Spicy beef laghman noodles: hand-pulled wheat noodles with mild and spicy peppers
When Clairemont restaurant Kroran Uyghur Cuisine opened in mid-2018, it brought new cultural fare to San Diego, one not often found within the United States. I was excited to try it and spent most of a subsequent Feast story relating details I’d learned about the long history of the Uyghur people, and their vast homeland of Xinjiang, a purportedly autonomous region in western China. At that time, I rather glibly pointed out how refreshing it was to learn about the culture of distant lands through its food rather than on through upsetting circumstances covered by the nightly news.
4310 Genesee Avenue #105, San Diego
I didn’t realize it, but at that very moment, the Uyghurs of Xinjiang were in the midst of something newsworthy. A week after my story about Kroran, a United Nations report stated that, “China had turned the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region into something that resembled a massive internment camp shrouded in secrecy.”
Subsequent reports suggest more than a million Uyghurs and other Muslims in the region have been forced into what have been called “re-education camps.” They’re held indefinitely, without due process and, among other things, forced to eat pork as the Chinese government works to suppress Uyghur culture under the guise of “vocational training.”
Manti beef dumplings from Kroran Uyghur Cuisine
Despite human rights groups and scholars decrying the cultural genocide, the massive forced indoctrination program hasn’t received much press in our country, so consumed has our media been with Trump and the pandemic. The topic didn’t once come up at this year’s presidential debates, even as candidates discussed broader China policies.
I don’t bring it up because there’s much I think you, or I, can do about it, outside of writing our elected representatives. But because the Kroran restaurant continues to be a fine cultural addition to our city, and the availability of Uyghur cuisine something something the food-loving among us should seek to preserve.
A beef soup with meatballs, bok choy, tofu, mushrooms, and glass noodles
Actually, the quality of Kroran’s menu has only gotten better since its first year open. The flavors in its hand-pulled laghman noodle dishes are more complementary, the sauces better concentrated. Its hefty, hand-wrapped manti sit somewhere between beef pierogi and Chinese dumplings. And, on top of roasty kebobs ranging from lamb to chicken, I recently enjoyed a sumptuous and warming beef soup, thick with meatballs, chunks of tofu, bok choy, mushrooms, and glass noodles.
Restaurants serving this kind of food are rare enough in America’s largest cities, which I take to mean we’re lucky to have it. Especially so knowing the culture’s traditions are under threat. If you enjoy such things, now seems like a great time to support it, pandemic shutdown and all. Besides, it holds up well as take-out.