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Uighur/Xinjiang Food

I studied abroad in Beijing in 1993, and my friends and I used to frequent an area that all the foreign students called Uighurville. Stall after stall of Uighur food. I of course remember lots of lamb, a bread similar to Indian naan, and a noodle dish in a tomato-based sauce (not like marinara but lighter) with peppers and probably lamb as well.

I haven't had Uighur food since. I live in DC now, and we of course don't have a Uighur restaurant, but I'm going to be in NY Presidents Day Weekend, and I'm on a mission to find Uighur food as similar as possible to what I used to eat in Uighurville lo those many years ago.

I found these threads about Uighur food on this board:


I'm leaning toward A Fan Ti, but I'm wondering if anyone recognizes the style of food I described above (particularly that noodle dish; I dream of it) and can tell me if I'd find that sort of stuff at A Fan Ti or elsewhere. deetrane in the first thread mentioned that "nothing beats the food they served on the old Ganjiakou street in Beijing years ago, before they bulldozed it" (what?!). Is that Uighurville? I can't remember the name of the street for the life of me. Is there anything in NY that approximates that food?

Thanks in advance for anyone's help....

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  1. There are two Uighur restaurants. I haven't been to Arzu in Rego Park (Queens) and I didn't like Cafe Kashkar in Brooklyn. You might do better with Uzbek/Bukharian food, which has many overlaps in dishes. I recently wrote about Vostok, in Brooklyn, which is quite good, and Taam Tov, in midtown Manhattan is decent, but I believe only open for weekday lunch. Most if not all of the Bukharian places are kosher, so probably closed Friday nights and saturday day.I believe A Fan Ti is Northern Chinese. If you do a search on this board for Uighur you should see discussion of Kashkar & Arzu.

    There is an excellent Uighur restaurant in Montreal's Chinatown if you ever get there.

    "a noodle dish in a tomato-based sauce (not like marinara but lighter) with peppers and probably lamb as well."

    Geiro lagman, or just lagman if it's a soup.


    1. A Fan Ti Menu: http://www.bridgeandtunnelclub.com/bi...

      A Sietsema classic:http://www.villagevoice.com/nyclife/0...

      he states that the menu features uigur fare.

      1. I highly recommend A Fan Ti. It's the type of neighborhood place that might make you off-menu dishes, especially if you call ahead and tell them what you're looking for. I haven't seen that noodle dish you refer to there, but I can recommend the parsley with pepper (surprisingly good for something that sounds so simple), the lamb kidneys, the grilled lamb skewers (excellent), and the gizzards. Really everything is good there, though.

        1. there's a guy with a "traditional xinjiang barbecue" cart in flushing, at the big intersection where kissena blvd kind of branches off of main street. he grills lamb kabobs sprinkled with a spice mixture over charcoal for $1/piece, and they're very tasty - really fatty, smoky meat. not a restaurant, obviously, but it's good and the neighborhood itself is well worth a visit. take the lirr to the flushing main street station.

          4 Replies
          1. re: wleatherette

            There's also a kebab guy under the Manhattan Bridge, around Division or Forsyth.

            1. re: Peter Cherches

              is he any good? i tried the chicken once and it wa so kinda ehhh, but maybe i ordered the wrong thing

              1. re: Lau

                I just had one lamb kebab. It was pretty good, but I wouldn't make it a destination.

            2. re: wleatherette

              does anyone know what happened to the other barbecue stand? i have gone to the one on kissena, but i also went to one on sanford, and thought it was better. whenever i'm in the area, i look for it, but it's not there.

            3. Thank you all so much for your responses! I checked back a few times after I posted, and no one responded, so I stopped checking until today.

              I'm trying to decide now between A Fan Ti and Arzu. Thoughts? Does anyone know if Arzu is open Sunday nights?

              Peter, I know about that Uighur restaurant in Montreal's Chinatown and definitely want to try it the next time I'm there!

              4 Replies
              1. re: dracisk

                dracisk, Arzu is open on sundays and I believe they're open pretty late. If the noodle dish you refered to is soup (lagman) variety, they make excellent lagman. They also have excellent manti. It's BYO, if that matters to you.

                1. re: welle

                  Welle, is the Arzu menu in English? I'd like to try their fried pelmeni along with their lagman. Could you provide any necessary translations please ... ? TIA. : ) The weather has been unseasonably cool as of late,
                  and these kind of dishes are still game (for me at least). PLMK if you agree.

