Last November, I was invited out to Ningxia in Northern China. I can see you guys rolling your eyes thinking, “we know, you haven’t stopped reminding us!”, but it was truly one of the best trips of my life. Asides from being mesmerised by the landmarks and the ways of the Hui Muslims out there, the food always left a lasting impression on me and I returned to London determined to find halal Hui Chinese food just as good. I never did find an equivalent but I did come across Etles Uyghur, a Uyghur restaurant in Walthamstow.
Just like how the Hui people belong to the district of Ningxia, the Uyghurs belong to the province of Xinjiang, in China, which borders Afghanistan, Russia, and India. Their food is heavily Turkic influenced and their specialties are big da pan ji (big plate chicken) and hand pulled noodles. Both Hui and Uyghur cuisines are dominant in cumin, lamb, and beef.
Back to Etles Uyghur. Upon entering, the decor is minimal and fuss free, almost charming; this really is a hole in the wall. Starving, we got ordering from the small menu.
The Food at Etles Uyghur
Long skewers of juicy, grilled lamb pieces with plenty of mouth-melting fat chunks attached. It had been finished off with a heavy sprinkling of cumin and chilli powder. A great start to the meal and I almoooost ordered another skewer, but I knew there was plenty of food to come.
Steamed dumplings stuffed with deliciously soft calf meat and onions, which we topped off with chilli oil and vinegar. I found the dumpling skin texture to be just right – not too thick or thin, and managed to hold together really well. The meat was incredibly soft and juicy, but I felt it did need the vinegar and chilli to help add a surge of flavour.
Etles Uyghur’s most popular dish: a large dish filled with a potato and chicken stew, filled with belts of hand-pulled noodles, peppers, plenty of chillies, and sichuan peppercorns. The stew was definitely heart warming and despite the summer heat, was a welcomed hug in a bowl. The noodles were fantastic; freshly made with a great bounce to them and had soaked up all the flavours from the chicken broth that it lay in – if only they gave moreeee. I wasn’t a huge fan of the chicken as I found most of the pieces to be really bony.
Fish hasn’t really been my best friend this pregnancy so I’m afraid I cannot really comment on how good (or bad) the fish was, but based on the above photo, I think it was a hit with the table.
We asked for some bread (girda naan) to mop up the broth from the zhong pan ji, but it arrived stone hard. Even after soaking in the remaining stew, the bread barely softened.
The total bill for four people, including drinks and service, came to £56 so £14 each. Wow, this was perhaps one of the cheaper meals I’ve had for a long time. The food at Etles Uyghur may not be everyone’s cup of tea – no crispy duck or smoked shredded chicken in sight – but it is different in a very good and perhaps better way. I have heard that the food here can be quite hit and miss, but from my experience, it was definitely a hit and well worth trying if you are up for something different. Would I return? Of course, I still have the rest of the menu to finish!
For Etles Uyghur’s website, please click here.