"Kamarouka" is the local food Mecca, and not only because every good chef simply has to visit it. This is one of the few places in Minsk where you can see the "HALAL" sign (meat prepared in accordance to the Muslim standards) on a whole row of buildings. A section of Kulman street behind the market is the most "oriental" district of the city. Ordinary Minskers come here to buy top-notch shawarma. Newcomers from the Middle East meet each other, hang out together and even celebrate Ramadan in public. Strangely enough, the best authentic Middle Eastern restaurant is historically called "Italian Pizza" (Kulman Street, 14) - a Turkish TV channel is always on here but the place has the best falafel recognized even by upper-class hipsters.

"Kamarouka" is the local food Mecca. Photo: Siarhei Hudzilin 

The most famous shawarma fast food restaurants are "Mirazh", "Express" and "MirAli" (translated as Ali's World). Even at 3AM, the "Halal Street" is awake: sleepless taxi drivers drinking coffee, nocturnal IT people out for food, and the loudest and the most spectacular attraction is  a huge gang of bikers who gather here regularly during warm seasons. It was the first place in the city where you could observe such an exotic street fashion as bikers dressed in kigurumis - they disappeared later, hopefully for good.

The secrets of the "Halal Street" are not for everyone, and they deserve another article. As for the market itself, it lives a much quieter life. Kamarouka has served both inhabitants of the city center and its restaurants for decades. The symbol of the market is a bronze "Sunflower Seeds Lady" who stands near the main entrance. Just a few meters away, near the fountains, rests a group of city sculptures: a Photographer, a Dame with a Dog and a patient Horse with a sparrow on her back.

The open market is working all year round. You can buy fresh fruit and vegetables from all parts of Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova in summer and autumn. In colder seasons, the products come mostly from Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Turkey and, finally, from greenhouses and winter gardens of far-away countries of the world, from Netherlands to Bolivia. Surely, there’s also room for Belarusian exotica: dried and pickled mushrooms, sauna switches, herbs and spices that look like ingredients for magic potions. Fisheries supply tanks of live mirror and silver carps on a daily basis - actually, not exactly popular among Belarusians, as you have to kill and clean the fish yourself.

It is great luck to have friends who know a trusted seller of homemade cheese, quark and goat milk at the market. Anyway, such products should not be obtained from unknown sellers. Even though they all have to pass sanitary control, you'll never know what elements of Mendeleev's table can be found in a city goat's ration and if this particular batch has been tested for them. 

The roofed market is mostly for selling dairy and meat products from big food factories and small farms (the latter are much better), factory and homegrown eggs, honey, spices and bakery. You can always count on this place for mutton, duck and rabbit meat and other products that are hard to find in a supermarket, at least, not in the deep-frozen state. The roofed market also offers vegetables and fruit from exotic countries the whole year round, although the prices are significantly higher than in the outdoor section. Still, there are rare fruits here like giant Chinese quince or edible flowers from Israel. Be careful when you buy something simple, like salad or radish, at the roofed marked: it can appear to be 5 to 10 times more expensive than outside, and it really doesn't make salad tastier even if it has just arrived by today's morning plane from Tel-Aviv.

There are also numerous multicultural shops around the perimeter of the roofed market: dried fruits from Iran, spices from Azerbaijan and, of course, a renowned Indian store at the gallery of the first store. If you prefer Chinese cuisine, there is a shop for you behind the shopping center "Monetka", closer to Kulman street.  Traditional Belarusian treats - alcohol and chocolates - can be found in pavilions # 8 and # 13 in the fourth sector of the roofed market. This sector even has "Riga Corner" - an official Latvian cafe with products and souvenirs from Riga.

Finally, the last Chinese warning. It may happen that, incidentally, you happen to be at one of the markets outside the city: Zhdanovichi, Expobel, the market of construction supplies in Uručča etc. Remember: never eat anything at local Vietnamese places, such as Saigon, Hanoi or even more exotic outlets like "Flappy Bird" in Zhdanovichi. This is not the Vietnamese cuisine that you imagine, and you better not know how it is made. Generally, wholesale markets are another world, very unlike peaceful Kamarouka, but this is a whole different story.



Kamaroŭski market, or Kamaroŭka, is the main grocery destination in Minsk. It has an outdoor section where you can find fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables. High-quality meet chops, homemade cheese, cottage-cheese and milk are in the indoor section. Kamaroŭka also offers pre-cooked foodstuffs in several bistros (Belarusian and Arab dishes), including take-away food. Those who like Oriental tastes can order kebab/shawarma, pilaw, spicy soups and even falafel (one Arab cook made wonders to get it certified by the city’s public health office). Photo: zviazda.by The most popular among bistros here is called "Oriental Express" (Vostochnyi Express) and offers huge and tasty portions for $5-6 each. Vietnamese fast foods often called Saigon or Hanoi are also popular with some Minskers. Located in the suburban markets, they attract regular clientele. It is up to you but perhaps you could look for safer options.
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