Meet Your Halal Guides: Jiniya Azad, Sameen Choudhry and Tahirah Baksh of Muslim Foodies

Rachael Roth

Jiniya Azad, Sameen Choudhry and Tahirah Baksh met while attending the City College of New York, in Upper Manhattan. After class, the three would venture out to eat, making a tradition of dining at any new halal restaurant that opened in the City.

This led the trio to form Muslim Foodies in 2017, an Instagram page and blog providing in-depth reviews of halal restaurants across the five boroughs. Read on to learn more about the collective, their favorite dishes and how they discover new places to try.

(From left) Jiniya Azad, Sameen Choudry and Tahirah Bakash. Courtesy, Muslim Foodies

What was the impetus for forming the Muslim Foodies collective?
Muslim Foodies:
At first, it was just for fun. We didn't see any halal “Insta-blogs” dedicated to halal eats at the time, so we figured, Why not create one? Our personal Instagrams were full of food posts, so it made sense to put our adventures all in one place. After we gained some traction a few months later, we realized our page had become a resource for the average halal-conscious Muslim in NYC. We became committed to showcasing halal restaurants along with reviewing and describing what we were eating and the overall experience.

How have you seen your blog and coverage of halal restaurants inform the dining landscape of New York City?
Our blog and reviews have motivated more and more halal restaurants to step up their game and provide a greater dining experience. Sure, there are Yelp and Google reviews, but we see that our blog brings a new dimension to halal diners and influences how restaurants can improve. For example, Chicky's in Queens reached out to us several times because they saw a boom in business after we featured them on TikTok. We also made a TikTok featuring Black Nile, a soul food restaurant in Brooklyn, that went viral—we were even credited in Crain's New York as contributing to their uptick in business. We’ve personally experienced restaurants’ food quality improve from one visit to the next.

Having a prominent halal food blog also iterates the need for more halal options for a more inclusive New York City. We’ve also seen more and more people start their own halal food blogs, which you wouldn’t have seen five years ago.

How do you discover new halal restaurants in the City?
Social listening is a major tool. We scan through a pool of hashtags on social media to see what people are posting and talking about. Sometimes we even find places to go to on our TikTok feed from individuals who don’t necessarily have food blogs. Our followers have also messaged us about places that their family members have opened or places they went to and loved and want to show support for.

What’s one cuisine or dish that NYC does exceptionally well, and where do you get it?
Hot chicken has been a major force to reckon with and luckily there are a few halal spots where you can find it in NYC. Birdies in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is a new hot-chicken-focused restaurant with a humble menu.

Which neighborhood or borough has the most varied halal cuisine?
Queens has the most diversity in halal cuisine. As they say, it’s the world's borough; you can find an array of different cuisines in a span of a few streets: peri peri [a spicy chicken dish of Portuguese-African origin], Thai, Guyanese Chinese, Bangladeshi, Southern barbecue, Yemeni and so much more.

Besides its halal cuisine, what makes NYC a great destination for Muslim travelers?
It’s a great destination because there is a plethora of halal butcher shops, mosques to attend prayer and clusters of Muslim communities.