EVER had Xinjiang cuisine? Me neither! Located in the far northwestern part of China, Xinjiang has a unique demographic as it borders Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Krygyztan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. With such a melting pot of cultures, it is no wonder that the cuisine is one of a kind. Because the population is predominantly Muslim, most of the food is halal. Malaysians, especially Muslim-Malays, can now enjoy authentic Xinjiang food at Al-Amin Xinjiang Muslim Restaurant in SSTwo Mall, Petaling Jaya.
The place is simple and cosy, with wooden chairs and tables accentuated by Chinese-Muslim paintings on the wall. The place is owned by Mr Musa Ma, who hails from Xinjiang and is also a famous chef in the Chinese food scene. In case you’re wondering, the chefs here are also from China.
For starters, we had a stir-fried vegetable dish, which wasn’t particularly ‘Xinjiang’, although the taste was good. The ingredients and cooking style for this dish was more like regular Chinese stir-fry, with woodear fungus,tofu, brocolli and tomatoes in a light savoury sauce. The veggies were fresh and crunchy though!
‘Polo’ rice with stir-fried fish and a side of vegetables. The Polo rice is steamed and infused with bits of carrot and raisins, giving it a sweet and subtle flavour. The manager, Hussain Ma, explained that the recipes were all Musa’s creation and were modified to suit local taste buds. For example, the sauce that goes with the fish uses sambal for a local flavour.
One wouldn’t normally pair watermelon, or orange and lemon drizzle with seafood, but that is what this dish is about. It is quite similar to the popular Chinese dish of lemon chicken, albeit sweeter. The sweet taste was a bit too overpowering for me, but the fish was well done and fresh. The pairing wasn’t as weird as I thought it would be. Musa explained that they used fruits so that it would give patrons a balanced meal.
The lamb dumplings are a marriage between Xinjiang’s Han Chinese culture and the nomadic tribes of Mongolia and its surrounding areas – with the thin, slightly translucent dumpling skin (commonly called gaozi) to wrap around juicy, succulent and heavily spiced lamb meat. The conventional gaozi would usually have pork or chicken filling, so lamb, which is heavily used in tribal cooking, was something different.
It was really good! I’d give it an 8/10. It was also very filling – just one dumpling and I was half-full already.
The main star of the entire meal was the braised lamb cutlets. Also a Xinjiang specialty, the lamb is boiled in water for two hours, drained, and then cooked for another few hours to ensure each piece has a melt-in-your-mouth texture that falls off the bone. The carrot chunks were soft without being soggy, and the sauce, which is a mix of some sort of chilli oil that wasn’t spicy, lent a smooth feeling as you savoured the meat. There was none of that gamey smell that often comes with lamb, either. Perfect score!
For thirst quenchers, go for the house specialty, the Papaya and Sago milk with ice-cream. They also have desserts like goat’s yoghurt.
AL-AMIN XINJIANG MUSLIM RESTAURANT,
G – 53, Ground Floor,
40, Jalan SS2/72, Petaling Jaya
Tel: 03- 7931 9588
Business hours: Noon to 10pm daily