In Siem Reap, sitting close to the main entrance of Angkor Wat – originally a Hindu monument upon its construction – in a Buddhist majority community, is the Angkor Halal Restaurant, serving culinary delights for Muslim tourists visiting one of the great wonders of the world.
The restaurant serves halal dishes like roti canai & chicken curry ($1.50), Malaysian fish sambal ($4.75-$7.00), lembu nailk bukit ($6.50-$7.75), along with Khmer food such as Amok ($6.50-$9.25) and lok lak ($4.00).
El Khory, a waitress and cashier at Angkor Halal Restaurant, says that the restaurant serves a wide variety of Asian halal food and popular local food.
“We open from 6am or 7am, according to the season after tourists visit the sunrise at Angkor Wat, and we close at 3pm because the staff here are students studying in the evening,” she says.
Angkor Halal Restaurant is part of the Siem Reap Muslim Community Development Organisation (SRMCDO) – a grass-roots, not-for-profit community group founded in 2006 to alleviate the effects of poverty within the province’s small community of approximately 350 Islamic Cham families.
Zaky Abdulsomada, manager at Angkor Halal Restaurant and SRMCDO president, says that the eatery is also a training centre and provides accommodation and an income for poor students after they finish high school and pursue their studies at university.
“We help students from the really poor families support their studies, work and accommodation, for both Muslims and non-Muslims,” he says.
Angkor Halal Restaurant was started by an Australian man three years ago. But though the restaurant is run and staffed by Muslims and features the halal logo, it is not yet officially certified.
“All businesses and restaurants in Siem Reap have not received halal certificatfication yet,” says Zaky. “Since the government has only just started issuing the certification in Phnom Penh, businesses in Siem Reap posting a halal logo are not the real.”
According to an official from the Highest Council for Islamic Religious Affairs of Cambodia, many restaurants owned by both Muslims and non-Muslims falsely claim to be halal, but to be trusted they have to secure the halal label from the council.
Dhabihah, the halal method of slaughter, requires that an animal has its throat slit with a well-sharpened knife, that the butcher be Muslim, and that the blood is drained from the animal.
“For the Muslim community, when they find out that the restaurant is run by Muslims they trust it even though it is not issued with a halal label,” says Zaky, standing in front of a praying room in the back of the restaurant. “Malaysian people who come here on their own via searching online, they are OK with the food as it is from a Muslim chef.”
For the upcoming Ramadan holiday, that sees Muslims around the world fast from sunrise to sunset, the Angkor Halal Restaurant will provide a special packed meal for Muslims.
“Every year, we have an Iftar meal [the evening meal to end the daily Ramadan fast at sunset] pack. We offer this meal to mosques in Siem Reap and other provinces,” Zaky says.
According to Islamic belief, Ramadan – the ninth month of the Islamic calendar – is observed by Muslims worldwide through a month of fasting to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad.
This year Ramadan falls between May 5 and June 4, and the Angkor Halal Restaurant will close for a month, but will still be providing Iftar packs.
Angkor Halal Restaurant is located at Angkor Wat’s West Gate Road. It is open daily from 6am to 3pm.
For more information, you can contact the restaurant by telephone (031 333 3198) or Facebook (@Angkorhalal).