Food haven Singapore has its own unique problem when it comes to Halal food: the number of eateries offering such cuisines in the city-state have increased yet Halal food hunters complain of trouble finding them.
Adam Shah and wife, Maryah, saw the issue and the duo decided to embark on a journey of Halal food blogging on June 2012. The idea was to stop by any restaurant, cafe or even coffee-shop selling Halal meals and review on their experience for netizens out there.
“The reason we started the blog was actually quite simple. We ate out quite often and were running out of new Halal places to makan but every time we searched online, there was little information for us to go on. Se we thought ‘Why not every time we makan outside, we just blog about it?’ hoping that the information would be useful to someone,” Adam said.
Despite having full-time jobs as a call centre manager and academic advisor for both Adam and Maryah respectively, the couple remains consistent in producing an average of 2-3 articles each week. This is no boondoggle and each write-up can take about an hour -including photo-editing- to even a few days.
Recently, the couple has also welcomed a new addition to the family in the name of two-month-old Maira Alyssa. The number of blog posts have slightly slipped in the past six months from 10 or 11 a month to the current figure of 9 probably due to pregnancy and delivery.
Nonetheless, it is still commendable how Adam and Maryah still managed to produce the blog posts with one of them carrying a growing tummy. The food lovers still served the need of Halal food eaters for reviews and recommendations. This is precisely why Adam and Maryah are Singapore’s king and queen of Halal food blogging.
“I think the biggest challenge we faced was when my wife was pregnant with our first child. This meant less opportunities for us to eat out and when we did, my wife’s appetite was a big factor. That and having to manage our time, especially now that we have a daughter, definitely a challenge.
“This is actually just a hobby and we’re glad that it does benefit our readers somehow … We love to eat and we are going to keep doing it for as long as we can,” Maryah quipped.
Halal Food Blog now has a fan base of about 9300 followers on Facebook and 2700 followers on Instagram. It receives an average of about 7,000 views overall per day. This gives it an average of over 200,000 views every month.
It has also been featured on Suria’s infotainment programme Jus! twice and RE:TV once. Mediacorp’s 987TV also did a feature on the team’s favourite chicken rice shop. The blog has also been featured on print once, appearing for Berita Harian in a feature about how social media had a major positive impact on an eatery.
With a relatively strong presence both online and offline, it is just a matter of time before monetary benefits in the form of advertising start to kick in. Adam revealed that the team only earn “a couple of hundred dollars from advertising revenue a month”, reiterating that they do not blog for the moola.
To maintain credibility as a reviewer, Adam added that the Halal Food Blog team sticks to a set of rules before and during tasting of food. For instance, the couple would not inform their next target about who they are or their intentions for being there so as to avoid being served exclusively by the staff.
Adam said: “Most of the time, we visit places randomly and we never identify ourselves as reviewers. This is so that we don’t receive any special treatment. We want to receive the same service and the same food that anyone would get when they visit the place. This is how we are able to give an honest and frank review which I think our readers really appreciate.
“We do get invited to eat at restaurants sometimes but we are sure to mention in the blog that we were invited down. But most of the places are just random plus we also get plenty of recommendations from our readers on makan places to try.”
From just two members when it first started two years ago, the Halal Food Blog team has expanded to include Adam’s younger brother, Azlan and his wife, Yana. More than just about Halal Food royalty, the reviewers have subtly shown how family can bond over food.
The blog’s first review was for Anar, a restaurant offering Middle Eastern Cuisine, and it was published in conjunction with Adam and Maryah’s six-month wedding anniversary. As the blog progressed, the reader was able to see more regular reviews by Azlan and Yana too.
The Halal Food Blog may have reviewed more than 100 Halal food places over the years, but Adam still has a wish list in mind. Personally, he hopes that there would be good Halal-certified steakhouses like Astons or Morton’s one day. At the back this Vulcan Post writer’s mind when it comes to famous Halal-certified steakhouse would be Le Steak by Chef Amri located at Jalan Kayu.
Maryah, on the other hand, would love to see a Halal-certified restaurant selling premium dim sum. This is a concept similar to the famous Din Tai Fung which was ranked the world’s Top 10 Best Restaurants by The New York Times. Although Halal dim sums are available in Singapore, such as from Tang Tea House Hong Kong Cafe, there is limited choice of the good ones.
To the other would-be bloggers out there, the king and queen of Halal food blogging have this advice for you: “Always remember to pace yourself when eating. Enjoy your food and you don’t have to wolf it down no matter how hungry you are. Oh, and don’t order too much until cannot finish (it always happens to us)! ”