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Taste & Texture

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cuisine reflects the cooking styles of many ethnic groups in the Xinjiang region of China. Since the area is populated by Muslims, the food is mainly halal. The cuisine melds the spicy flavours of its native Islamic populace and neighbours, with the tastes and textures of traditional China.

Comprising mainly of non-vegetarian dishes, Uyghur food has provided a diverse and tasty introduction to the broader Chinese table. Ingredients used in the Southeast Asian countries are similar throughout most of the regions due to the proximity of borders and combined influences from India and China that have affected indigenous taste and cooking styles.

Due to the proximity of the borders between countries in Southeast Asia, and to combined influences from India and China that have affected indigenous taste and cooking styles, the ingredients are similar throughout most of the region while they are nonetheless manipulated by each culture to suit their palate and taste.

The Uyghur cuisine is gaining popularity in other parts of Southeast Asia since simple daily meals and elaborate feasts characterise all Southeast Asian culinary cultures. The only challenge is to take this cuisine to smaller cities where setting up the supply chain is very difficult. An investment of Rs 1-1.5 crore is required to set up a kitchen serving this cuisine, depending upon the location and size of the restaurant. Also, because of high attrition, it becomes difficult, so to remain consistent, staff training has to be a permanent process.

For Uyghur cuisine, the most important spice is the Uyghur spice mix, which is a unique mix of seven spices comprising of cumin, Szechuan chilli flakes, black pepper, Szechuan pepper corns, ginger powder, garlic powder and sea salt. Roasted mutton, kebabs, roasted fish and rice are the signature ingredients of this cuisine.

The technique of cooking Uyghur food is a mix of various styles since it is a combination of steaming, roasting, stir fry, pan grills and live charcoal grills. Chinese wok, frying pans, sauce pans, stock pot, cane baskets and non-stick pans are mainly used for preparing the dishes. Chinese high-pressure burner, charcoal grill, skillet, low-pressure burners, ovens and steamers are some other essentials. There are many equipment vendors in India delivering high-quality equipments. The investment in equipment could be to the tune of Rs 10-15 lakh.

Cooking Uyghur dishes is economically efficient as wok cooking is used, which requires low amount of fuel and makes deep-frying easy. Meat and vegetables are typically chopped into small pieces prior to cooking, which means that food cooks very quickly. Most food is cooked by quick blanching or stir-frying and steaming. The food can be eaten by forks, spoons, chopsticks, and on skewers.

What makes Ahoy!Asia stand out in the burgeoning Asian culinary map of the capital is the introduction of the Uyghur cuisine. Starters include Tangjiao (Uyghur style lamb dumplings soup in a delicate meat broth enhanced with coriander and spring onions), Manti (lamb, cumin and onion-filled dumpling), Chuanr (spicy lamb skewers flavoured with fennel, cumin and Sichuan pepper, grilled over charcoal and served with yoghurt dip), and Toho Kawap (chicken wing kebabs infused with Xinjiang spice mix, grilled over charcoal and served with a yoghurt dip).

The menu art Ahoy! Asia offers big bites such as Belik Kawap (whole silver pomfret marinated with Xinjiang spice mix, grilled over charcoal and served with stir fried veggies and yoghurt dip); Zhua Fan (Uyghur pilaf cooked with fresh mutton, carrot, chickpeas and rice, served with Uyghur style yoghurt); and Dapanji (chicken stew with vegetables and whole spices, served with Uyghur spiced pilaf).

Ahoy! Asia also offer innovative beverages such as Po Cha (Tibetan style butter tea); Teh Tarik (Malaysian pulled tea); Cha Yen (Thai tea); Ahoy Fish Bowl Ice Teas; tamarind, orange and thyme drink; tomato, Wasabi and chilli cocktail; frozen sour apples; egg soda; plum rum tale; and Tokyo iced tea.

Most of the ingredients are now available in India and there are importers also who provide all kinds of ingredients. Ahoy! Asia sources its ingredients (imported or local) from reliable and established suppliers in Delhi; and seasonal fresh produce. Some of the brands are Soba Noodles-Kobe, Udon Noodles-Green Label, Straw Mushrooms-Thai AD, Rice Stick 5mm- How How, XO Sauce- Lee Kum Kee, Laksa Paste- Woh Hup, Sesame Oil-Double Dragon, Cooking Wine- Shao Hsing, Soy- Kikkoman, etc.

About the Author
Arun Chanda, Director, Ahoy! Asia, is a culinary wizard and a musician at heart. With more than 20 years in the hospitality industry, he has a wealth of experience in Culinary & F&B operations and management, and specialises in conceptualisation of F&B brands, menu development, food styling, kitchen and bar designs, brand development and operational processes. He has founded his own hospitality consulting firm called Mint Hotels & Restaurants Consultancy Pvt Ltd in New Delhi.