My first taste of Uighurian food when I was in Yiwu, China on my recent work trip made me hungry for more of this unique cuisine from the Xinjiang province in the country’s remote western frontier. There are a few restaurants around Chinatown specialising in this cuisine, all of which I have put on my wishlist. The first one ticked off this list is probably the better known out of all of them and is appropriately named Uighur Cuisine.
Tucked away on Dixon Street north away from the bustling restaurant-lined mall a block to the south, the restaurants decor consists of earth-tone walls displaying over-sized prints of festive scenes, traditional musical instruments and a lovely mock-up of red and green grapes dangling from the ceiling. Something to make us feel as if we’re back in the home country. The menu is easy to decipher with its pictures and brief descriptions and for $450 you can pre-order a whole lamb and have it cooked for your next celebration.
There’s a lot here I want to try and with just the two of us, there may be a problem if too much is ordered. I hate to waste food and I’m not that big on having it wrapped for home so were a bit selective in our choices. I really wanted to try the fried dumplings but Mr K somehow convinced me to go with the samsa (10), a little pastry pie containing a simple mix of finely diced lamb and onion … perhaps a little pepper. The pastry is quite thin and soft yet slightly doughy under the golden crust and the filling carries no other flavourings so the table caddy of dark soy and black vinegar comes in very handy. A few splodges from these little bottles brings the samsa to life.
I couldn’t help but order the piyaz posh kal (5) as it sounded very similar to the delicious onion cake I had in Yiwu. Sadly there was no comparison. The thin roti-style pastry was soaked with oil and didn’t go down too well with either of us.
The koy gosh kawapi (10) comes out on minature flat metal swords and is the definite highlight of the lunch. The meat is charred, sprinkled with red pepper powder, some seasoning and a herb called zir. The meat is truly delicious and aside from a couple of pieces of fat and gristle it is mostly tender. The peppery heat marries well with the charred flavour of the meat.
We were on the verge of fullness from all the food but I just had to try the yangak samsa (10), a flakey pastry ball scantly filled with sweet walnuts and raisins. The pastry is thick and very firm and hardened as it cooled, so much so the two remaining ones were as hard as a rock and ended up uneaten. Being heated in the microwave had someting to do with it. Loved the filling though.
Next time I’ll definitely try one of the noodle dishes, the dumplings and perhaps even the tongue.