Well, I'll be leaving Malaysia soon to return to my native lands of God's Own Country, but I'll take back with me some treasured memories and interesting experiences.

One of the more ... well, weird... things I've discovered in my time here is halal versions of non-halal food.

Now "halal" is the Islamic version of "kosher". In general, it means that the food has no pork or alcohol in it, and that the animals (e.g. cows) are slaughtered in a particular way.

For those of you unfamiliar with Malaysia, the land of Teh Tarik and mee goreng, it is a tolerant Islamic state.

Malaysia being quite tolerant, one can easily buy pork and grog, but there are also many halal restaurants, since over half the country is Muslim. Apart from traditional Malay food places, there are also European-style restaurants albeit with halal menus.

For example, there are many Italian restaurants. But how do you make a halal ham and pineapple pizza? Introducing... chicken ham! These off-white salty cubes are almost totally unconvincing as a substitute for genuine ham cut off a real squealing pig.

A more successful experiment has been beef bacon. In fact, I think maybe I prefer it to real bacon - it's not as greasy and has a definite bacon taste, although delightfully smokier. A lot like beef jerky, come to think of it.

Fast food restaurants are not immune from this sort of pig substitution. On a local radio station the other day I heard Pizza Hut advertising pizzas with


Even with my fairly cosmopolitan palate I found this concept a tad too frightening to contemplate.

Now for those of you who are now thinking "Muslims don't eat pig meat, how silly", I'd like to retort: there are many people in the world that would think Westerners are silly for not eating dog. YMMV, but so does theirs.