Discovering Uyghur Cuisine in Melbourne

I always love meeting people who enjoy food as much as I do so when we recently met David and Trevor through a friend here in Melbourne, we hit it off immediately.

David is a HUGE foodie, I bow down to him in his knowledge of all things delicious. The first time we met I walked away with a huge list of recommendations and not enough time left in Melbourne to get through them all in. Anyway, we joined them last weekend to tick off the first place on that list: Dolan Uyghur Food Heaven

As I’d not heard of the Uyghur people before, I did some Google research and ended up reading about them and their history. It’s pretty fascinating and there is definitely some political unrest which needs resolving. 

The Uyghurs are a Turkish ethnic group with a long history spanning thousands of years. They predominantly live in Xinjiang, China. Xinjiang (which has been an autonomous region since the 1990’s) is in the north-west of China and borders 8 countries including Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan and Afghanistan. The Uyghur people have long fought for independence and you’ll often see Xinjiang named as East Turkestan. Given its position and strategic importance as part of the historic silk route, it’s no surprise that Xinjiang is home to lots of different ethnic communities. 

Map of china showing the Xinjiang autonomous region

What I really want to talk to you about though, is the food. Oh, the food.
This Central Asian cuisine is epitomised by handmade stretched noodles, lamb kebabs and rich, spicy sauces. As an Islamic community, the food is also usually halal. 

David ordered a number of dishes for us to try, all placed in the centre of the table to share. Here’s what we ate: 

Yangyu Tohu Kormisi

This massive plate was more than enough to feed four of us, even before the rest of the dishes came out! It’s chicken, peppers and potatoes with stretched noodles. The sauce was spicy and peppery.

A huge sharing plate of Yangyu Tohu Kormisi at Dolan Uyghur Food Heaven in Melbourne, Australia

Mor Salad

My only real experience of black fungus is eating it thinly sliced in ramen. This was totally different as it was the centrepiece of this salad. The texture is similar to oyster mushrooms but the taste is closer to seaweed. Tossed in an oil and vinegar dressing and peppered with raw sliced garlic and onion, the sharpness of this dish cut through the rich spice of the chicken perfectly.

Black Fungus salad at Dolan Uyghur Food Heaven in Melbourne, Australia

Zih Kawap

These lamb kebabs were delicious. I could have eaten a whole pile to myself. Probably a relative to Turkish food, they were chargrilled and fatty. Google tells me they were probably marinated in cumin, lemon and Szechuan peppercorns.

Zih Kawap - delicious lamb kebabs at Dolan Uyghur Food Heaven in Melbourne, Australia

Beef Tongue Salad

Similar to offal was this beef tongue salad. Funnily enough, this salad in a strange way took me back to my childhood. Slices of tongue and cucumber slices in vinegar often featured on my Nanna’s lunch table as part of Sunday lunch. Along with billy bear ham. What happened to that? Is it still a thing? 

This tongue was nothing like I remember. though, it was tender and meaty without gristle or tough bits. The salad dressing was vinegary which of course worked perfectly with the cucumber and carrot. It was just really refreshing and totally delicious. 

Uyghur Beef Tongue Salad at Dolan Uyghur Food Heaven

Goosh nan

Also known as Uyghur meat pie, this delicious dish is a round, deep fried pie filled with spiced lamb meat. As directed by David, we ate it with soy vinegar which added a sharpness to the spiced, meaty filling.

Meat pie at Dolan Uyghur Food Heaven

A lot of the Uyghur cuisine focuses on offal and there are plenty of dishes to try if you’re feeling brave. For example, the menu included Mizilik Kosak Kormisi (stir fried lamb tripe with chilli) and Koy Iq-Azaliri Shorpisi (lamb guts soup with heart, lung, liver and tripe).

I’ve not said much about the restaurant itself. To be honest, there’s not much to say. It was a sparsely decorated, crowded space. The staff were helpful but busy and not overly friendly or memorable. The food did all the talking and I urge you, wherever you are, to seek out Uyghur food because you will not be disappointed.

Finally – if you want to read more about Uyghur food and travelling in the Xinjiang region of China, check out Matthew Lubin’s blog: Far West China

Dolan Uyghur Food Heaven Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Leave a comment

  1. 31st January 2017 / 8:38 am

    So fascinating to read about Uyghur cuisine, plus some background on the region and history. The food looks really delicious, hearty, meaty and I'd love to try it. Don't think we have any such restaurants in London though.

  2. 2nd February 2017 / 2:38 pm

    Never ever heard of Uyghur cuisine but it sounds so good! I'm really not familiar with food from this part of the world. I know the traditional stuff and the familiars but really need to explore it that little more! Plus a trip may help too 😛

  3. 2nd February 2017 / 4:51 pm

    Very cool, I hadn't heard of this group either but I wonder if I can get it in Toronto….

  4. 3rd February 2017 / 1:19 am

    I'd not heard of it at home in the UK, I wonder if perhaps you can get it in London though? Will have to research on my return! Let me know if you find it! :0)

  5. 3rd February 2017 / 1:20 am

    It's so great when you discover something totally new isn't it!

  6. 3rd February 2017 / 1:20 am

    Yeah, the background is so interesting too and you can see the Turkish and Chinese influences in the food. 🙂

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