29

How do people generally react to questions like "Do you serve Halal food" "Is this food halal" "Anything I should know about the food since I eat Halal"

I have recently planned a week-long vacation for Thailand where I wish to visit multiple cities and sites Thailand has to offer.

I am repeatedly told that being a Muslim I will have to face difficulties regarding food & drinks as non halal food is quite common there and I, being a Muslim, refrain from those things.

I will hopefully work my way around restaurants and cafes. but my question is, If i repeatedly ask them if the hotel/cafe serves non-alcoholic and/or non halal products i.e. pork or any other meat not considered halal for us.

Similarly, On International/Domestic flights to such destinations, Is it considered to rude to ask for Halal products only?

  • 13
    Be aware that in Thailand, even vegetarian food might not be safe. If it doesn't obviously contain pieces of meat, it's considered "vegetarian" regardless of content. E.g. How To Eat Vegetarian In Thailand – Ray Butterworth Sep 19 at 14:17
  • 2
    There are a lot of Indian restaurants in Thailand; and most of them can be comfortably labelled as halal. – Slartibartfast Sep 20 at 14:23
  • 2
    I have taken out a discussion/comparison between Jewish (Kosher) and Muslim (Halal) food. Just enough to mention that the list of ingredients used are often the same and when in need, you can often use the other. But there are differences. – Willeke Sep 20 at 16:35
  • 1
    It shouldn't be that difficult to eat vegetarian alternatives instead, I don't think you will have an issue with food in a broader sense. If you want to be served halal specifically, you have to find the halal symbol. I wish I could ask for non-halal products these days in the UK, but I am not going to ask for non-halal if I see the symbol, so I think it is inappropriate the other way around too. – Lukali Sep 21 at 17:45
49

Thailand actually has a significant Muslim minority (around 5% of the population), so the idea of halal food -- locally known as ahaan Muslim (อาหารมุสลิม), literally "Muslim food" -- is well understood, and you will not be considered rude for asking. Thailand's Muslims are heavily concentrated in the South near the Malaysian border, but Bangkok also has a significant community.

That said, no, the average Thai restaurant is not going to be strictly halal, and the Thais do love their pork, so you definitely need to check what you're eating. As elsewhere in SE Asia, halal restaurants tend to say on their signage, with green banners, crescent moon and star logos and the word "halal" in Arabic. This may prove a useful starting point: https://www.halaltrip.com/other/blog/a-muslim-traveler-s-street-food-guide-to-bangkok/

Domestic flights in Thailand are quite short (Bangkok to anywhere in the country is well under two hours), so food is typically not served. You can definitely preorder halal meals on longer, international flights, you can't count on them being available otherwise.

  • 3
    Apart from pork, I would be wary of shellfish. It's quite common in Thai cuisine to use various sauces and curry pastes that may contain shellfish. – jkej Sep 19 at 11:36
  • 7
    @jkey Most (but not all) schools of Islam are OK with shellfish. – jpatokal Sep 19 at 12:19
  • 3
    @DawoodibnKareem islam.stackexchange.com/questions/2237/… – jpatokal Sep 19 at 20:55
  • 7
    Yeah, I wouldn't believe everything you read on that site. I think you'll find that most schools of Islam are OK with some types of shellfish, but not with shellfish in general. I think @jkej's comment is a good one. I'd certainly want to be wary of shellfish if I were travelling in Thailand. – Dawood ibn Kareem Sep 19 at 21:13
  • 3
    Fish sauce is a very popular ingredient. It is likely to be in very many dishes and also, despite its name, might contain all sorts of seafood and not just fish. So, even if the principal and visible ingredients appear acceptable the dish might not be. Either you turn a blind eye to such issues or you go to a place that understands your requirements. – badjohn Sep 20 at 13:32
29

I have a very simple rule:

If you have to ask, it is not halal. If it was halal you would clearly know it by virtue of signage in any non Muslim country.

Halal food in non Muslim countries is a minority speciality and there’s no point in someone serving halal food without promoting it clearly, in such places.

So if you haven’t seen the sign on or in a shop, don’t even bother asking. Assume it is not halal. This works for me almost everywhere.

