Sunday, February 16, 2014

Good Value: Dolan Uyghur Food Heaven

It was a few weeks ago during Chinese New Year that we tried Dolan Uyghur (wee-gur) Food Heaven, after a friend attested it was cheap, unusual and delicioussomething different than the the typical Chinese restaurants that inhabit the area of Melb's CBD. Today the Uyghurs have communities across central Asia and China but apparently they used to mainly hang around near present-day Mongolia and they draw ancestry from both Europe and East Asia. Makes sense, then, that Uyghur cuisine draws influence from both China and the Middle East. I'd never heard of the Uyghur people before I discovered their food but my main point is that if you're looking for lamb, homemade noodles, some heat and full flavor, Dolan Uyghur on Little Lonsdale can be your main squeeze.

I kind of expected to have to wait for a table, but when we showed up with two others at 7:30pm on a Friday night there was plenty of room. You must start out with the lamb skewers. They're cooked to golden, tender and moist and dusted in fragrant cumin. These could get addicting. 

Then, choose a noodle dish or two. We ordered numbers two through five on the menu, but I'm not going to pretend here like I remember what they were called. We were a mix of spice-lovers and non, and while one of the dishes was certainly hot, the spicy-ness is pretty manageable. (I do occasionally boast that I have a high spice threshold, though.) The dish up top was the hottest, but maybe not the most exciting. The thin, white noodles didn't really hold the broth like some of our other choices, but the scattered chilies certainly added a kick. Charlie tried to ask if this dish was Thai spicy–we found out the designation doesn't cross cuisine borders.
The other dishes we got highlighted thicker noodles, and I preferred these. The dish above was mine. It too had little red chilies next to it on the menu, but didn't pack as much of a punch as the top dish. Sliced lamb, onions and greens were tossed in a salty and spicy sauce–for me this was a winner. I was kind of surprised by the small amount of lamb in each dish, frankly, but I guess meat rightfully takes the backseat to the wonderful and filling homemade noodles here.
I also really enjoyed Charlie's choice–his dish was kind of like a noodle, lamb and veg chop-salad. The whole thing was held together by a really rich, lovely broth, and this variation showcased the lamb-y flavor the best of all dishes we had. In the other dishes the lamb was kind of just tossed in and didn't really lend much flavor, but here each bite had meaty bravado. This one might kind of look like dog food, but trust me, it's a treat. (Presentation isn't important when you're one of the only restaurants in the region making Uyghur food, so get over it.)
Last was another lamb and noodle dish, this one mild and bright and reminiscent of pepper steak. I'm getting used to calling bell peppers capsicums here in Australia, but that's definitely one word I won't be bringing home with me. At least I can pronounce it correctly now, though, after 10 months of living here.

So, I'd definitely go with thick noodles, and something with at least a chili or two next to it if you visit Dolan Uyghur. Each dish was around $12 I think, and portions are BIG. You're not really stressing your wallet, but you'll def leave full and satisfied. It's BYO, too! Perfect.

Dolan Uyghur Food Heaven: 166 Little Lonsdale St., Melbourne 3000 
Dolan Uyghur Food Heaven on Urbanspoon

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