                  1. re: Cheese Boy

                    Cheeseboy, noodles is indeed a perfect dish for cold weather. Their menu is both in English and Russian. I have an old take-out menu from 2-3 years ago. On it, Lagman is listed under soups and is called "Uyghur hand-made Lagman (noodle soup with meat and vegetable)" and fried pelmeni are under Side dishes - "Fried pelmenis (ravioli)".

                    1. re: welle

                      Welle, thank you for that info. I can now feel completely comfortable (and prepared) walking through the doors of Arzu.
                      My approach will be this: I will point to the items on the menu that I want,
                      and I will use my charm (and good looks, ha) to lure the waitress over to my table. I assure you, unlike fellow chowhound Polecat, I will not be leaving without food. This is the United States of America, not the Soviet Union. Here, we're a little more civil to one another.

                      Polecat, I admire your determination! Arzu awaits your return. Shame on them!
                      Walk through those doors and give them a chance to redeem themselves.
                      If things don't go well, then, write them off. Your money can be expected elsewhere. Arzu's loss. As for the 'artful' waitress, one less gratuity, and one less "encounter" to be able to learn some English from an American. : )

                      Play it proudly ---> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Rnf7D...

              2. Just attempted to go to Arzu for lunch today. Waited at a table for about 15 minutes, with about 7 or 8 other diners in the place, without getting much else other than a menu. The waitress, who was coughing all over the place without covering her mouth, made an actual overt show of not caring to come over to my lonely table. She leisurely talked with other diners, read a paper...I have to admit, she was quite artful at what she was doing. I saw others with their bowls of lagman and, when I finally got the waitresse's attention, she bruskly told me that they were all out. Then she quickly walked away right as I was about to order some kebabs. The message sent, I split, only that much more determined to return some other time.

                I'm from the neighborhood, and have been to other Uzbeki joints, such as Salut, Cheburechnaya and Shalom. This isn't the first time I've experienced this type of treatment, have gotten it before at Salut a few times. I won't try to explain it away, other than to say that it can be more disappointing than anything else. But, in the end, I have found the food to be worth it.

                8 Replies
                1. re: Polecat

                  .Do you have a clue why your given such treatment in not 1 but, several uzbeki places? Do you think they want to only entertain their fellow uzbeks? I've been to Uzbekistan and their generally very hospitable people....considering that most of them in their country (specially the older ones) do not speak nor understand english and i do not speak nor understand uzbek or russian. but, can get away ordering with a little russian now...if, required.

                  1. re: nyufoodie

                    bad service attitudes left over from the soviet block?
                    a clubbishness that doesnt welcome outsiders even if it means making a little less $?
                    Im not sure that the uzbekistani restaurants here are actually run by uzbekis who are muslim and have that culture's hospitality traditions

                    1. re: jen kalb

                      "Do you have a clue why your given such treatment in not 1 but, several uzbeki places?"
                      I should clarify that this has occurred to varying degrees, and it is not always the case. This is the second time, though, that I just had to throw my hands up , cut my losses, and split. The best, most solicitous service I have gotten, by the way, has been at Shalom, which occupies the storefront which formerly housed Beautiful Bukhara, on 108th street.

                      Jen, to add to your thoughts:
                      If you look at these places from the outside, they are not all that inviting. Most or all of the time, the drab curtains are completely drawn. And there is definitely an insularity going on; I was actually surprised when, a few years back, when Sietsema included Salut in his list of top 100 Asian Cheap Eateries, they taped it onto the window. On all my visits to all places mentioned, even when I have been granted a table and given service, I always feel as if I've walked in on a family gathering, what with all of the other diners sitting at long tables, obviously regulars and/or friends of management from the looks of it. This, in and of itself, doesn't phase me. But the other side to it is that sometimes, to varying degrees, they might not be in the mood to serve outsiders.

                      Anyhow, we've gotten a little off topic here. My bad. I would definitely like to charge back into Arzu someday, and try their lagman, see how it compares with the hearty bowl served up at Salut.


                      1. re: Polecat

                        I find that borderline rude treatment in many ex-Soviet run places, but they warm up after I speak Russian to them. I came to conclusion that they put that self-important mask to cover their insecurities of not being able to speak English. Next time you go, say "Devushka, 1 lagman pozhaluista". It's important to use 'devushka' (girl) even if the waitress is pushing 60.

