The Uyghurs (pronounced ‘wee-guhs’) are a Muslim ethnic group found in westernmost China and Central Asia. Their cuisine is a curious blend of influences – Chinese, Middle Eastern, Persian – all facilitated by the historical to-ing and fro-ing along the Silk Road. Four thousand-odd miles to the west, on a quietish stretch of Walthamstow’s Hoe Street, is Etles: a small, family-run restaurant specialising in Uyghur dishes.
Inside, it’s homely, the walls decorated with hangings, miniature instruments and the doppa hats that Uyghurs wear. The trad dishes are the ones to go for, like the fantastic ganbian chaomian: a huge, steaming plate of deliciously chewy hand-pulled noodles not unlike German spätzle, studded with veal and garnished with sesame seeds. Sadly, lamb polo (think ‘pilau’, that is, rice) was dry and nondescript. Kidney kebabs made for a great side, smoky from the grill and generously seasoned with chilli flakes. (There was a lot of offal on the menu. We couldn’t quite bring ourselves to order the marinated cow’s stomach.) They don’t sell booze, so do nip to the off licence first. It’s a great spot for locals who fancy getting their chops messy over a cheap meal.