Before Esma Dahmani opened shop as a halal sushi business in Eindhoven, a city in the south of the Netherlands, she was a banker who spent a lot of time thinking about sushi.

“I like good food. I’m crazy about good food. However, as a Muslim, good food is difficult to find in the Netherlands … halal places here focus on the ‘all you can eat’ concept, where the focus is on quantity and not quality,” she explained.

The sushi lover was dismayed to find that sushi is not halal, for mirin, a rice wine, is used as a flavouring agent to prepare the rice. So she started her own halal sushi place, Sushi4You.

She researched halal alternatives for the ingredients and tried and tested the product on friends and family repeatedly for two years before they declared that she was ready to go commercial with her sushi. In April 2016, her business was launched. “We named it Sushi4you, because sushi should be available for everybody, no matter what your religion or background is,” she said.

Esma surveyed the Muslim community in Eindhoven, convinced that there was a market for quality halal sushi. The results were positive. “Muslims are looking for halal food without the ‘all you can eat’ concept. They are looking for quality food which is made with devotion and with love. Every piece of my sushi is handmade and therefore unique,” said Esma.

She went on to say that when people heard that Sushi4you offered halal sushi, they flocked to her restaurant, so much so that it is a well-known brand in Eindhoven today. They cater at birthday parties, halal expos, business parties and even supply supermarkets. “We deliver four times a week to supermarkets. The products are not halal-labelled yet. In the future, we hope to label our products halal and also sell to halal supermarkets.”

However, the wholesale suppliers they use are halal-certified, and Esma expects the halal certification for her company to come through soon. “We are very careful with the products we buy … because our costumers trust us and they trust that our product are halal. We’d rather pay a little bit more for halal quality. So our focus on halal goes beyond just the paper [the certificate]. We are Muslims and we will deliver halal food, as we promised.”

Sushi4You’s delivery service is doing the best right now. In the Netherlands, it is extremely easy to order food online, and as Esma offers the same quality for dine-in guests and delivery, most of her customers order online. “We have limited seats in our restaurant, so most of the days we are already fully booked. In the [near] future, we are planning to move to a bigger property.” And after that, she added, the logical step would be to expand to other locations in the country and to hire more personnel.

And what has Sushi4You taught her? Three things, she said: nothing comes without working very hard, nothing comes without a lot of patience, and nothing comes without love for sushi!

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