Here is one of the very few occasions I ventured all the way out of central London for food. Being so intrigued with a fully halal restaurant serving Chinese Uyghur cuisine, I just had to make a visit to Etles Restaurant at Walthamstow to see for myself.
Uyghur is a Turkish ethnic group residing in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of West China. As you can imagine, the cuisine there would be a mix of traditional Chinese and Turkish.
Etles is a family-run restaurant and is much smaller than I originally expected. We went at around 2.30-3 pm on a Sunday for late lunch and we’re surprised to see how full the restaurant was! There was only one person running the floor so it took a little while to get the menu and to order. The menu isn’t too big, featuring a couple of Uyghur staple dishes. Each dish comes in both English and Chinese, and is accompanied with a picture – making it much easier for those who have no clue about what the menu is saying.
Here is what we ordered:
Zhong Pan Ji (£25)
On the menu, this dish is listed as Da Pan Ji or Zhong Pan Ji. The difference between the two lies on the size. In Chinese, the word 大 (Da) means big, whereas 中 (Zhong) means medium. To translate the name directly, it’s “Big Pan Chicken” and “Medium Pan Chicken” respectively.
Since there’s only the three of us, we ordered the medium one to share.
The dish is a very typical dish from the Xinjiang region. The dish is made of chicken, garlic, ginger, chillies, peppers, potatoes, and some handmade shaved pasta. Even though we only ordered a medium size, it’s absolutely massive. Our most favourite part of this whole dish ought to be the potatoes which were cooked super soft and had soaked up the amazing flavours from the sauce.
As for the chicken pieces, they were well-marinated with dark soy sauce, which released a very nice savoury taste. We felt that the chicken pieces were relatively bony, though it wasn’t an issue to me at all. While one would typically expect Asian noodles to be of long length, these are more like a shaved pasta and cut into pieces.
Tugur (Steamed Dumplings) (£8)
You can never go wrong with dumplings. These dumplings were filled with lamb meat. Albeit merely steamed, these dumplings were far from tasteless. This is when the quality of meat gets the highlight. It was naturally very juicy so it doesn’t really need other sauces to go with it. I find the dumpling dough thicker than the typical Chinese dumplings. Despite being thicker, it didn’t taste overly doughy at all. In terms of the look of it, it has the shape of traditional Chinese dumplings but smaller in size which reminded me of Turkish manti. My impression for these dumplings is a true fusion of Chinese and Turkish and I absolutely loved it.
Uyghur sis Kabab (Lamb Skewers) (£2 each)
These are the Chinese take on kebabs and were for sure the highlight of the meal. We pretty much came all the way for them as well. The lamb was presented on a massive steel barbecue skewer. The colour of the meat was cooked to an absolutely gorgeous colour. It was coated with cumin and chilli, with the aroma filling up the table upon serving. I must say the meat was very well marinated and incredibly flavourful. Tender, juicy, with a touch of chargrilled flavour and spices dancing on your palate – we just wanted to order more!
Stir Fry Beef Tripe (£10)
This may not be everyone’s cup of tea as beef tripe is basically cow’s stomach. But the three of us having always enjoyed it before and were very delighted to have found it on the menu.
The dish was stir-fried with a generous amount of onions, chillies and Sichuan peppers. I have a love-hate relationship with Sichuan peppers. I love the fragrance of it but disliked the pungent taste of it. So initially, I got slightly worried after seeing the dish served. However, to my delight, it hasn’t been bad at all! There is still a subtle pungency from the Sichuan pepper in there but nothing too overpowering. The beef tripe was cooked really tender with a mild hint of spice.
All stir-fried dishes come with either rice or noodles. We chose rice for this one. As it was very busy with only one woman running the floor, our rice got forgotten. But since we already have the hand shaved pasta from the Zhong Pan Ji, we kind of got enough carbs without filling ourselves up too much. We did ask for the rice at the end as takeaway and packed up the small portion of leftovers.
…we enjoyed Etles Restaurant a lot and thought it is no doubt a gem in the neighbourhood. Big portions, authentic food, and very reasonable prices – there’s nothing to complain about really! Yes, service might have been slow but considering it’s’ a family-run restaurant and with just very few people managing everything in the restaurant, it’s totally understandable. If I lived close to the area, there would be no hesitation to visit the restaurant on a regular basis. Being Cantonese myself, Uyghur food is something familiar yet different. Etles gave me a sweet feeling of home but also excitement in trying out something new and unique. It is definitely one to visit and worth the effort.
Everything is halal at Etles Restaurant.
Nearest station: Walthamstow Central
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