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Toronto Halal Food Fest Takes Muslims Back in Time

The Halal Food Festival Toronto, North America’s biggest halal fair, took Muslim visitors back in time to see their achievements and contributions in the Canadian society.

Over the course of two days, more than 35,000 people visited the fifth annual Halal Food Festival Toronto 2017 that took place on Saturday (July 15) and Sunday (July 16) at the International Centre in Mississauga.

The guests enjoyed unique offerings at over 200 food booths from the Greater Toronto Area’s best halal restaurants, bakeries, specialty stores and manufacturers.

“The Muslim population continues to grow in Canada, and because of it, the halal food industry is also growing,” said Salima Jivraj, founder of Halal Food Fest. “The demand for halal food is there, but there’s still room for more education around what halal is and what makes certain foods halal.”

She said providing education about halal food is one of the primary goals of the festival.

The annual fair also celebrated Canada’s 150th birthday and dedicated some exhibits to the history.

Presented by iHistory.co — an online blog to help Muslims understand and learn about their history — this year’s new attraction was a unique booth titled The History of Muslims in Canada.

The exhibit showcased the Muslims’ history since 1800s.

“This isn’t just the story of the community’s growth. It also features many incredible contributions of Muslims to Canadian culture and society,” said Hassam Munir, founder of iHistory.co. “I feel it (the exhibit) can play a role in dispelling some of the myths about Canadian Muslims that make up Islamophobic narratives. At the same time, it can also inspire Canadian Muslims to continue making such contributions.”

Munir said 100 years ago, the majority of Canadians had never even heard of halal food, but now there is an entire festival dedicated to celebrating the halal food industry.

“It needs a lot of dedication and efforts to preserve what we enjoy today and leave a legacy for future generations of Canadian Muslims.

“I hope to inspire anyone who visits this booth to start putting their day-to-day decisions and actions into a perspective,” said Munir.

About the festival, founder Jivraj said the event is steadily growing and gaining popularity as thousands of guests from all cultures come to taste and enjoy unique halal recipes and food.

“The 35,000 figure is fairly big and we are very comfortable with that number,” said Jivraj.

She said the outdoor street festival is very popular among the visitors where people of all age groups enjoy halal ribs, kabobs, grills, burgers and variety of other food.

The two-day festival also featured established and up-and-coming food exhibitors, in-house and guest chefs, including Amanda Saab, past contestant on MasterChef on Fox, and Jeremy McLellan, a comic hailing from South Carolina.

Other notable dishes included butter chicken, waffles, nihari, seekh tikka, pastries, sweets, variety of bread, and much more.

Guests also watched stage shows, including the famous “cake walk” hosted by comedian Aman Ali, with special guest judges Amanda Saab and Yvonne Maffei.

In addition, people took part in educational workshops and seminars to learn about the growing halal food industry.

According to a report from Nourish Food Marketing, the Canadian halal food market is estimated to be worth $1 billion, and Canada’s Muslim community is expected to triple by 2031.

The main stage events included cooking demonstrations by Kaif Khan and Chef Russell Auckbaraullee, and live performances by artists and comedians, such as Khaled Siddique and Aman Ali.

The indoor kids zone — a 5,000-square-foot playground for children — featured insects and reptile shows, face painting, balloons and meet and greets with popular characters.

Other highlights included shopping bazaar where attendees browsed unique products and services.

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