News From : DagangHalal.com (10 Sep 2009)
This week I reached out for a McArabia grilled chicken sandwich at McDonald’s in the food court at the Mall of the Emirates in Dubai, where you can go snow skiing – indoors – even when it’s 120 degrees outdoors.
McDonald’s is huge in the Middle East and especially in Dubai, which culturally is pretty Western for the Middle East. And McDonald’s makes itself welcome by creating special items that appeal to local tastes and conform to religious laws – a must in this Islamic zcountry. Topping the popularity chart is the McArabia.
Here’s the blueprint: two patties of grilled white meat chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and garlic mayonnaise stuffed in an Arabic-style pita bread.
Total calories: 566. Fat grams: 30. Carbs: 50. Dietary fiber: 2. Manufacturer’s suggested retail price: about $4.
There are 39 McDonald’s in Dubai, the most populous city on the shore of the Persian Gulf in the United Arab Emirates. It’s a tourist town, so you’ll find the Golden Arches in most shopping malls and beach spots.
The McArabia comes in two styles: grilled chicken and grilled kofta, which is spicy ground beef. During my visit to Dubai, which included several trips to McDonald’s, it looked like the chicken was more popular.
The McArabia’s got the aroma and taste of Dubai, with lots of spice and vegetables and that creamy, garlic-spiked mayo. The Arabic-style pita bread is a little thicker than American fast-food flatbread. The pita carries its weight in the McArabia without getting soppy or falling apart.
If you take a big enough bite of the McArabia, you’ll learn something about halal dietary laws of Islam and the way things run in Dubai.
Every McDonald’s in the United Arab Emirates is locally owned and operated by the Emirates Fast Food Corporation. Everything on the menu is 100-percent halal, inspected and approved by Islamic authorities. They are strict about their food culture and, for a tourist, it’s fun to learn how they do it.
There are no pork products at McDonald’s in Dubai. Breakfast sandwiches are made with turkey bacon and sausage. But halal goes much farther than that. Food suppliers must obey precise rules concerning animal welfare. Animals raised for consumption, like cows and chickens, must be vegetarian fed. No hormones are allowed for artificial growth.
Here’s the part that impressed me the most. Animals are treated with respect and are slaughtered as humanely as possible. Animals must be slaughtered by human hands as quickly as possible. No torture is allowed and suffering is kept at a minimum. Meat-processing workers, who must be Muslim, keep their knives sharp to ensure a fast death. Workers are not allowed to sharpen their knives in front of the animals.
Each animal must be prayed for, and the name “Allah” recited before it is killed.
You always hear, “No matter where on Earth you are, the food at McDonald’s always tastes the same.” Not true, and it wasn’t because I was eating the McArabia, which is only available in the Middle East.
My first McArabia in Dubai tasted fresher, somehow. Maybe it was an efficient crew on the grill, or the shockingly polite counter person, or maybe halal law, or maybe just my expectations. I went back the next day and my McArabia tasted just as terrific.
The fries, now those did taste exactly the same as America. Some things don’t need improving.