Crowded and loud, the shop keepers chatting in front of their stores, cars honking. One left, one right, I was in a silent and small street, the street I was looking for, Asım Bey Sokağı. Soon big letters on the window read Huzur, literally meaning tranquility, I was there.
Greeted in front of the door like every other customer. It was a tidy, simple, characteristic restaurant which made me feel like I was at Mongolia or Russia for a second. A smiling face approached my table, asking in Turkish with an accent, if I have ever tasted Uyghur food. I said no, but I want to try. Soon learnt that he was Halit, the owner of the Huzur Uygur Restaurant.
Uyghur cuisine is very similar to cooking in Anatolia, lots of meat and dough, but the flavours take you to Chinese basics. Garlic, ginger, chilies are essential. For the amount of hand pulled noodles your tummy feels good, a little gluten and meat overdose, but definitely you leave the restaurant happy! Vegetables used as the garnishes in the noodles, giving extra flavour and colour, although there are dishes of eggplant, cabbage, potato on the menu.
The frequency of my visits gave me a chance to taste most of the menu. Now, I even have favorites. Mantı, is as big as your palm. It is made to your order, stuffed with small chunks of lamb meat, medium fatty and succulent, and the broth inside makes it a little difficult to eat, so go eat with your hand or if you trust your chopstick skills, that is good too. In any case you will have a lot of the juices left out. Pour some of that wheat vinegar on a small plate and dunk the mantı, so complimenting, you spoon the leftover juices, I did. I think the wheat vinegar made my top 5 vinegars!
Läghmän or lagman, hand pulled noodles, cooked with lamb and vegetables, some spicy, some with sauce, some this some that, all tasty, all deserves to be tried. The one page menu read the lagman as spaghetti, the words lost in translation, he will fix it soon, so what is written are all hand pulled noodles, no spaghetti. If you like spicy order the house special, my favourite.
That carrot salad has garlic and wheat vinegar in it, almost tastes like pickled, is now my new fave salad! The dry fried chicken, the chicken chopped down with bones, fried with sichuan peppers, garlic, spring onions, dry chilies, ginger. It is a feast but for four, or even 6, a whole heaped plate of it, so be careful while ordering.
The food is great, you are served with a big pot of tea the moment you sit down, to accompany you while you wait for your food and eating your samsa. Huzur Uygur Lokantası, is well known amongst the Uyghurs living around or missing their country’s cooking. If you are lucky you will listen them making noodles, that pounding sound, a little flop, a little bang, soothing sound, soon to be served. Feels like an esnaf lokantası, people knowing each other, friends sharing meals and bills paid at the cashier on your way out…
I found peace, good people and delicious noodles at Huzur.
Huzuru Uygur Lokantası Address: Asım Bey Sk. NO:12/A, Aksaray, Fatih
For the Turkish version on my column at Radikal, here.