Everyone has a friend who likes to think of themselves as a bit of a foodie. Instead of rice, they eat ‘low GI’ grains with names they can’t pronounce. Rather than dine in a restaurant where you can book a table, they prefer to queue for an hour because they heard it had ‘great reviews on the blogs’. Their thoughts on avocados? They’re pretty much crashing the world’s entire supply.
Naturally, they’re the friend who texts you mid-week to see if you want to check out this great new ‘pop-up/supper club/ice cream parlour/high concept small plate tasting menu’, and because you’re a stand up person you oblige – even though you doubt any of it will be halal.
So what happens when you have to navigate this minor culinary minefield? Here’s everything Muslims experience when they eat at a non-halal restaurant.
The ‘Uuummmm. Is it Halal?’ Question
Going out on a bit of a limb here, but this restaurant is probably not halal.
First and foremost, you’re going to have to determine something right from the off. There’s no point going in blind then having to work extra hard once the menu’s in front of you. Ask your friend straight up: ‘Is the restaurant halal’.
If the answer is no, you can at least look up the menu online so you can start piecing together as halal friendly a meal as possible.
Go Veggie or Go Home (or Maybe Go Chicken)
An extremely depressing salad.
After you get to the restaurant, you hesitantly open the menu. The is the moment of truth; the reveal that could spell a night of feast or a night of famine; an evening dining on a perfectly cooked cut of beef or a dinner spent picking wilted leaves out of a depressing salad.
As your pal presumably gets their trendy restaurant cues from reviews in the free magazines people leave on trains, it’s probably going to be the latter. You better eat a snack beforehand, because you’re about to chow down on an overpriced pile of lettuce.
Having said that, you may be thrown a curveball. Very often, even non-halal places offer halal chicken, so if you want to sidestep the side salad ask the server if bird is the word. Hopefully, the actual dish won’t be as bad as that joke.
The Lowkey Bismillah
While your friends figure out how to navigate their selection of pulled pork steam buns served on chopping boards and/or bits of slate, drop in a quiet Bismillah. This will ensure the non-Muslim companions don’t think you’re muttering the Arabic term for ‘I wish we’d just gone to Nando’s’.
Eating with Your Right Hand
A non-halal restaurant usually means you’re with non-Muslim friends, and very few non-Muslims realise that we have to eat with our right hand. As such, you may get a few odd looks from people more accustomed to the fork = left hand, knife = right hand setup.
Then again, they’ll probably just assume you’re left handed. Then then again, they probably won’t notice anything, unless they have the critical eye of a Victorian-era etiquette coach.
A lot of desserts have alcohol in them. To stay on the safe side, sometimes it’s best to skip the most delicious course of all. Also, we don’t know if setting the alcohol on fire actually makes it halal, so while you may be tempted by the dramatic flambé Crêpe Suzette, again, probs best to steer clear.
The ‘What is Halal’ Question
After you’ve spent the last few hours grilling the waiter about ingredients and dissecting the menu like a forensic detective, there’s a high chance someone might pipe up with this classic question: ‘What is halal?’
Go ahead. Give them an answer. It may be boring, but it could mean the next restaurant you go to with your friends is 100% halal certified.
Featured image credit: Unsplash.