British Columbia

Chinese food goes Turkic at Vancouver Uyghur restaurant

Do you consider lamb kebabs to be Chinese food? If not, you may want to check out Uyghur cuisine.

Efendi Uyghur manager says restaurant's aim is to introduce Chinese ethnic minority's culture to Vancouver

Efendi Uyghur Restaurant manager Mina Neurjang wants to expand notions of Chinese cuisine in Vancouver. (Vivian Luk/CBC)

Chinese food brings dim sum and wonton noodle soup to mind for many, but the selection will be a little more diverse at Vancouver's Chopstick Fest.

The festival features more than 30 Chinese restaurants offering prix fixe menus. One restaurant that might expand notions of Chinese food is Efendi Uyghur, which features food from China's Uyghur ethnicity.

"This is a really good opportunity for me to introduce my culture to other people," manager Mina Neurjiang told On The Coast's Vivian Luk.

Neurjiang says her children often don't know how to explain where they're from when people ask them, because Uyghur culture isn't well known. 

"I don't want to let them get upset with that. I hope this restaurant business can be a bridge for me to deliver my culture."

Different cuisine

The Uyghur people are a Turkic minority originating from the western Xinjiang region of China, which borders several Muslim-majority countries.

Like those countries, Uyghur people are largely Muslim and speak a Turkic language. As for their cuisine, it's very different from more familiar Chinese food.

"Our place is mostly the desert, right? We don't have seafood, but great, great lamb," Neurjiang said.

Neurjiang highlighted the rice pilaf with lamb shoulder and lamb kebab as must-eats on Efendi Uyghur's menu, but also mentioned the noodles, hand-pulled by her parents every day.

Mina Neurjang's mother, Tuerdi Asimguli, makes hand-rolled noodles in the restaurant's kitchen. (Vivian Luk/CBC)

Making the noodles is an important job, Neurjiang says, but she says her role is important, too.

"My role is always to explain to my customers where I am from," she said. "I never [get tired of it] because I am proud.… The more people know about us, it makes me more happy."

Chopstick Fest begins Oct. 15 and runs until Oct. 30.

With files from CBC Radio One's On The Coast

To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Chinese food goes Turkic at Vancouver Uyghur restaurant