halal feature: Naan-N-Curry @ San Francisco, USA

This restaurant is located at a very strategic location in the heart of downtown San Francisco, just a short walking distance from our hotel. Plenty of shops nearby and there’s a huge Macy’s outlet just 2 blocks away. A shopping haven for sure.

They offer buffet as well as à la carte meals. Since we are not big eaters, we went for à la carte. Even so, their American portion was already big enough for our Asian tummies.

Fiza checking out their menu before we decided to go in.

Spoilt for choice!

I kind of like their table deco. It may not be a masterpiece, but a nice personal touch nonetheless.

Our dinner on the first visit. Fiza had bread. I had rice.

We went there again for dinner on Christmas night and had these.

You can find the restaurant along O’Farrell Street, directly opposite Hilton Hotel. Here it is on Google map.

halal feature: Sala Thai 2 @ Fremont, USA

We dropped by this restaurant on our way from San Francisco to Cupertino on the day we visited Apple headquarters. I was thrilled to see a halal Thai restaurant as we could eat something a little closer to home food.

The  restaurant’s name is Sala Thai 2. Don’t ask me where Sala Thai 1 is because I ain’t got a clue.

We reached there slightly before noon, the restaurant was rather empty. A few minutes later it was lunch hour and the place was pack with people.

Mango chicken. Absolutely love this.

Curry. Fish, I think. Can’t remember.

We ordered a lot more than these but I only take a few pics. Well I was hungry I guess. The restaurant is located in a quiet area along South Grimmer Boulevard. There are many factories and offices around so it get full house really fast during lunchtime. So go there early. Glad we did! Here it is on Google map.

The massive signage by the roadside. You definitely won’t miss it.

halal feature: Pakwan Restaurant @ San Francisco, USA

This was the first restaurant we tried in San Francisco. Went there for early dinner for two reasons: (1) We were super hungry after a long trip from Orlando. (2) We heard that the location was in a rather dodgy part of the city, so we thought if we were to go there, we better go there while the sun was still up.

The walk from our hotel at Market Street to the restaurant was quite an interesting one. The road went uphill and downhill on steep slopes, very signature San Francisco. As we got nearer to the restaurants, the surrounding became gloomier, and we saw more and more homeless people sitting on the curb, just chilling. It felt scary at first, but after a while I realize they weren’t any trouble. Not to us, at least.

Pakwan Restaurant. They have several branches in San Francisco. We went to the one at the corner of O’Farrell and Jones.

Watched a ball game while waiting for our order.

Dinner is served! I’m drooling just looking at this pic :-P~

I think I ordered lamb curry, or something like that.

Fiza ordered chicken beryani.

You can find them at these addresses.

Verdict: Super duper yummy! I absolutely enjoyed my curry. If only the restaurant was a bit nearer to our hotel, we would have gone there again. Here’s the place on Google map.

halal feature: Halal Food Express @ Orlando, USA

I found out about Halal Food Express while doing research for my Orlando trip. Told myself that I must give this place a try. How often could one find a halal American fast food joint anyway?

The place is located along International Drive, just across the road from Wet ‘n Wild theme park. Nearby you will find Orlando Continental Plaza Hotel, Walgreens supermarket and KFC. Look for a row of blue shophouses facing the main road. The restaurant occupies the end lot, next to a souvenir shop.

Turn into this junction. Halal Food Express is at the very end, near the huge billboard.

A little close-up...

...that’s the one!

I took the picture early in the morning while on my way to Universal Orlando Resort. They weren’t open yet.

Inside the restaurant. This one was taken at night when I went there to grab dinner.

Had chicken sandwich to eat-in.

Oooh yummy yummy!

Ordered a basket of chicken wings for take-out but I totally forgot to take a pic. Didn’t try their kebab because I already had enough kebabs during my travels ;-) Anyway, the chicken wings were marvelous! I totally recommend them. Must try.

The place is really clean and the owner is friendly. And I must mention that the location is perfect - along the main road, walking distance from two major theme parks and the I-Ride trolley bus stop is just nearby. Here it is on Google map.

Here’s their website: http://www.halalfoodexpress.com
Here’s their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/HalalFoodExpress

cooking while travelling

As a Muslim traveler, food is always a concern of mine. At places where halal restaurants are difficult to find, I'm left with no choice but to cook my own meals. But how to cook when you stay in a hotel? Let me share with you some tips, based on my very own experience.

First, let's talk about the most important item - travel cooker. I bought my SONA travel cooker in Singapore for SGD 69 (about RM 190) early last year. Had to buy it there because I couldn't find any in KL. Surfed the internet and found out that Malaysian travel cooker owners bought theirs either in Singapore or Japan. So I contacted my Singaporean aunt and asked her to help me buy one. She could easily find it at various electrical shops in Singapore, including the famous Mustafa Centre.

