As’salam is a restaurant in International City which specialises in cuisine from the Xinjiang province, an autonomous territory in northwest China and home to many ethnic minority groups, including the Turkic Uyghur people. To call it a Chinese restaurant would be correct but misleading because there’s no chicken chow mein served here, no kung pao prawns or beef broccoli oyster. Xinjiang food is mainly roasted mutton, kebabs, roasted fish and rice. The closest thing to stereotypical Chinese food is their Lagman – BanMian noodles. As’salam is located in Building F10 of the China Cluster, Dubai’s unofficial China Town. Its interior is surprisingly large, well-appointed and includes a private dining room.
There are so many dishes one should try. My favourites include Uyghur polo or “rice pilaf”. If you know Central Asian cuisine you will immediately see the similarity between Kabuli Polo, Uzbek Plov and Uyghur Polo – common to all are shredded carrots mixed in with rice and topped with pieces of fatty mutton. As’salam’s version comes garnished with an assortment of dried berries. Another must have is their short skewered mutton kababs, called Kawap. Dusted in a rub of ground cumin, red pepper and God-only-knows-what-else, their kababs are unique to say the least. I found the ones at As’salam grossly overcooked though, especially the Kao Yang Yao (kidney).
Uyghur pulled noodles, known as Läghmän (or Längmän in Uyghur and Banmian or Latiaozi in Mandarin Chinese) are another must try. Almost as thick as udon noodles, they are full-bodied and chewy. Try the Gan Ban Mian (literally translated as ‘dried mixed noodles’) – they’re really good, especially if you like your noodles a little spicy. The same can be had as a soup (which we also tried). It differs from other Chinese soups because of the strong taste of tomato. If, like me, soup is your thing then you might also want to consider their Hun Tun or dumpling soup – it’s a meal on its own and quite delicious.
Service is definitely a As’salam strong point. We were looked after by a bubbly Filipina named Margie who, like the other female staff, was in full Muslim regalia. She fussed over us like a sister would her hungry brothers.
That said, I cannot say (hand on heart) that I was blown away with the food in the same way as I was at Intizar, just down the road. I appreciate that this is the restaurant Chef Yari left Intizar to establish but the truth is that there was nothing here, except the service, which Sheikh @mansourmadani and I preferred to what we had at Intizar. Therefore, my recommendation is to….try both but try them – they’re quite an experience.
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Xerxes (pronounced Zûrk’seez) physically dines at, or orders from, each and every venue he reviews. He pays in full for whatever he and his companions eat, drink, take away or occasionally throw at each other. Xerxes accepts no money, gifts, discounts or free meals in return for reviews or favouritism. What you have read was NOT influenced in any way by the venue. Join his culinary journey on Instagram: @ravenousxerxes or reach out to him via email on email@example.com.