Exploring the Muslim Market on Aomen Lu
Published online at City Weekend Shanghai (01/09/2016) and featured in print.
Shanghai’s Muslim Market is a great alternative attraction in the city. Ran by a community of Uyghurs in Shanghai, a Turkic ethnic group from Northwestern China, the market is located near the Huxi Mosque and takes place every Friday. It’s a real feast for the senses with vendors serving an assortment of food and drink, presenting a great opportunity to sample some ethnic foods and to capture a different side of Shanghai street life. We managed to comb through the offerings, here are our top picks of what to eat at the Muslim Market.
Lamb Dumplings (RMB1 each)
We picked up lamb dumplings from the first stall on the street – many other stands along the market were also making fresh dumplings. The dumplings were supplemented by vegetable fillings and were lightly fried, making them moreish and delicious. And at RMB1 per dumpling, we’d say it’s breakfast on a dime.
Lamb and Pilaf (RMB25)
This traditional Uyghur dish is served with a hunk of lamb on top of a bed of rice, which is mixed with shaved carrots from the Xinjiang province. The pilaf is cooked in large, high-sided vessels by several of the vendors. The dish is simple and the portion filling and the tender chunks of lamb make it all the more enjoyable. It’s definitely a hearty meal for one.
It’s not often in China you get your hands on domestic dairy so we really wanted to try Uyghur yogurt, and ate it alongside our main pilaf meal. Extremely tangy but delicious, it added moisture to both the lamb and rice. While purchasing, the vendor had offered to add ice. Confused, we declined. As we walked down the street, we observed that it is common to mix the yogurt with shaved ice and boiled water. This did not look particularly appealing but the yogurt is actually drunk, rather than eaten, by most locals.
Prune Juice (RMB5)
We were intriguied by this mystery juice, which turned out to be made from prunes. It was quite sweet but also welcoming in the heat of the Shanghai summer. Freshly made, it is definitely worth purchasing among all the savory food.
Lamb Skewers (RMB5 each)
We couldn’t leave the Muslim market without trying out the lamb skewers. Ducking the billowing smoke from the grill, we grabbed a couple sticks of lamb skewers. The lamb was succulent and seasoned with cumin and chili power, making it pretty spicy. However, you might get skewers that have more fat than meat depending on your luck.
Naan (RMB5 each)
We picked up a few freshly made naan breads – this variation of naan can be described as a hardier, drier bagel. Firm and doughy, and seasoned with sesame seeds, they met all expectations and sated our starch craving. We recommend to takeaway some naan.
Biscuits (weight dependent, RMB13 for ten)
Craving a sweet treat at the end of our Uyghur feast, it was difficult to choose from the array of biscuits on offer at one of the most colorful stalls at the market. Priced by weight, we got a bag of ten, which included small, sugary, chewy biscuits and sesame balls as well as a fruit and nut bar. We only differed on opinion on the date and walnut pastry. It tasted like the favored Christmas treat, mince pies, or an overpowering date cake, depending on who you asked.
Lamb Carcasses (price unknown)
While we guess the meat is used in many of the dishes, we didn’t stick around to find out. However, we’re assuming after the meat is stripped away for skewers, most of the bones will be used in the lamb hotpot (which we, unfortuantely, did not get a chance to try).
Photos by Isobel Houston
What: The Muslim Market
Address: Changde Lu and Aomen Lu
When: Every Friday 11am-3pm