Via Brighton Beach restaurant Cafe Kashkar, I explore the cuisine of the Uyghur people, an ethnic minority of Turkic Muslims in China’s northwest, in this week’s Village Voice. Though the Uyghur people comprise less than one percent of China’s population, the food is popular throughout that country’s major cities, and for good reason: delicious grilled lamb is served with hand-pulled noodles or stuffed into dumplings or baked into a doughy pie, and those are just a few of the mouth-watering staples of the culinary canon. But for all the Chinese restaurants in New York City (over 2,000, if you count dollar-a-scoop shops), the food of the Uyghur people is not well represented here.
If you look hard enough, though, you can find just about anything in New York City, and Uyghur cuisine is no exception. Here are the small handful of places where you can find this unique food in the five boroughs. Know of another spot? Let us know in the comments.
Cafe Kashkar, 1141 Brighton Beach Avenue, Brighton Beach
New York’s first Uyghur restaurant is run by an Uzbek family and serves a righteous mix of traditional Uzbek dishes along with Uygher staples like lagman noodles, Olympic-sized naan, mantys, samsas, and more kebab than you can shake a skewer at.
Cafe Arzu, 101-05 Queens Boulevard, Forest Hills
Kebabs at Cafe Arzu come highly recommended, though we hear service can be lukewarm to nonexistent. In a vein similar to Cafe Kashkar, Cafe Arzu serves Uzbek/Uyghur food, so many of the same things are on the menus of either place.
Xinjiang BBQ cart, 41st Avenue and Kissena Boulevard, Flushing
This cart liberally applies cumin, garlic, and chili powder to skewers of lamb, chicken or beef before grilling them until juicy and serving them on the street for just $1.25 each. A four-skewer order is a worthy way to spend a five-dollar bill in Flushing.
Spicy Village , 68 Forsyth Street
This Henan noodle shop in Chinatown is definitely not an Uyghur restaurant, but it serves a staple found at every Uyghur joint in China: dapanji. More descriptively known as Big Plate Chicken, the dish, a specialty of Spicy Village, is a big plate of on-the-bone chicken in a fiery stew of potatoes, onions, and chili peppers. Sharing between friends is best, but if you can’t round up a crew willing to split it, it’s worth going alone and leaving with leftovers.