What is being promoted as a bigger and better regional Halal Food Festival is coming to New park on Saturday, Aug. 9 from 12 to 7 p.m., with more vendors serving a larger variety of food and more entertainment.
Twenty-five different restaurants and food trucks from all over Northern California will be serving up their most popular dishes for festival-goers at Halal Fest 2.0 in the main parking lot of NewPark Mall at 2086 NewPark Mall Road in Newark.
With an estimated 300,000 Muslims in the San Francisco Bay Area, the festival is meant to showcase what Muslim and halal vendors have to offer the community. “Halal” is Arabic for “permissible,” and refers to religious dietary guidelines similar to kosher food for Jews, with pork and alcohol prohibited. It also refers to the proper slaughter and blessing of the animal, in addition to the natural way the animals are supposed to be raised.
Mirchi Cafe in Fremont, which brings the flavors of Pakistani and Indian food to traditional American dishes, will be offering a demonstration by Lisa Ahmad, owner and chef, of non-alcoholic drinks called “mocktails.” The food vendors will be offering an array of halal offerings, which organizers say are a reflection of the diversity of the community itself.
Festival-goers will get to try Mexican, Afghan, Pakistani-Indian, barbecue and traditional American foods in addition to different desserts and drinks, including Vietnamese coffee and Hawaiian smoothies.
Returning festival-goers will notice a few things are different this year, chiefly that attendees must pay an admission fee of $3 pre-event or $5 at the door in order to enter the grounds. Festival-goers can then purchase food and drinks directly from the vendors, unlike last year when attendees purchased food tokens and exchanged them from food.
There will be seven additional vendors preparing food, and they have been told to be ready to serve 7,000 to 8,000 people. Last year, organizers and vendors were surprised when more than 10,000 people came to the festival. Only 2,000 to 3,000 had been expected, which resulted in long lines and many vendors running out of popular items.
Additionally, there will be more activities and programs for the entire family, including carnival rides and three eating contests (with separate events for men and women) to eat as many spicy chicken wings, a large snow cone and Gulab Jaman (a syrupy Pakistani dessert) in the allotted time; more programs and performances on the main stage; and plenty of opportunities for attendees to win prizes including a free round trip anywhere from sponsor Qatar Airways.
Besides food, a highlight for many attendees will be the 30 vendors selling clothing, jewelry, books, toys and artwork from around the world in the bazaar. Nonprofits will also set up booths.
Organizers are expecting less people than last year because there is an admission cost, event director and self-proclaimed foodie, Irfan Rydhan said. He noted that children under the age of 12 will be admitted free.
Rydhan and his fellow organizers scheduled the festival after Eid (which took place worldwide on Monday, July 28) when Muslims all over the world celebrated the end of the holy fasting month, Ramadan, and because everyone is ready to get back into their routine of eating again.
The first 500 people in the gate will receive a Halal Festival tote bag with coupons from participating vendors and little gifts. Most of the vendors will accept cash only.
Originally published on www.mercurynews.com