Kosher food in Dubai and Abu Dhabi: What is it?

Meat and dairy products cannot be prepared, cooked and served in the same meal or eaten together

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Restaurants in Abu Dhabi have been asked to serve kosher food to attract Israeli visitors and Jewish tourists from around the world.

Trade and tourism is expected to grow between the UAE and Israel, with the countries beginning to normalise ties after the Abraham Accords were signed at the White House in September. Bahrain was also a part of the accords.

Abu Dhabi's tourism board encouraged hotels to offer kosher food and restaurants were asked to seek kosher certifications as part of a move to attract Israeli tourists.

In Dubai, kosher meals and restaurants have begun cropping up, including at Burj Khalifa's Armani hotel.

We look at what constitutes kosher food and the laws regarding it?

What does kosher food mean?

The term kosher means fit or acceptable. It refers to the kashrut, or Jewish dietary laws.

Pork and shellfish cannot be included in a kosher diet and meat and dairy products cannot be prepared, cooked and served in the same meal or eaten together.

This means serving lasagne, cheeseburgers and blue cheese on steak is out.

There are three categories that cover dairy, meat and parve.

Parve, also spelt pareve, is a term that covers food that is free of dairy and meat, such as fish, fruit, grain, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains and eggs.

What are the specifics on kosher meat, dairy and other food?

Kosher meat must come from animals that have split hooves and chew their cud, such as cows, sheep, deer and goats.

Birds such as chickens, ducks and turkeys are allowed, but eating birds of prey is prohibited.

Other animals that are off limits are camels, reptiles, rodents, insects and kangaroos.

Elli Kriel prepares food in the kitchen of her villa in Dubai. She runs Elli's Kosher Kitchen with her husband Ross, a Jewish community leader. Pawan Singh / The National

The rules regarding meat also govern gravy, broth, bones and gelatin. These must come from an animal slaughtered by having its blood drained in a manner that was quick and painless.

After eating meat, a person should wait for three to six hours before consuming dairy.

Certain parts of an animal, including types of fat, nerves and the blood, are not kosher.

Dairy products such as milk, yogurt, butter, cheese and ice cream must come from a kosher animal. This must be processed using equipment that has not been used for meat.

Fish is kosher because it has scales and fins, but  it cannot be cooked with milk or dairy products.

Few cheeses are considered kosher because they include an enzyme called rennet that comes from the stomachs of animals.

Plant-based foods are parve but are governed by set guidelines. Grains can be used to bake bread but non-kosher ingredients should not be added and the baking trays cannot be greased with fats or oils made from animals.

Fresh fruit and vegetables are parve but must be checked for insects.

Wine must be prepared under strict rules and wineries require guidance from rabbis and must be certified to produce kosher wine.

A rabbi is a spiritual leader or religious teacher in Judaism.

Slaughter and preparation of kosher food

The slaughter of animals has to be carried out in a manner that causes the least amount of pain, with its throat cut using a razor-sharp knife.

Slaughter must be carried out by a kosher butcher, certified by a rabbi. The meat is examined and any additional blood drawn out.

There are specific rules regarding food preparation.

Kosher food is served at the Armani/Kaf in Burj Khalifa. Armani Hotel Dubai

Because milk and meat products cannot be eaten at the same time, these cannot be prepared using the same utensils.

Dairy and meat products must be prepared and served using different dishes and utensils and should not be stored in the same parts of a fridge or pantry. Utensils and dishes should not be washed together in a sink or dishwasher.

Inspections and certification make sure the process of food preparation is kosher.

Are there different levels of acceptance?

Jewish families differ in the extent to which they follow the rules. Some may strictly adhere to dietary restrictions and will eat in homes and restaurants that adhere to the highest standards.

Others can be more flexible.

What is the difference between halal and kosher?

Both prohibit pork and halal 
food should be free of alcohol.

For meat to be halal, the butcher must kill the animal by swiftly slitting its throat and it must be healthy and alive before slaughter.

Jews cannot eat the sciatic nerve along the back and thighs of an animal.

The main difference is that any adult Muslim can slaughter an animal and a prayer is said for each one.

Kosher animals can only be slaughtered by a trained butcher and a prayer is said over the first and last animals slaughtered.