Halal Food Tour coming to Teaneck

WHAT: A dozen local halal restaurants, comedy and music.
WHERE: Teaneck Armory, 1799 Teaneck Road, Teaneck.
WHEN: Noon to 8 p.m. Sunday.
HOW MUCH: $5 entrance fee.
MORE INFO: halalfoodtour.com.

One of the most popular food carts in Manhattan, Famous Halal Guys, sits at the corner of 53rd Street and Sixth Avenue outside the Hilton Hotel. Tourists, office workers and late-night revelers have been known to form a long line just for a plate of the $6 chicken and lamb over yellow rice. Yet most of them don't know what the term "halal" means.

Sameer Sarmast of Paramus, a Muslim of Indian descent and a foodie with a passion for grilled kebabs and buffalo wings, wants to enlighten the public about the vast world of halal cuisine.

As kosher meat is to Jews, halal meat comes from animals raised and slaughtered under certain guidelines intended to be humane and thus is permissible under Islamic dietary laws. Many Muslims also find kosher meat acceptable to eat.

Since 2011, Sarmast has hosted and produced a Web video series called "Sameer's Eats," for which he travels around the country sampling the best halal food. It has gotten more than 100,000 views. This spring, Sarmast launched the Halal Food Tour, a series of food festivals in cities around the country. The Halal Food Tour is coming to Teaneck this Sunday, the day before the beginning of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting. We checked in with Sarmast to learn more about his eating adventures.

Q. What happens at the Halal Food Tour?

Yvonne Maffei [a popular food blogger from Chicago at myhalalkitchen.com] is flying in to do a cooking demo. We also have comedy and music. And an Iron Chef-style halal cooking competition featuring local cooks.

Q. What does it mean to be a halal foodie?

It's finding the best-tasting food that is halal. Halal meat can be used in different cuisines: Chinese, Italian, Middle Eastern, Mexican.

Q. What are some of your favorite halal restaurants in North Jersey?

Kebab Paradise in Lake Hiawatha and Pizza Time in Ridgefield Park — I love their buffalo wings and buffalo chicken pizza; Chinese Mirch, the branch in North Brunswick; and two Turkish places in Paterson: Oz Karedniz and Sultans. I love kebabs, chicken and lamb. I love ribs and steaks. Meat is my favorite food.

Q. You've been working on "Sameer's Eats," the Web show, for a few years now. What have you learned about the halal food scene around the country?

Every city has something different based on the majority culture. In Los Angeles, the halal restaurants are Afghan and Persian. In Chicago, it's Indian and Pakistani. In North Jersey, it's a lot of Middle Eastern food.


Sameer Sarmast