                          1. re: welle

                            Most Uighurs come from Xinjiang, not from the former Soviet empire, so they might not understand Russian. (There are over a million in such former soviet places as Kazakhstan, so I guess some do.) Better to speak in Uighur, just two or three words would blow them away.

                            1. re: Brian S

                              Arzu serves Uighur food, but is run by Bukharan Jews from Uzbekistan. Chef is Uighur, but waitstaff is definitely from former USSR as the clientelle and they all speak Russian. They also serve Uzbek and typical Russian restaurant dishes (Cheburek is Georgian but most Russian places serve it, I also think some of the dishes are technically originated from neighboring countries like Kazahstan and Kyrgyzstan), so there is nothing wrong in calling Arzu Uzbek.

                    2. Its a long running issue with some of the central asian places and its not about you
                      Jim Leff has written about the experience
                      I had it too on my one foray to this part of Queens http://www.chowhound.com/topics/23528...
                      as have others http://www.chowhound.com/topics/23559...

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: jen kalb

                        Okay, the way your describing the situation...it does sound like what the central asian people themselves call soviet style service = no service. When I was traveling in Central Asia for 5 months I was warned not to patronize these kind of establishments. It is actually not limited to dining establishments. Like when traveling to Central Asia, it is best to avoid hotels that are "described" as soviet style as it will mean that it was not refurbished since the fall of the USSR but, they will charge you the same rates as the westernized hotels. In general though, the local Central Asian are very friendly and hospitable people specially in the old areas. But, I'm still going to attempt to venture out to Arzu one of these days as I am really in search of good lagman and it sounds like they have it. They may have pelmeni in broth too that is another favorite. I've read that there are nearby places as well with good skewered meats (shaskliks). I just wonder if they serve the 5 fingers shashlik in any of them as those were definitely the best ones that I've had when I was there and it was only available in the older areas.

                      2. The noodle dish you are talking about definitely had lamb, and in fact is spiced with whole cumin seeds, fried, then added to the tomato and vegetable based sauce and served over fresh hand pulled noodles. they are simply the best noodles in the world, and the nan has never been duplicated. the guys who operated one the best restaurants told me in a very imprecise way how they made all of their dishes and someplace i have the resipes. sadly, i don't know of anyplace in the western hemishphere that has this food. i tried one of the brooklyn restaurants and it was a totally different cuisine. if you have found anyplace that has it, let me know. like you, i lived in beijing from 93 to 95 and frequented the ghetto you are referring to. if you have found anyplace, especially in new york that has this food, give me an update.

                        17 Replies
                        1. re: kaufmana

                          A bit belated post, but, A Fan Ti is not halal.

                          Moreover, they have pork on menu.

                          We went once a couple years ago, and there were three people working there. One was from Fujian, the chef was from northern China, and I forgot where the third was from.

                          It gets a lot of attention for the hard-to-find meat items on the menu. If you are looking for adventurous body part eating, A Fan Ti is the place to go.

                          However, it's authenticity is questionable.

                          There are a few other Muslim places in Flushing, which display the Chinese sign for 'halal'.

                          There are two in the J&L food mall on Main St between Sanford and Maple.

                          There is one in another mini mall on Main St, on the same side of the street as J&L, but closer to Northern Boulevard (maybe halfway to Northern Blvd). There is a sign in Chinese on the outside of this mini mall that lists the stores inside, and it is apparent from this sign that one of the food stalls is western China Islamic.

                          1. re: kaufmana

                            I can't believe I'm resurrecting this thread after 3+ years, but I was just inspired to come back here and found some replies I hadn't seen yet.

                            Anyway, kaufmana, thanks for confirming my memories of that Uighurville noodle dish. I went to Arzu and ordered the lagman, and it wasn't the same thing at all. The service was eh (as I was expecting -- at least they served me!), and the food was still good even if not what I was looking for.

                            I haven't been back to a Uighur place since, but if I ever find those noodles I'll let you know!!

                            1. re: dracisk

                              You can get gyro lagman (Uighur style) from Cafe Kashkar which is a Uighur owned business, but the quality pales in comparison to stuff I've had in London, Istanbul and Xinjiang. By far the worst lagman I've ever had, but it gets the job sometimes. I prefer the squared off suomien so whenever I can get those I'm a happy camper.

