A trip to one of Buffalo’s Middle Eastern markets is a sensory delight and an opportunity to purchase ingredients not often available at some of the city’s more well-known grocery stores. Fresh *halal lamb? Check. Baklava and other pistachio-laden sweets? You bet. Saffron, tumeric, paprika, cardamom, cumin, cinnamon, mustard seed, bay leaf and tons of other spices in large quantities? Definitely. Mango juice, pulp, concentrate, and paste? Yep. The list goes on and on, providing the creative cook with ample options for delicious meals. With the assistance of my friend Ali Ait Si Mhamed, I’ve profiled four of Buffalo’s Middle Eastern markets below; please feel free to join the conversation and let us know of any others you enjoy.
Al Noor Grocery is renowned for its always-fresh halal meat, including lamb, beef, goat and chicken. For a mere $160 you can purchase an entire lamb. For those desiring smaller quantities, leg of lamb (cut to order right at the butcher’s station) is available for $4.99/lb. All of the meat is from a halal slaughterhouse in Rochester. Having eaten the equivalent of several lambs between us, we can vouch that this is one of the best providers of halal meat in Buffalo. But Al Noor carries much more than just meat and a quick look around confirms this. In addition to cheese, yogurt, cookies and pastries, Al Noor has an extensive spice and tea area, lots of delicious olives, and a section of kitchenware to assist you in cooking that whole lamb should you decide to purchase it (pressure cookers for $45, for example).
Across the street from Al Noor, Aladdin Market is perhaps best known to Buffalo Rising readers as a newly-renovated restaurant and hookah bar. In addition to their lovely décor and kicking Turkish coffee, Aladdin also has a market with a range of foodstuffs, including halal meat, baklava (imported from a bakery in Dearborn, MI), nuts, cookies and other snacks, breads and canned goods (including lentils and fava beans). All of the homemade food cooked in the restaurant is also halal. Owned by long-time Buffalo businesspeople Motasim and Maggie Agha, Aladdin Market is a friendly and welcoming place with a wide range of goods and great hours of operation (see below).
Head over to the East Side of Buffalo and you’ll find the relatively new Halal Market. This store is spacious and impeccably organized, with products from all over the Middle East (Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Morocco, just to name a few). The owner of Al Noor is also part-owner of Halal Market, so many (though not all) of the products are similar. What distinguishes Halal Market, above all else, is the friendliness and pride of the guys behind the counter. Both are recent transplants to the Buffalo area, one from Yemen via Michigan and one from Yemen via California, so stop in and give them a rousing City of Good Neighbors welcome. Don’t be put off by the business sign, which currently reads “Dunn’s Market and Bakery.”
Hatimy Market is located on Buffalo’s West Side. This market also features halal meat, specifically goat, beef, and chicken at $3.50/lb. Hatimy Market has fewer products than the other markets profiled above, but serves as a valuable resource to those who eat halal on the West Side, including many Somali and Sudanese families. Essentials such as rice, beans and spices are also available at Hatimy Market. Unless you’re already in the neighborhood, make sure you call ahead to see if they’re open.
If you haven’t had an opportunity to visit one of Buffalo’s Middle Eastern markets, we highly recommend you take the time to do so. Not only will you find known culinary treasures at reasonable prices, you may also find yourself on a food adventure, exploring the complex, diverse, and sophisticated world of Middle Eastern cuisine.
*What constitutes halal (or “lawful”) food? In Islam, the Quran bans followers from eating swine, carnivores and birds of prey regardless of how they are slaughtered. Animals such as lambs, cows, and chickens must be slaughtered from their necks, and the name of Allah, the Arabic word for God, must be referenced as the animals are killed. Additionally, halal animals must be well rested, fed wholesome foods and handled in a way that minimizes suffering during slaughter (using a sharp knife and preventing animals from witnessing the slaughter of other animals). Further, it is undesirable to sever an animal’s neck because maintaining the spinal cord causes less pain and sustains the convulsive movements necessary to rapidly drain its blood.
Al Noor Grocery
1200 Hertel Avenue, Buffalo, 14216
Open everyday from 10am to 8pm
Aladdin Market and Café
1177 Hertel Avenue, Buffalo, 14216
Sunday through Thursday from 10:30am to midnight
Friday and Saturday from 10:30am to 2am
1426 Fillmore Avenue, Buffalo, 14211
Open everyday from 10:30am to 8pm
278 Grant Street, Buffalo, 14213
Call for hours