Sauces and Marinades: A Halal Perspective
Haider Khattak and Zeshan Sadek
In cooking, a sauce is a liquid or sometimes a semi-solid food served on or used in preparing other foods. Sauces are not normally consumed by themselves; they add flavor, moisture, and visual appeal to another dish. Sauce is a French word taken from the Latin salsus, meaning “salted”. Sauces need a liquid component, but some sauces (for example, salsa or chutney) may contain more solid elements than liquid. Sauces are an essential element in cuisines all over the world.
Sauces include ready-made sauces, usually store-bought, such as soy sauce. Or they may be freshly prepared by the cook and generally made just before serving. Sauces for salads are called salad dressing. Sauces made by deglazing a pan are called pan sauces.
Some sauces may contain non-halal or haram (forbidden) substance making it unfit for halal consumers. For instance, Japanese sauce may contain collagen. Each sauce bottle supplies 3,000 mg of collagen. Collagen, if sourced from pork, is clearly haram. However, for companies that want to make halal Japanese sauce certified bovine collagen may be available to be used to make halal sauces or marinades.
According to October 13, 2009 posting of www.eathalalonly.com, eating out at restaurants is even more of a gamble as there is not even a vague label to allay our apprehensions. Who would have thought that an onion and mushroom sauce can contain white wine and veal stock; a honey and lemon sauce or a herb and egg sauce can contain chicken stock or a hot chocolate sauce can contain rum. The intentional addition of wine and rum make the dish unfit for halal consumers. If chicken or meat used in a sauce is sourced from halal animals and the animals were slaughtered according to the Islamic way, then it can be used in halal dishes.
Some simple sauces qualify as halal foods. For example, traditional chocolate sauce is derived from heavy cream, butter, egg yolks and melted bittersweet chocolate. Chocolate is made from plants, which means it contains many of the health benefits of dark vegetables. These benefits are from flavonoids, which act as antioxidants. Antioxidants protect our body from aging caused by free radicals, which can cause damage that leads to heart disease. Dark chocolate contains a large number of antioxidants. Flavonoids also help relax blood pressure, through the production of nitric oxide, and balance certain hormones in the body.
Dessert sauce or cream is used in dessert to enhance its flavor. Dessert sauces are a creative component and function as a topping, filling or decoration. These dessert sauces are classified and categorized as follows: egg-based sauces, chocolate-based sauces, caramelized sugar sauces and fruit-based sauces. Dessert sauces are a creative component and function as a topping, filling or decoration. Few dessert sauces, for example, zabaione, a foamy, cooked, egg-based dessert sauce, carries wine as the main flavor component. Since wine is haram in Islam, this type of sauce is considered haram and can not be used in halal foods. According to Chef Kurt Stiles (‘Upscale Desserts’ pp 57-63; Prepared Foods September 2009) this type of sauce is one of the few sauces where the wine flavor profile is not lost, but remains quite intense. Sometimes champagne is also used as a replacement for wine. These sauces are used in cake, fruit, ice cream or pastry. There might be some hidden ingredients in the filling as well. Therefore, halal consumers must take extra precautions while buying desserts.
Caramel sauces provide brownish color, an extra richness, lift and panache to a dessert. Caramel is sometimes combined with chocolate to make the dessert more appealing to the consumers. Adding savory ingredients, like rosemary, purple basil or lemon thyme, to a basic caramel sauce further extends a dessert sauce application and heightens the senses and overall flavor profile.
Fruit-based sauces can complement a wide variety of desserts. A typical fruit sauce’s natural acidic character makes it an excellent accent to numerous desserts. Fruit sauces are made with either purée or coulis. A purée is simply a natural, unstrained purée of a fruit. A coulis is a strained purée. The fruits used in making fruit-based sauces include strawberry, blueberry, kiwi, banana, raspberry, pear, cranberry, orange, etc. Sweetening a purée or coulis will depend upon the application. When sweetening these sauces, use sugar syrup in the mixture, in order to fully incorporate the sweetener. The amount of sugar syrup used will depend on the ripeness of the fruit used – the more ripe a fruit, the more sugar (fructose) it contains. In many cases, a small amount of lemon juice or citric acid helps achieve a superior flavor profile. Some chefs and processors add cream or butter to add an extra depth of culinary richness. Other ingredients such as flavored brandies, rums or whiskeys are also added after the fruit sauce has cooled, so as to not strip out the volatiles in the fruit. Again these flavoring agents are considered as haram and must be avoided in making halal fruit sauces.
Marinade is a Latin word taken from mare meaning “the sea”. Marinating has been used for thousands of years. This is commonly used to flavor a variety of foods, tenderize tougher cuts of meat or firm vegetables. Marinades generally contain one or more of the following ingredients: seasonings (salt, spices, aromatic herbs and vegetables), acids (vinegar, wine, yogurt or citrus juices) and oil. Wine in any quantity is absolutely not allowed in halal food production. All types of vinegar are halal.
Marinating process may take seconds or days, depending on the ethnic origin of the recipe. The acid portion of the marinade, especially when using citrus or other fruits, not only affects texture, but also provides a complex character of sour and bitter; all this occurs while supporting an acidic balance and providing natural sweetness. However, too much acid can be detrimental to the end product, degrading the texture, if exposed for an extended period of time.
Marinades can be applied externally or internally depending upon the specific traditional recipe. A dry rub usually consists of salt and seasonings and is applied to the surface of a product to impart flavor, texture and, often, color. A wet rub or paste-style marinade coats the surface of a product with dry seasonings mixed with ingredients like fresh herbs, ground nuts or fruit purees. Indian chicken, tikka masala, can be modified by adding a mixture of yogurt with natural active tenderizing enzymes, garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, cardamom, cayenne and turmeric and then marinating it for 12 hours. In fact, nowadays ethnic specialty stores carry a series of spices and seasonings for specific traditional food dishes. Most of the Pakistani and Indian brands are gaining popularity and being marketed in superstores and sold to foodservice operators and restaurateurs.
A commercially prepared seasoning might add natural flavors and oils, such as lime that has been spray-dried to add complexity and incorporate the acidic balance. Seasoning color can be imparted through natural colorants, such as pimento oil, turmeric and dried caramel, to enhance browned or bright visuals.
Both sauces and marinades help to make foods unique. Their versatility allows for many creative presentations, and their wide variety will help keep consumers interested and engaged. Halal consumers would always prefer buying halal sauces, spices and seasonings to avoid any kind of cross contamination.
IFANCA has been certifying many companies producing halal sauces, dressings, spices, breading, batters and seasonings. All clients are published in the directory of the Halal Consumer Magazine.