Vacationing in a rural area like Bagan Datoh means you are far from the entertainment and amenities of city life. One definite advantage lies in being closer to where your food comes from: fresh, wholesome food is just outside your door. When we ran out of chicken, I had simply to ease on down the road to get the freshest possible halal chicken available.
It’s amazing sometimes how obsessed Malays are with eating halal. I knew of Malaysian students in the US who would drive hours to stock up on halal meat every few weeks, others in a rural area that would gather funds from the student community to slaughter their own cow at a nearby farm and divvy up the meat. Compared to many of us American muslims who simply eat local beef and chicken as christian meat or buy Kosher, it is a tremendous amount of effort, may God reward them for it.
But now here we are in a muslim country with national halal certification, a huge thriving halal food industry, yet people will still go to great lengths to ensure their meat is halal, and rumors constantly swirl about non-halal products or butchers that have a halal sign but are really not. Caution in religious matters can be a form of piety, so I’m not condemning that, but sometimes I feel like people should just see the halal sign and say bismillah, put tawakkul in Allah and get on with it.
All such fears are allayed if you simply get your chicken right from the source, in this case, Wak Nab’s open air butcher shop. As I pulled over the rickety wooden bridge across the canal, Abang Nor, my wife’s half-brother’s wife’s older brother, took a break from his yard work, washed off and strolled over to take our order. He asked if I wanted to pick my birds, but I demurred: any two would do. From the cage to the killing floor to the boiler to the plucker to the cutting board, the whole process
took just a few minutes a bird. You can’t get chicken fresher than that, and you can’t get chicken any more halal than that unless you could see the islam inscribed on the man’s heart. It hit the lunch table an hour later as ayam masak kuning. Yum yum.