Shanghai Day 1: A muslim friendly restaurant in Shanghai town – Yakexi Restaurant for Xinjiang fare

It is difficult to get out of bed if not for the temptation of breakfast 🙂

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We landed at 12.30am on 20th February and only left the airport at about 1:15am after waiting for everyone to clear immigration. We finally arrived at Courtyard by Marriot, Puxi after another 1 hour on the road. Sleep was well after 3am!

The very next morning, after a quick breakfast at our hotel; Courtyard by Marriot, Puxi Shanghai (blog post next), our next itinerary was lunch. Yes, it may sound crazy but it isn’t because the majority of us opted to sleep late and skipped breakfast, though obviously NOT me. 🙂

We had a guide and a coach bus arranged for us throughout our Shanghai trip. Here’s Alex, our witty, wonderful and patient guide!

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As the bus pulled out of the parking from our hotel, I eagerly scanned our surroundings. For many (it not all) of us, it was our first real-life visual of Shanghai city. The street weren’t as dirty as I had thought (I blame that perception on what I read and was told by friends about China) and were actually rather picturesque at some parts.

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But at some parts mayhap a bit “too picturesque”. We were shocked at the liberal display of clothes and undergarments outside of windows, buildings and on trees. The Chinese deemed anywhere with the remote chance of sunshine appropriate for airing their clothes.

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There will be many more of these pictures over the next few posts as I will be narrating my Shanghai trip so don’t be startled yea! 🙂

Lunch was at a Muslim friendly restaurant in Xikang Lu, Jing’an District, about 15 mins coach ride from our hotel. Alighting from the coach, we were perplexed to see a “naan” stall right in front of the restaurant; though it did provide a good theatrics distraction.

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And the belly dancing Uyghur dancers poster and the Turkish looking dude flipping naan bread did got us disoriented for a while.

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But media being media, we couldn’t resist poking around and shoving our cameras into the oven and his face to snap some shots.

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But the cold didn’t keep us outside for long. We sought the warmth of the restaurant after a few shots.

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The decor seems to be a mix of Chinese (round banquet tables and chopsticks for cutlery) and Malay/Arabic (the arches and the colours of gold and green with mosaic patterned walls). There were even a small stage at the front of the dining area.

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Apparently, Yakexi Restaurant is a restaurant with live traditional song and dance performances in the evening.
It serves Xinjiang cuisine (Chinese: 维吾尔菜) which reflects the cooking styles of many ethnic groups of the Xinjiang region, and refers particularly to Uyghur cuisine. Because of the Islamic population, the food is predominantly halal (Wikipedia).

Since it was our first day in Shanghai, we had a shock when we were presented with so many dishes at one meal. However, over the course of the next few days, we got used to it.

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Xinjiang fare is mostly mutton, beef, fish, chicken and rice. A popular dish is skewered meat alike kebabs. The meats are topped with seasonings of chili powder, black pepper and god knows what else but really really finger-licking good!

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The “naan” bread we saw outside turned out to be a traditional Xinjiang bread (coincidentally named “Naang” )  that’s spiced, toasted and cooked up to be eaten with lamb and mutton.

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Another basket was served hot, fluffy and crisp on the sides. This was addictive!

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Equally good was the fries. Yes, fries. In fact, the prawns were secondary players on this plate.

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More breads (but soft chinese mantous) came with more meat.

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In Shanghai, common ingredients are cabbage, broccoli, taufu (of many textures and kinds) and wood fungus. Sometimes they are served as individual dish, sometimes all combined together as one.

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And here’s the all-in-one; a piquant, savoury sweet “stew” with meat. Delicious!

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This was akin our sweet and sour pork, except that it wasn’t pork.

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For an idea of the taste of this, you’re not far off if your guess is somewhere along the lines of Korean hot pot, though the use of spices are not exactly similar.

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The last dish was a complex sourish, sweet, savoury with a hint of heat (from chilli) fish dish. This was certainly new to all of us and those who tried it loved it.

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I was disappointed at first (though it was expected) to know that all our meals are either halal or pork-free since this is a media group with some Muslims on board. But our meals in Shanghai was all delicious and adeptly prepared; though some were common Chinese dishes, but that was balanced with some rather unusual ones. However, I won’t say it’s all entirely Shanghainese cuisine that we had, but we were well fed with delicious food throughout our trip. More posts coming up next! 🙂

Yakexi restaurant,
379 Xikang Lu, near Wuding Lu (西康路379号, 近武定路). Tel: (0)21-6267- 3755. Hours: 11:30am-10pm, daily
By train: Near Wuding Lu, Metro Line 2 Jing’an Temple Station

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** This is a media trip with the Air Asia X team together with media from Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. We were in Shanghai for the Air Asia X inaugural Shanghai flight launch and had the good fortune to explore Shanghai for 5D4N.