Saturday, October 10, 2009

Japan and travelling Muslims

As you know I just spent two weeks travelling through Japan with a Qatari friend. He is a devout Muslim which meant we had to make sure that he did not eat pork or anything with alcohol.

Avoiding the latter was not too difficult as Japanese cuisine does not cook with alcohol (or at least the dishes I know about). The Japanese love to drink beer or sake but it is easy to not have it if you do not want to. Pork was of more of an issue. The Japanese like to combine many things together in their food. Ramen, donburi, okonomiyaki, teppenyaki, all of these combine a lot of things together so we had to make sure there would not be pork in the dish every time we visited a restaurant. Thankfully my friend had memorised the Japanese phrase for "I do not eat pork" and no one seemed too fussed about it, perhaps because a lot of Japanese are Buddhist so maybe many are vegetarian. Good thing too since for some Japanese dishes it is difficult to tell what is in it. While pork is not as widely used in Japan as it would in other countries like China we did not have much luck at ramen restaurants, apparently pork is used in almost all of their dishes. We even had to walk out of one ramen place because they had nothing available for my friend the eat. Other restaurants were fine, with the exception of sushi places every restaurant had some pork dishes but they also had plenty of other foods available my friend could eat. Still had to be careful though, I even ordered a "burger" that I had never heard of from a Japanese McDonald's and it turned out to be pork, or at least I think it was. But in the two weeks I only recall one instance where my friend was served something that we were told was chicken but I thought was actually pork (so he did not eat the meat just to be on the safe side).

Fish was of course plentiful as it is the main Japanese meat. Fish of all types are halal (acceptable for Muslims) so a Muslim has a wide range of dining options.

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