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Taboos in Hui cuisine

The dietary habits of Hui people are similar to that of Han people, with a focus on staple foods such as wheat and rice. However, there are many restrictions on meat consumption.


The most strictly observed and widespread restriction is the prohibition of pork. In the eyes of Muslims, pigs are greedy, lazy, ugly, stupid animals that wallow in mud, which is disgusting and repulsive. Therefore, prohibiting pork has led to a series of chain reactions, including banning the use of pigskin for shoes, clothes, and belts, banning the use of pig hair for brushes and toothbrushes, and avoiding the use of soap, perfume, and other daily necessities containing pig fat. Moreover, Muslims even avoid saying the word “pig” and refer to it as “black animal” or “hengjile” in Arabic. Some even avoid using words that sound like “pig,” such as changing their surname from “Zhu” to “Hei” if they were born in the year of the pig.

Hui people also avoid eating certain animals, including dogs, wolves, tigers, donkeys, cats, and predatory birds such as eagles and hawks. According to Islamic scholar Liu Zhi, these animals have negative traits that may harm human nature when consumed. Liu also lists dozens of animals that are forbidden to eat, such as birds and beasts with violent behavior, cunning and sly characteristics, greedy and corrupt tendencies, etc.


In addition, Hui people do not consume dead animals or blood, following classic Islamic rules. The Quran states that “permitted for you is the good food, but prohibited is the bad food.” Therefore, it is forbidden to eat animals that died naturally, killed by other animals, or not slaughtered properly according to Islamic customs. This is reasonable from a health perspective since dead animals and blood may contain many harmful bacteria.

Drinking alcohol is also strictly prohibited in Islam. The Quran states that drinking alcohol, gambling, worshipping idols, and seeking luck through divination are all acts of wickedness and the devil’s behavior that should be avoided.

As for the animals that can be eaten, Liu Zhi explains in detail in his book “Tian Fang Ceremony” based on Islamic classics. Only cattle, sheep, and camels among domesticated animals meet the criteria for consumption. Wild deer, elk, sangai, yong, and rabbits that eat grass or hay are also edible. Among birds, chickens, ducks, geese, pigeons, and some woodpeckers that eat grain or insects are also considered suitable for consumption. For fish, those with scales and dorsal/ventral fins are allowed, but those without are not.

When slaughtering animals, Muslims must recite “Bismillah” or “In the name of Allah.” Although Muslims can do it themselves, they usually ask a religious professional or Imam to perform the task. It is also important to avoid using words like “kill” and “slaughter,” as it may cause offense. Instead, they use the phrase “cutting” or “under the knife.” During the religious festival, there is a high demand for these services, and local Halal meat shops, restaurants, and food stalls must provide meat from animals slaughtered according to Islamic customs.

However, there is one exception: Hui people do not slaughter fish before eating them. According to legend, a poor Hui mother and son caught a live fish from a frozen river to help alleviate the mother’s illness. However, they had no way to slaughter the fish, so they prayed to Allah for guidance. Allah responded by instructing them to cook the fish alive, recognizing their filial piety. Since then, Hui people have regarded live fish as an exception to the slaughtering rule when consuming meat.

Note: Hui people are a Muslim ethnic group in China with their own unique culture and cuisine.

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