                              Cafe Kashkar
                              1141 Brighton Beach Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11235

                              1. re: JFores

                                Thanks! I'll keep that place in mind the next time I'm in NY!

                                1. re: dracisk

                                  The one place I've been to that sounds very similar to what you guys are describing(the uighur noodle dish for instance) is Omar's Xinjiang Restaurant west of LA.
                                  The decor is dinky but the food was incredible and tasted fresh and homemade. I've been looking for something to match that in NYC and haven't been able to find it yet...I just can't forget those amazing noodles and the cumin-soaked lamb kebabs.

                                  let you guys know if i find something!

                                  1. re: renglish114

                                    Demographically the place you'd expect a Uighur restaurant to open up would be in the northern Virginia suburbs of D.C. since that's the largest concentration in the country. However I seem to recall a comment, probably on the DC board, that there's no expectation that anybody would open up a Uighur restaurant there anytime in the near future. As such, the chances for the New York area would be slimmer, though I guess there was a Uighur stall in the short lived Roosevelt food court in Flushing. Consequently we are extremely fortunate to have Omar's in San Gabriel, particularly for those eighteen inch long noodle strands.

                                    1. re: Chandavkl

                                      I'm in DC, and I thought we had a large Uighur population in the area, so I hope someone opens up a Uighur restaurant soon -- I'm sure many people would be excited to try a new cuisine!

                                      renglish114, I'm going to keep that place in mind when I'm in LA!

                                2. re: JFores

                                  Did not see this thread, went to Cafe Kashkar on Saturday and posted about it here

                                  The Lamb Kebabs held up to the food I have had in London, and only a touch below Istanbul. I have never been to Xinjiang, but one of guests had and said the meal was not up to that standard (hard to imagine it could) but was not far from what she had eaten in Beijing.

                                  Cafe Kashkar
                                  1141 Brighton Beach Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11235

                                  1. re: driggs

                                    That sounds about right, but the Uighur food I had in Xinjiang, Beijing, Shanghai, Gansu and Istanbul has all been vastly superior. London too (Silk Road was one of my biggest ever CH first foreigner through the door finds.)

                                    Their soups are quite good, but I'm really not a fan of their kebabs. Their samsas are excellent if they were made recently. I tend to go to Cafe Kashkar for the experience, atmosphere and to have Uighur time rather than for the food.

                                    All the Uighurs there grew up in Uzbekistan.

                                    Cafe Kashkar
                                    1141 Brighton Beach Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11235

                                    1. re: JFores

                                      Not that is matters with respect to the food, but the gentleman who I took a picture of (not sure what his role was) spoke with my friend of having grown up in XinJiang.


                                      1. re: driggs

                                        Oh yeah? I've never talked to that one actually.

                                        1. re: JFores

                                          There actually is an Uyghur/Xinjiang food stall in Flushing, Xinjing Style BBQ, they sell lamb, chicken and beef kababs.

                                          1. re: theportagee

                                            Not XJ owned and operated though.

                                            1. re: JFores

                                              Thats a blow to the head. Is Cafe Kashkar even that great I've seen mixed reviews elsewhere.

                                              1. re: theportagee

                                                Its alright. The menu was actually changed and made a great deal more Uighur (the takeaway menu) but most of the highlights (big plate chicken for example) have to be called in beforehand and even then it's still a dice roll. It's authentic in that it's Uighur owned and operated, but most of their cooking is clearly influenced by the 30+ years that the owner's family spent on the other side of the Pamirs.

                                                There used to be an exceptional Uighur stall in Flushing with food that was practically as good as in Xinjiang (aka the quality was about the same, but the fillings to samsa and what not weren't 98% lamb fat.)

                                                1. re: JFores

                                                  FYI, the Uyghur restaurant in Montreal's Chinatown has been closed for a couple of years now. :(
                                                  Near Pearson Airport in Toronto, Silk Road on Horner and Brown's Line in Etobicoke is the only place I know in Canada for the stuff. Mostly open for dinner. And you can get it on the plane if you're flying domestic too ;)

                                                  1. re: kyle11

                                                    Thanks for the update! I didn't make it to the Uighur place in Monreal before it closed. :-( I haven't been to Montreal since 2005 -- I need to plan a return trip!