PLEASE NOTE THIS RESTAURANT IS CLOSED
There are many places to get all kinds of lamb dishes in downtown Flushing from toothsome shreds of spicy cumin lamb to an entire spice-encrusted rack of lamb, but there’s none quite like a place I call Erqal Uighur. I call it that because despite being open since May, the place has yet to put up a sign. I only know the name Erqal because it’s printed on the receipt. Not only does it have the distinction of being the only Uighur spot in Flushing, it’s the only one serving Chinese burritos.
Succulent lamb skewers ($1.61 apiece) are among the specialities here, but the real star is something called lamb leg polo ($8.96) , or what I have dubbed the Uighur burrito. I call it that because the polo—a Uighur style pilaf whose current lovely incarnation is shot through with fruit and carrots—and the mutton haunch, side salad, and blob of sweet yogurt are served atop a gigantic tortilla. It comes with sidecar of lamb broth, all the better for dipping the meat. Be sure to take a straw, you might be lucky enough to score a marrow bone. I’m not quite sure what the logic behind serving a mutton leg on top of a food-service grade flour tortilla is, but I didn’t let that stop me from making a burrito, nor should you.
Three months ago when I first tried yang tui zhua fan—as the lamb leg dish would be called in Mandarin—it was served in a foil takeout container with the tortilla lining the bottom along with that delicious yogurt and a side salad. The yogurt, wrap, and side salad are still there, but the foil takeout container has been replaced by a much better presentation: a wooden dish.
One of my favorite things at Erqal Uighur when they first opened was the ice cream. Freshly churned at the counter it was not only a good show, but delicious. When I first met Kudret Yakup the man behind Erqal Uighur—a wiry gent clad in a Harvard Business School T-shirt—I asked him why he discontinued the ice cream and he told me he was trying to focus on getting everything else right. I was pleased to see the other day that the ice cream, a wonderful concoction of milk, eggs, and brown sugar has returned. As for the wraps—which come from Aladdin Bakery—he says that he’s been trying to source bread. I’m not quite sure I buy that since I read elsewhere that’s he’s thinking of turning the concept into a Uighur Chipotle. Kudret, if you’re reading this please don’t do that. Also, I can get you some awesome Uzbek bread. It’s perfect with plov, pulao, or polo as the case may be.
Erqal Uighur, No. 5, New World Mall, 136-20 Roosvelt Ave, Flushing, NY 11354
It would be interesting to learn his story since the Chinese government doesn’t allow the Uighur people to have passports, essentially imprisoning them in a country where they are treated like second-class citizens. It probably wasn’t easy to get here.
With the recent openings of a Thai and Korean counter also, its good to see the diversity of cuisine growing in the New World Mall food court.. The Uighur place is my new favorite.
Hey D. Yes that would be interesting. All I know is he’s the first Uighur grad of Harvard. I do like their food, but wish it was a bit more consistent and am always glad to see diversity in Flushing’s food courts. Do you remember that when New World opened there were burgers and pizza?
I have become a video fan of your and hope to have a food tour with you soon. There is a Food Ranger (Trevor James) youtube video of the place in China where the Uighur people live. James concentrates on street food in Asai and this video shows how it is prepared locally. This place was closed last time I went to the Mall. It is on my list, higher now after your nice write up. Kepp them Coming!
They were open when I stopped by yesterday. Happy to have you take a food tour sometime, find me at https://www.airbnb.com/experiences/99005