We’re always up for trying something new, and Etles Uyghur Restaurant is definitely that. Recently opened in the former Ming Chinese restaurant on Hoe Street, close to Walthamstow Central station, this is one of the first Uyghur (or Uighur) restaurants in London. For another taste of this cooking you’d have to go to Silk Road in Camberwell.
A few weeks ago we reviewed the new Taste of Sichuan restaurant; now another regional Chinese cuisine has arrived in Walthamstow. Chinese cooking in the UK is now exploring beyond the westernised versions of Cantonese food. This is not a typical Chinese restaurant, there’s no sweet and sour chicken being served here. China is a big country, and cuisines vary in different provinces.
According to a quick Google search, the Uyghurs are a Turkic speaking Muslim minority group living in the Xinjiang province, bordering countries including Mongolia, Russia, Afghanistan and Kazakhstan. There’s complicated religious, cultural and political issues here that I can’t even begin to understand, so we’ll stick to what we know – food. Traditional Uyghur cooking is a mix of influences from the old Silk Road trading routes including Turkish, Mongolian, Persian and Chinese.
Etles is a fairly basic cafe place, warmed up with rugs on the walls, a painted ceiling and bright tablecloths. The menu offers pictures of the Uyghur specialities including some rather scary offal stuff like tongue salad.
After a quick discussion with the waiter we ordered lamb skewers (£2 each) – grilled chunks of lamb marinated with chilli and cumin reminiscent of Turkish kebabs. These were meaty and juicy, although quite chewy. More adventurous were the kidney skewers (£4). I’m not really a fan of offal, but these were tasty, spicy and probably the best kidney dish I’ve been persuaded to try.
Next we tucked into the recommended typical Uyghur dish ‘Ganbian Chaomian’ (£9) – hand pulled Lagman / Leghmen noodles, stir-fried with gently-spiced beef and peppers. It was a hearty version of the more familiar Chinese chowmein, and good as a sharing dish.
But our favourite dish was the unpronounceable ‘Ququre’ (£8) – hand made wonton dumplings in a delicious, light meat stock soup. This was pure comfort food. Delicate, soft dumplings filled with lovely tender beef.
Etles is a halal restaurant, with no pork dishes and no alcohol – we had coke and tea. Service is friendly, advice is given if you ask and the food was served quickly as we were the only diners mid-week. Next time I’m going to try the Polo which further research tells me is rice dish similar to a pilaf with carrots and slow cooked lamb. So, while it’s not a date night place, it is a chance to try a new Chinese food experience.
Etles Uyghur Restaurant, 235 Hoe Street, Walthamstow, E17 9PP