SEATTLE — Interested in taking a food tour of Southeast Asia, without booking a flight?
The Skyway neighborhood is home to what may be the only halal Cham street food restaurant in the Pacific Northwest — and the United States.
Salima Specialties is owned and operated by Asari and Salima Mohamath, members of Seattle’s robust Cham community.
"We're kind of like the forgotten people of the world. We're the indigenous people of Vietnam,” Asari said. "We're kind of like the Native Americans here in America."
Like many in the Cham refugee community, Asari moved to Seattle in the 1980s. The Cham people speak an original language, and their food reflects both their faith (it's all halal) and their migrations through Southeast Asia. Asari describes it as somewhere in-between Vietnamese and Malaysian cuisine.
"The cooking technique of Cham food rarely uses recipes,” Salima said. “It uses what we already have in the village to make a dish. It uses what commoners will have around."
She’s the head chef and heart of the operation, a self-taught cook with limitless creativity. Popular dishes include banh mi sandwiches, lamb curry, oxtail soup, chicken satay with her famous peanut sauce, and vegetable samosas large enough for a full meal.
"All of the food is made by my technique,” she said. “My samosa does not lean towards Indian, Pakistani, or anywhere. The technique is uniquely mine."
Everything on the menu represents items the Mohamaths ate growing up or have tasted during their travels back to Southeast Asia.
"Street food is fun,” Asari said. “Salima is awesome. She has over 1,000 menu (items) that she can do."
There is also an extensive drink menu featuring Malaysian fruit drinks, milk tea, and Salima's own creation “Blue Butterfly” — a vibrant and sweet beverage that’s naturally colored using Thailand's anchan flower.
The Mohamaths hope their small business helps connect customers and start conversations.
"To kind of learn about who we are — as a Muslim, as a Cham, and as an American Asian in Seattle,” Asari said. "We're very proud to present our unique flavors."
Salima Specialties is open daily from 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. It’s located at 11805 Renton Ave. South.