TALLINN:The first Tatar tea house with halal food Tatari Chaihana & Restoran has opened in Tallinn on the iconic street of Tatari tänav. The initiators of the opening were mufti of Estonia Ildar hazrat Mukhammedshin and his wife, founder of the Tatar Sunday school in Tallinn, Iman Liya khanum Makhmutova. On weekdays, the institution works both for take-away and for visitors, and on weekends, the room is used for classes of children from Sunday schools, including Tatar one, as well as for various thematic events. According to Iman Liya Khanum Makhmutova the coronavirus pandemic even spurred her and her husband to create a teahouse — the free time during the period of self-isolation was spent on finding a suitable room and preparing it for the opening of halal catering.
In 2003, native of Russia, a full-blooded Tatar, Iman Liya khanum Makhmutova came to Estonia to visit her future husband, Mufti of Estonia Ildar hazrat Mukhammedshin, whom she met while studying in Saudi Arabia. In addition to active social work and raising five children, the couple opened the Tatar halal institution at the end of this summer. However, the concept is not limited only to the desire to feed delicious visitors or customers who order takeaway food. On weekends, the teahouse is closed, and the premises are given for classes for children from various Sunday schools, as well as national themed events. And in general, the institution promises to become the centre of Tatar culture in the future. Moreover, there is a teahouse on Tatari Street — an important historical place for the Tatars. Here at one time, there was a Tatar settlement, and the Tatars lived compactly since ancient times.
“We decided to rent the premises on Tatari street for a reason,” says Iman Liya khanum Makhmutova. “I believe that we just got this decision from Allah to open a Tatar teahouse. This is an interesting and unusual experience for us. And the status of the mufti does not affect the business. Estonia is a European country, and everything is different here. Not like in Russia and Tatarstan.
According to the interlocutor, several factors and, most surprisingly, even the COVID-19 pandemic pushed them to open the Tatar catering service. Surprisingly, in Tallinn, where representatives of various national autonomies live, there was still no cafe or restaurant of Tatar cuisine. “There are a lot of Azerbaijani, Georgian, and Armenian diasporas in Estonia, which live compactly here. And everyone has long opened their own cafes or restaurants here. For some reason, the Tatars were not active in this regard. I myself sometimes wanted to go somewhere for a change and try our traditional food, but there was nowhere to go. And just with halal until recently it has been quite problematic,” she admits.
“My husband has a hobby — cooking. He loves to cook, often does it at home and periodically relieves me of this duty. When our large-scale Tatar holidays are held, the spouse is always asked to lead the cooking process. And we were constantly asked: “Why don’t you open your own place? Everything is so delicious!” Sometimes we had such thoughts, but with our workload, it was unrealistic — frequent trips, constant meetings in cities, a lot of social work, including even in prisons,” she says. His signature dish is pilaf in a real kazan and other hot dishes.
Her husband, as mufti of Estonia Ildar hazrat Mukhammedshin, also holds the title of chaplain. “At one time, the president of Estonia gave him the first epaulettes with the moon in the country’s history. Everyone is given a cross, but he was given a moon. Previously, a Muslim did not take up the post of chaplain in this country,” she said.
Another motive that prompted the couple to open their teahouse is the culinary talents of Iman Liya khanum Makhmutova herself. Now she is responsible for all the baking in the establishment. “We have various Tatar societies that are engaged in the development of Tatar culture. I am the director of a Sunday Tatar school, which I founded myself. When we participate in some festivals, we always come with pastries. And everyone always wondered how delicious it was and wondered why we didn’t have our own place,” she admits.
Surprisingly, the coronavirus pandemic, which closed many public catering establishments, was one of the factors of the opening of Tatari Chaihana & Restoran, notes Iman Liya khanum Makhmutova. “Since March, many of our meetings and trips had to be suspended due to the rather strict quarantine imposed in Estonia in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, all public activities have gone online. Accordingly, some free time was formed. Then the idea of opening our own institution rose again,” she says.
The main dish of the restaurant is a real pilaf from a kazan. The range is constantly updated. Here they serve manti, lagman, dumplings, and tokmach (homemade noodles). And Tatar pastries are presented in almost all their glory — in the teahouse you can taste peremyach, ochpochmak, kystyby, recently introduced to the menu chak-chak and gubadiya (to order). You can also buy standard European food in the restaurant.
“We develop the cooking technology and recipes ourselves. All the baking is on me. It was a big challenge for me to adapt how to cook with restaurant serving. At home, you cook for yourself simply, but for a restaurant, you need everything to be smooth, with a certain recipe, and not by sight, like at home. It was necessary to develop some kind of standardization. We are still improving the recipe,” says the interlocutor. “Certainly, there are problems with purchasing certain ingredients. For example, we learned how to cook the gubadiya kort ourselves. And we cut tokmach manually.
Tatari Chaihana & Restoran may well grow from a catering establishment to the centre of Tatar culture. And all the prerequisites for this are already there. Currently, the teahouse does not operate as a cafe on weekends.
“On weekends, we provide facilities for national schools — Tatar and Arabic. We plan to hold various master classes for children there — not only on weekends, but also on weekdays. We have already discussed it with our Tatar societies. Recently, a Tatar activist from Finland has settled in Tallinn. He often visits us. The activist initiated various themed evenings and holidays at our base. I’m all for it, because there is a place where we can spend poetry evenings, just gather people for some reason. We are already hosting traditional Tatar feasts. We even at the very beginning wanted to name the institution “teahouse and cultural centre”, but then realised that it is difficult to pronounce the name and write on the sign. In the end, they left it just like the Tatar teahouse,” she says.
© Realnoe Vremya