The Uighur people have been in the news a lot lately, and it hasn’t been good–their home region of Xinjiang, China is mired in a vicious state of ethnic violence. While the thoughts of Uighur immigrants in New York are likely in Xinjiang, their hands are imbued with culinary prowess. Thanks to Cafe Kashkar (1141 Brighton Beach Ave., Brooklyn–map), a trip to Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach means not only a lesson in Cyrillic (Russian immigrants dominate the neighborhood), but also a taste of the lesser-known Uighur culture.
The fare at Cafe Kashkar is a unique mixture of east Asian and Middle Eastern, natural for an ethnic group of Sunni Muslims living in northwestern China. Bring friends and share, because there’s a lot to choose from. Start with an order of Manty, boiled dumplings filled with ground lamb and a rich, salty broth ($7 for 4 large dumplings), or Samsa, a layered lamb pastry ($2.50 apiece). Don’t be confused by a misnomer on the menu: what they call “hot appetizers” are actually sizeable entrees. Go for the fried lagman, a traditional spicy noodle and vegetable dish ($7.50). Or if you’re feeling a little more adventurous, go for the gigar–rice with an earthy, sweet mixture of fried liver, bell peppers, eggplant, and more–for $8.50. Round out your meal with juicy kebabs, around $4 each.
A friendly and helpful staff will aid you with pronunciation, while an Uzbek version of MTV serenades diners from the corner. Only in New York can a day at the beach be this deliciously eye-opening.