My precious treasure. It stays in the box when I'm not using it. 

Mine is a newer version. Recently I heard there's a Malaysian company selling an older version (the pot is squarish and looks like an army mess tin). There's also mini rice cooker in the market but I don't recommend it. I had one before, it only survived a month or so. I dislike the fact that the pot is attached to the cooker, therefore you have to be extremely careful when washing it with all the wires inside. I suspect mine had some water dripping into electronics thus the entire thing went bust. Another thing I dislike about mini rice cooker is that it takes a long time to heat up and you can't control the temperature.

Back to travel cooker. If you are planning to buy one, please make sure it has dual voltage. It's very important because different parts of the world use different voltage i.e. European countries mostly use 220-240V, but USA and Latin America mostly use 110-120V. Therefore you need to adjust the voltage accordingly. Failure to do so may result in catastrophe. Ok I'm exaggerating, but you get what I mean.

The handle is foldable. The stove is inside the pot. That's how it goes into my luggage when traveling. 

Tadaaa! ON - standby mode, lights up when plugged in. HEAT - cooking mode, turn the switch here to heat up the stove and start cooking. If it gets too hot, flip the switch back to ON. That's how I control the temperature.

Bottom view. See how the cord is nicely tucked at the sides and the plug is slotted at the centre? Neat! But the more important thing I want to show here is the dual voltage switch. It's now pointed at 220-240V. Turn it clockwise to change to 110-120V.

Now let's talk about cooking utensils. These to me are musts:

(1) Fork and spoon, steel ones so you can use them for both cooking and eating. Need extra? Most airlines provide disposable fork and spoon during inflight meals. Keep them.

(2) Food container. Plays the role of plate, a bowl and of course your leftover storage.

(3) Swiss army knife. Pack the knife in your check-in luggage. Never ever put it in your hand-carry, you won't get pass security and they'll confiscate the knife.

(4) Small cutting board. Trust me it's very useful. Doubles up as a serving dish.

(5) Wet tissue. Excellent substitute to dishwashing sponge, no kidding. My favourite brand is Dettol. Smells nice and more importantly it's really good at cleaning oil stains.

Now let's talk about food. I always bring these from home:

(1) Rice. I normally cook for dinner and reheat the leftover for breakfast, so a small 1kg pack will last me a week. My favourite brand is Beras Moghul Faiza Basmathi (the packaging is red and blue). I call it no-fuss rice. Even if I put in a bit more or a bit less water, it still turns out well.

(2) Brahim's ready to eat dishes. They come in boxes and contain real meat. The easiest and most satisfying travel meals ever. Here's how they look like.

I've tasted them all except Sambal Ikan Bilis. They are so yummy I don't mind eating them everyday throughout my trip.  
Photo credit to http://www.brahimsfood.com 

(3) Brahim's cooking sauces. They are merely gravies, so you have to add meat and water. I only bring them of I travel longer than a week.

I like the Kuah Masak Lemak. Add in some crab meat, fabulous! 
Photo credit to http://www.brahimsfood.com

(4) Sambal ikan bilis. I love spicy food, so make it point to bring some when I travel. My favourite is Tean's Gourmet sambal rangup ikan bilis halus. It comes in an airtight container, perfect for travelling. You can find it at Jusco or Giant.

With items 1, 2 and 4 my daily meals are pretty much ready. At the destination I would just buy some eggs, salads and fruits to add variety. If I stay longer than a week, I would buy raw seafood to cook with item 3.

Cooker's ready. Utensil's ready. Food's ready. Time to get into action. Let's cook! Now some cooking tips:

(1) Cook in the bathroom. Why? So it's easy to clean up any spills. And also because bathrooms don't have smoke detectors therefore you won't trigger any alarm. I prefer to cook near the sink.

(2) If you really have to cook in the room (maybe because there's no plug point in the bathroom), put a layer of plastic bag under the stove before you start cooking, so if you spill anything it won't stain the furniture/carpet. And beware of smoke detectors! Stay as far away from it as you can. Fan away any smoke that comes out of your pot.

(3) Done cooking? Time to do the dishes. As I said earlier, use wet tissue as substitute for sponge. Solid waste must be thrown into the trash bin. As for liquid waste, do not pour it into the sink, especially if it's oily. You will clog the sink. Pour liquid waste into the toilet and flush immediately. Yes, immediately. If you wait any longer the toilet bowl will stain.

So there you go, that's how I cook while travelling. After doing it many times I've grown to enjoy it. I don't miss homecook meals anymore. I don't have worries of finding halal food. Saves me lots of money too, especially in places were eating out is expensive.

One last tip: Don't overdo it. The idea is for you to cook just enough to survive, not to prepare a 7-course culinary art. Make it simple, make it fast, so you have more time to enjoy your trip.

Happy cooking my fellow travelers!