Monday, June 20, 2011

Welcome to my favourite local restaurant

My favourite local restaurant is a Uyghur (pronounced wee-ger) place, whose name I cannot read leatalone pronounce. But what I do know, is that their food is damn tasty.

The Uyghur people come from Xinjiang province, which is the big one on the far north-west side of China. Now, we all know that China is a massive place, and obviously the people are going to be different on each side, but the people from western China are especially special. For starters (pun intended) the majority are Muslim. This means that they don't eat pork - which is insane when you consider that pork is the number one meat consumed by the Han Chinese. (The Han Chinese are the majority race of Chinese people.) Their physical appearance is incredibly different from the Han Chinese, as are their social customs and their climate and their dialect and their everything.

Perhaps one of the only reasons the Uyghurs are technically Chinese citizens, is because the Chinese government tells them they are. For sure, there are horrible and very serious (to the point of being deadly) tensions between the Uyghurs and the Han Chinese. What doesn't help the situation, is the attitude and actions of the Chinese government. For the past several years, the governement has been encouraging (read: forcing) vast numbers of Han Chinese to move to rural areas which have traditionally been inhabited by minorities. Once the Han families arrive, the government provides them with housing and education and support, and the Han Chinese can often afford to work for much lower wages than the local minorities who recieve no government help.

What this means for rural areas like Tibet, Xinjiang, Qinghai, Inner Mongolia and Sichuan, is that the minorities are being driven out or simply overwhelmed. Dialects are being wiped out in favour of Putonghua - the official standard Mandarin, local faiths and cultures are being overwhelmed with either Christianity or nothing, and recipes are being lost.

I digress.

What I mean to say, is that Uyghur cuisine is AMAZINGLY TASTY. Because of the closeness of Xinjiang to central Asia (all of the'stans) there is almost a Turkish influence to the food - for example they also do a mean skewer kebab. Based on noodles and stews, there are endless combinations of their wintery spices and veggies to keep you entertained. They eat a lot of potato and sheep meat, and also do delicious buns and pastries.What is interesting, is that there is also a very Han-Chinese influence to the Uyghur restaurants you find in non-Xinjiang cities. A restaurant might use more local and very Han-inspired vegetables, whilst still using their own traditional spices, or vice-versa. The way they make their noodles is often also influenced from the north-eastern Chinese cities, which eat noodles and buns rather than the southern rice-eating cities. It makes for eternally surprising and satisfying cuisine, thats for sure. For example, this is what I ate for lunch today:

This is similar to the traditional egg and tomato stirfry, which is a staple of my diet here, and absolutely Han. However, the sauce around the noodles was incredibly rich and tasty, and the egg was fried almost whole instead of scrambled. The noodles were soft and fresh, and in clasic Uyghur style, incredibly filling.

Best of all? It's 10 kuai. Less than two Australian dollars. BOOYAH!

1 comment:

  1. OH Yeh!!! Looking forward to some of that. . .but maybe something meaty in mine?


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