Since your question was primarily about Thailand, look for this sign on any food outlet you're interested in. If you don't see that or a similar looking sign, move on. It may not be impolite to still ask, but it doesn't serve your purpose and it wastes your and theirs time.

enter image description here

Source

So follow 2 steps:

  1. Google Halal food near me
  2. Go to any possible recommendations and see if they say so.

All of the commentators saying It is OK to just ask and accept the word that most of our products are halal unfortunately do not comprehend the concept of halal as a practicing Muslim would take it.

Even vegetables, cooked in pork fat, or with one millimeter of alcohol can be deemed Not Halal.

Even Fish or Chips, fried in the same oil that Pork was fried in, is considered Not Halal by most schools of Islam.

If you really are serious about it, look for the government sanctioned sign!

  • 8
    If I as a vegan would live by the rule that only things marketed explicitely as "vegan", I would not be able to eat anything in most places in the world. but a lot of food just happens to be vegan, without intending so and being specifically marketed as such. I am not aware of all the different specifications there exist for halal, but I can't see so far why it would be different. – Paul Paulsen Sep 19 at 19:15
  • 15
    @PaulPaulsen Can wheat be vegan or non-vegan depending on how it is harvested? – chepner Sep 19 at 19:47
  • 5
    The question isn’t about a vegan meal and this answer does not attempt to say this rule works for every food type. It is specifically about Halal foods. This answer does not comment about vegan foods and it’s applicability on them is a needless generalisation. – Hanky Panky Sep 20 at 1:55
  • 16
    I worked at a chicken shop in Netherlands. All our products except for spare ribs were Halal, but we wouldn't advertise this. Most local Muslims knew and we would confirm the food being Halal if asked, but my boss feared backlash from the rather large Christian community. So not all Halal food is advertised as such in non-Muslim countries. – Belle-Sophie Sep 20 at 6:26
  • 6
    "If it was halal you would clearly know it by virtue of signage in any non Muslim country." I think you'd find a number of places in the West that serve halal food without explicit signage. Hell, half of the food in the supermarket's probably halal certified, nowadays. – nick012000 Sep 20 at 11:41
8

For long distance flights, ordering a special diet meal is a well established procedure. When you have bought your flight tickets, just contact the airline customer service and ask for a halal meal (usually needs to be done at least a few days before the flight). There is nothing impolite about this.

If you forgot to pre-order your special meal, or you for some reason needed to change your flight plans last minute, you can explain this to the flight attendant and they will usually do what they can to accommodate you. As long as you are humble about it, this will not be seen as impolite.

For short distance flights, they normally just serve lighter snacks, and it is not possible to make a special order. You can always ask the flight attendant about the snacks served and if you are not confident that they are halal you can politely decline. There is nothing impolite about this.

  • 3
    Airline web sites typically indicate what special meals they have available on which flights - search for the airline name followed by "special meals". – Patricia Shanahan Sep 19 at 11:13
  • 3
    Note that, if the flight attendant has to accommodate you at the last minute, options may be severely limited. You may not get a meal of the same quality as others seated in your class; if in economy, you may not get a "meal" so much as some light snacks. Outcomes also vary significantly by airline and route. For budget airlines, don't count on getting anything. – Kevin Sep 20 at 0:10
2

It's definitely not impolite to ask. In some countries (but not in Thailand I believe) it is considered impolite to say "no" so some people would think it is polite to lie and answer "yes" rather than "I don't know" or "no, it isn't halal", so you'd need to be careful.

But in many countries, including Thailand, sellers know that they have more potential customers if they sell halal food, so you will have places selling food marked as "halal".

I have been told that if you are told that food is halal, when it's not obvious whether it is or not (like you can't really see whether a steak is halal or not), and you are lied to, then you are fine from a religious point of view. The same person (who is not a very strict muslim but knows the rules) told me that he can taste the difference between meet that was slaughtered in a halal way or not. But that is obviously entirely up to you.

And obviously you may have problems. The restaurant owner and the chef might not know if their beef is halal and tell you - the rules about being lied to don't mean you can eat beef if it is not known to be halal, only if the chef lied to you and claimed it was halal. If you like fish, you should be fine.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.