Uyghur (pronounced wee-gur) cuisine comes from one of the ethnic minorities mostly located in Xinjiang, China. We have been to a Uyghur restaurant in Beijing many years ago and were thrilled to learn that there was now a Uyghur restaurant in Washington, DC. Off we went to try it with some friends who had made the discovery (thank you, Joyce and Marty!).
Uyghur food bears some resemblance to Middle Eastern food (not surprising, given some of the common culture and climate) and some resemblance to Chinese food (again, not surprising).
We started out with the Piter Manta, steamed buns containing beef seasoned with onions and spices. Think of potstickers with Middle Eastern seasoning, and you come close to what these taste like. They were quite good.
We had an additional appetizer, the Samsa, made of seasoned beef and onions rolled in a bun. They were also quite yummy.
Popular dishes here include several noodle dishes. We had the Mom’s Laghman (hand-made pulled noodles served with stir fried beef and vegetables). For those of you who like homemade noodles, this is definitely a dish for you.
The consensus favorite amongst the group, however, was the Korma Chop, a dish consisting of dry-fried noodles with beef and vegetables. The noodles are bite-sized in this dish and more toothsome and chewier than the hand-pulled noodles. In fact, the beef and vegetables are somewhat superfluous. The sauce is flavorful, with a bit of a bite, and paired with the noodles, it is an excellent dish.
Somewhat more familiar to many diners is the Dolan kabob, which are lamb kabob skewers where the lamb is seasoned with salt, cumin, and red pepper. These were good but did not stand out like the noodle dishes did.
Another favorite was the Goshnan, described as a Uyghur-style pizza, stuffed with beef, onions and red peppers. I wouldn’t necessarily describe it as a pizza (it has a double sided crust)—in some ways, it resembles a British pasty, but with deeper flavors and a lighter crust. It is quite filling and quite delicious.
We also tried the spicy-sour tofu, which is the Uyghur take on Mapo Tofu (the Chinese hot and spicy tofu dish). It was good but not a standout in the dishes we ordered.
The potato silk was a hit, as it consisted of sautéed shredded potato with scallions, red peppers, and carrots. Our son was particularly enamored with this one (it contains potatoes, after all). This isn’t something you can typically order at an Asian restaurant and is well worth trying.
Another well-liked dish was the Beef Yotaza, a spicy stir fried beef with assorted vegetables and served with steamed buns. There was a nice bite to the dish, and the steamed buns are very similar to mantou (a northern Chinese steamed bun).
The honey fish is fried tilapia seasoned with sweet and sour sauce and cooked with peppers, onions, and pineapples. I wasn’t a fan of this dish, but others found it to be quite delicious. (sorry–the official food photographer failed on this one (that’s me!)).
And, finally, there was the Dolan chicken—fried chicken cooked with mushrooms, onions, red and green peppers, and bean sprouts. This was the consensus least favorite dish, as the flavors were muddled and meh. (another fail on the part of the food photographer)
But there are salads! Below is the Tatlik salad, consisting of lettuce (duh!), cucumbers, beets, apples, and pineapple.
The restaurant also has surprisingly good desserts. Or, rather, if you judge the restaurant against other Asian restaurants, it has excellent desserts. If you judge the restaurant against European and American restaurants, the desserts are passable. (No photos because we consumed them too quickly.). We tried the Dolan cake, which is the Uyghur version of baklava. It is dryer than traditional Middle Eastern or Greek baklava, but it is very flavorful. The Kat-Kat cake is a traditional Uyghur cake, and it was my favorite as it was not overly sweet and had an unusual but pleasant flavor. The fried bananas were good, but you have to like bananas (obviously) to like this dessert, and the Bak-Kal-Li is a walnut cake dried with chocolate. This is a heavy—almost peasant-like—cake that is worth trying but is not for everyone.
I also highly recommend the Uyghur tea, which uses black tea as a base but adds ginger, date, and other fruit flavors as well. Even the son, who does not like tea, liked this one.
The restaurant itself is small and austere, typical of an Asian hole-in-the-wall restaurant, but the wait staff is friendly, competent, and helpful. We really liked the food at Dolan Uyghur and will definitely be back to try new dishes!
Dolan Uyghur is located at 3518 Connecticut Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20008 (www.dolanuyghur.com).