr or getting intoxicated. As far as my ustaz taught me, this calling “emulation of western fine dining culture” Haram thing is not a mainstream Shafie or Hanafi position.
For food manufacturers that very same second point MUIS has set a new precedent, which could eventually be applied to the naming of food as well if they descend to the level that JAKIM has on the ‘hotdog’ issue. The application of this precedent is that because Bacon or Ham was originally a name of a Pork product, they cannot name their Halal Meat products the same names as Pork products, which means that all of a sudden my favourite Halal Turkey Bacon cannot be labelled with the word ‘Bacon’ anymore.
We must bear in mind that a fatwa is a recommendation and not a law, so it is up to the individual to decide whether to accept them or not.
To me their first point on Khamr being haram is valid and makes sense, but the second point on emulation is something I think is not necessary because people are smart enough to not know that it is the actual drink that gets you drunk not the container that you serve it in or the name you see on the menu.
Now comes along this product which is non-alcoholic and does not actually contain pork, but by some (I am assuming unintentional fluke that they did not realise the meaning of the Japanese name) comedic coincidence labelled with “Pork” in Japanese in its name.
To me I see it the same way as I view Halal Turkey Ham/Bacon or Halal Char Siew Chicken, it might have the word in the name but I know jolly well that there is no pork in it, so I am fine with it being labelled Halal. The next time I make Torikatsu I know where I can get the sauce for it.
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