I had the chance to conduct an interview with Nikko-Ken, a Muslim-friendly restaurant in Sano City, Tochigi Prefecture.
Many international cricket matches are played in Sano City, with many of the players being Muslim, so there seems to be a greater interest in Halal these days.
―What made you aware of Halal?
In the past, the Pakistan ambassador visited Sano City and requested to eat yakitori, so the person attending to the ambassador hurriedly came to Nikko-Ken. I procured Halal chicken and seasoning to serve to the ambassador, and that was my first encounter with Halal.
―Why did you choose to create Halal dumplings?
Before opening a ramen shop, I had served dumplings since I ran a cafe. I still remember how happy I felt when one of my customers said “these dumplings are an à la carte dish (rather than a side dish)”. We at Nikko-Ken had confidence in our dumplings, and wanted customers from all over the world, not just Japan, to enjoy them, so that’s why we made Halal dumplings.
―Please tell us the characteristics of the product
First, Halal does not allow the use of pork. Therefore, we provide two types of dumplings. One is a dumpling that uses chicken. The other is a dumpling that uses tempeh (which is produced from fermenting soybeans, etc. in tempeh fungus)
The large cuts of vegetables in both types of dumplings give customers a sense of satisfaction from eating the vegetables. We also use special flour for the skin which creates a glutinous texture. We are also very particular about the size of the dumplings.
Although smaller than ordinary dumplings, they are actually the result of trial and error and we believe this size produces the best taste.
―Do you have confidence in the taste?
We had many Muslim customers try the dumplings during the development stage. They were extremely happy to try dumplings for the first time. In fact, we have some photos you can look at.
―Please tell us about any future developments
We want to make our dumplings even more delicious. We are working every day with the hope that Muslims can enjoy “authentic” Japanese dumplings as an à la carte dish.
First of all, we want customers to be able to purchase our dumplings throughout Japan and also from abroad in frozen packs. Eventually we would like to open stores in Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Middle East. The Japan Cricket Association is located in Sano City, and many Muslims come to watch the cricket games. We will endeavor to provide Muslims with the opportunity to enjoy Japanese food.
We also tried the Nikko-Ken dumplings and think they are pretty delicious as “Japanese dumplings”, not just as “Halal dumplings”. The glutinous texture of the skin and the crunchy filling was a great match.
Nikko-ken are also considering Halal ramen for the future, so we are very much looking forward to that!