With Ramadan upon us a local website is making sure people can find halal food throughout the city.
Halal Eats Vancouver is akin to Yelp! but without any money involved, says Sawez Khan. The site is the brainchild of Khan and two of his friends Mohammad Khan and Bob Ibrahim. It's been operational for a couple of years now, consistently growing as more people find out about it.
"It's an initiative to help the community and visitors to the community find halal food and markets," Khan says.
The website has dozens of businesses listed that cater to Halal customers, from Canadian Fried Chicken in Surrey to Dessert Directory in Kitsilano. And markets like Wescadia Halal Foods or Shams Halal Meat are listed with essential info.
Khan notes says aside from Halal Eats Vancouver it's difficult to find a trusted resource that covers Muslim needs like this.
There are ways to filter by food type (like burgers and fried chicken or Pakistani and Indian). It also includes a filter to see places that have been certified by the Halal Inspection and Certification Committee. And there are notes explaining if a place sells alcohol or is only partially Halal.
Right now, like most restaurants, the Muslim restaurant community is facing tough times due to the pandemic. Normally Ramadan brings people together, often at those establishments, for the evening meal of Iftar. This year, though, it won't be the same, Khan says, and it's important there's support for those who need it.
"Instead of being able to go out, now people have to take the food home and enjoy it with their immediate family," he notes.
During Ramadan there's also a section for specials related to the holy month, but it's not an ad-laden page. Khan notes they're not making any money on the website; it's provided as a service.
"You can't pay for a listing on our website," he says. "It's a volunteer effort; there's no ulterior motive other than a community service."
In addition to the website, they run an active Facebook group that focuses on Halal food and the community around it. While the Muslim community isn't mainstream, Khan says they're reaching beyond Vancouver now, with listings as far away as Calgary.
"It's definitely one of those growing areas," he says, pointing to Halal food options showing up in general grocery stores."It's a niche market but it's growing in Canada."