The first time I tried Uyghur food was actually in Shanghai during a lovely food tour in which you can read more about here. I remember being shocked that this glorious Islamic food even existed in China in the first place. At that time, I mainly remember having kebabs and a Middle Eastern style bread. Fast-forward about 4 years and I’m living in Istanbul and in desperate need of some authentic Asian cuisine to give me the spice fix I needed! After a year of living in Istanbul, I had come to the conclusion that although Asian food definitely exists in many places in the city, it’s not necessarily always tasty or authentic. Occasionally yes you’ll find some decent Korean restaurants for example, but most commonly no especially when it comes to Japanese food.
Luckily during my research, I stumbled upon an area with a large population of Uyghurs which was in the Fatih district of Istanbul. Here is where I discovered several restaurants that serve this delectable Uyghur cuisine! My first stop was the Tanrıdağ Restaurant. When I walked up, I noticed right away that it was filled with Chinese Uyghurs and not a lot of Turkish people, so I knew I was in the right place!
There were so many dishes that I wanted to try but we were only two people so I had to choose wisely, especially because the portions were huge. We started by drinking a pot of green tea. The caffeine high I get from tea seems to be a different and a more long lasting high than that of coffee. When the food finally came I was buzzing like a bee from the tea and ready to consume! First was an incredible cucumber salad, then a few meat dishes with flavorful sauce, and lastly a piece of their Napoleon cake with just the right texture.
The general theme of the meal was perfectly seasoned dishes that were exactly what I was looking for! Although I had never had any of these particular dishes before, being that I’ve lived in other parts of China, I was delighted with the use of spices which I knew well such as Sichuan peppercorns. I love spicy food, that being said, none of these dishes were over the top with the spice level. Balancing all these flavors perfectly is a true artform and that is why I’m going out of my way to write this article altogether!
The service was also fairly warm for this culture and part of the world. When the staff saw how excited I was about the food, they even offered some of their hand-pulled noodles free of charge!
I hope one day I can make it to the Northeast region of China to try this food in its birthplace. I also hope the culture still exists in the future considering what is happening in the country now. If you love authentic Chinese food, enjoy a bit of spice, and are in Istanbul, definitely pay a visit to Tanrıdağ Restaurant. This would be a great place to try Uyghur food for the first time or to enjoy it again if you already know it!
Molla Gürani, Millet Cab No 104/B,Findikzade,34093 Istanbul, 34093 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey
Phone: +90 212 631 17 68