The 2018 Russia World Cup is on going! Reading the news abut how the events gonna take place ignites the good memories I had from last year trip to Moscow and St Petersburg, June 2017.
FYI: My family of five did the ticket reservation 5 months before the trip and we got promotion ticket from Thai Airways that reduce the price to 50%: only Rp 5,6 Million/person for round-trip ticket!
So many people thought that Russia is kind of bizarre place to visit; Moscow was listed as the most expensive city, the language is hard to be understood, the halal* food will be hard to be noticed, and the Russian are assumed to be not so friendly.
The opposite condition take place, alhamdulillah! The Russian font is easy to understand, and some of the words are even close in spelling with English words. The fruit available in the stall should also not be missed. The fact that around 15% population of Russia is Muslim made me easier to ask for halal food.
шоколад (read: shokolad) has the same meaning as chocolate in English
And here's the most important: Although the halal meat could not be found easily everywhere, the condition of Russia that is surrounded by sea really helped me to find various kind of fresh fish or processed fish in the grocery store. The capability to adapt and transform yourself to pescetarian or vegetarian is needed here!
To help you around if you are a Muslim who is planning to go to Russia in the near time, hereby the 8 tips to eat halal and cheap in your trip to Russia, which only costed us Rp 1,02 Million/person!
4 Tips to Eat Halal and Cheap in your Russia-trip
1. Ask the airplane to provide you Muslim friendly menu
One month before the trip, I reached the airline to request about the specialty - non pork menu. The time limit to do menu confirmation may be different between airlines, so please make sure you did the request on time. Here are some non-pork menu I got from Thai Airways:
Jakarta - Bangkok (transit): Sauteed shrimp and vegetable with butter rice, salad, bread, and dessert
Bangkok - Moscow: Sauteed chicken and vegetables with rice, salad, tiramisu, bread, crackers, and mushroom butter
2. Wherever you are, Cтоловая (read: Stolovaya or canteen) is the best choice!
Stolovaya is a Soviet-style canteen or cafeteria which allows you to pick menu to eat from what available on the stall. It is probably the same as Warteg in Indonesia!
Almost all of our eating out during the trip were in stolovaya, as that kind of restaurant are seemed to be more popular than the ala carte one, has various menu, available everywhere, and of course the price were more reasonable.
Situation in Stolovaya no 57, Gum Mall, Red Square
This is where your capability of basic Russian is needed. As the menu is varied, you need to knowledge yourself with some basic Russian word related to food and its ingredients. Download Russian Google Translate will be very helping!
I also tasted the Medovik cake in stolovaya! Despite all food reviews told me that honey cake is one of Russian delicacy I should had, personally I thought the honey cake just not met my expectation as it is rather dry, not the moist cake one. Well, maybe that's just how they keep the tradition.
Stolovaya menu in Stolovaya no 57, Gum Mall, Red Square
Funfact! In stolovaya, every weight counts. The seller on daily basis are using scale to make sure the weigh of food are charged fairly.
3. Google for restaurants that serve халяль (read: khalyal') food
Ordering from stolovaya stall in Zam-zam Cafe
There are some halal restaurants available in Russia, luckily I had the chance to visit one of the fanciest. It isZam-zam Cafe, a halal restaurant that provides many Russian and some kind of Middle East cuisines which is located in Moscow. The price were a little above the average, but it was all worth it. Besides ala carte menu, they also provide the canteen sets (stolovaya) that could sets lower price. Here I finally tasted the halal beef stroganoff!
Various stolovaya menu in Zam-zam Cafe. Finally I had my first authentic beef stroganoff!
Ala carte menu in Zam-zam Cafe
Halal Certificate of Zam-zam Cafe, Moscow
For the reference, you can check the halal restaurant (or at least, restaurant that does not serve pork) from TripAdvisor.
Another place that serves halal food is Moscow Cathedral Mosque. I bought myself two delicious sausages from the stall on mosque yard.
Delicious halal sausage from Moscow Cathedral Mosque!
4. Check in yourself in AirBnB that could provide you kitchen and cooking utensils
In both Moscow and St Petersburg, we checked ourselves in AirBnB that allowed us to cook and prepare my own food. Plus: both also provided breathtaking view! Please check the link under every images below that should direct you to every AirBnB profile.
If you had proper kitchen to cook, then make sure you visit their grocery store (продуктовый магазинor, read: produktovyy magazin) and fresh food stall in the street. It was a fun thing to do as their grocery products were not similar to what's in Indonesia. Fun fact: They even had their milk with various level of lactose percentage! Very friendly for the ones with lactose intolerant!
Our messy breakfast
Dried fruit and nuts stall in Ismaylov market
*Some Muslims may have different opinion regarding the definition of halal food; some may allow themselves to have meat as long as the meat is not taken from non-Halal species, despite the way it is prepared. However, my term for halal in this post are also including the restriction to eat any meat if it is not prepared according to Islamic law - although the meat is from Halal species.