The city of Kashgar is an oasis on the old Silk Road, sitting on the Western edge of present-day China, a porous cultural landscape where European, Middle Eastern, and Chinese cultures have interacted over the ages. The meeting of those cultures and their cuisines carry on in Cafe Kashkar, serving Uyghur and Uzbek food out of a small spot in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. Out of anywhere I have gone to eat in New York City, this place really boasted combinations and tastes I did not know existed.
Start with Samsa Parmuda, a bread roll with lamb and onions. The stuffing flavors taste like what would be in a Chinese bun but the bread consistency tastes like it could be European or Middle Eastern, has a slight pretzel bread quality to it. The dish is served with a light tomato dill sauce, an almost light gazpacho-like borst that tastes decidedly Russian to dip the bread in. Amazing. Also get the Manty - lamb and onion dumpling that could taste like Chinese cooking, but served with a sour cream and with dill on top. Of course, get skewers, because how could you not at a place like this.
For a main course and classic Uyghur dish, get the Bosu Lang Man, fried noodles with egg, bell peppers, tomato and lamb. The noodles retain flavor of cumin and of the thick doughy hand pulled Chinese noodles you would find in Northern China, but it is also garnished with parsley and other vegetables that you would not typically find in Chinese noodles. Influences ranging from Russian, Turkish, Chinese, and likely beyond all find their way in this dish.
For a refreshing item to go with all the lamb heavy dishes, the Lang Foo uses mung bean jelly, soft side dish that takes on the flavors of whatever it is mixed in, the vodka of cold dish starches, if you will. The jelly is often also used in Chinese and Korean dishes, but instead of with garlic, sesame seeds, cilantro or kimchi, it is instead dressed with pickled peppers, egg, dill, parsley, and tomato. The Lang Foo is the most remarkable use I have seen of this sometimes forgettable item. To drink, get the Compote, a fruit juice made with boiled fruits. Not too sweet, worth getting the pitcher. Kind of like a fruit punch but without the artificial ingredient grossness and guilt.
Pro-tips: Stay chill, this is a small restaurant with mostly local customers. Most of the staff and its clientele are mostly Russian speaking, be patient, you are a guest. The food is awesome, so be respectful and take the time for a slow and delicious meal. On a warmer day, the Brighton Beach boardwalk is less than a five minute walk away. The neighborhood is also very Russian and Central Asian in flavor, worth walking around in and steeping yourself in the culture a bit.
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