Map of China with Xinjiang in red (Wikimedia Commons)
If you weren’t looking for Ba Yi, you could easily miss it. But once you walk into this Xinjiang restaurant, located on the corner of Water Street and Pok Fu Lam Road, you’ll find yourself transported into a kitschy world that’s a cross between Central Asia and China, which, after all, is not an inaccurate description of Xinjiang itself.
Xinjiang is an autonomous province in the northwest of China, with Uyghurs making up the largest ethnic minority there. Bordering Russia, Mongolia and Kazakhstan amongst other countries, the area boasts food that might seem more familiar to residents of those far flung places than your average Hongkonger.
Xinjiang food is composed mainly of lamb, lamb, and mutton. I’m not a huge fan of baby sheep, and we also failed to order the roasted lamb leg ahead on time, so we settled with mere lamb dumplings.
They tasted like the inside of a barn to me, but I understand that some people, like my companions, like this flavor, and they certainly seemed to enjoy them greatly.
The cucumber, tomato and onion salad, however, was a delightfully tangy and refreshing side that you doesn’t see often in Chinese restaurants.
I would have gladly tried the camel pancakes, but they were out so we had the beef ones instead. You get little roti-style pancakes to pack with spiced ground beef to your heart’s content.
The shredded potato dish, a Chinese classic, did not disappoint. It’s kind of like French fries, minus the frying.
The tofu and preserved egg was my favourite. The egg was silky and the sauce comprised of perfectly-balanced savoury goodness.
This spicy beef bowl, perfect for the incoming winter, is a hearty and satisfying vat of oily, spicy, beef and vegetables with a pinch of mala, the numbing spice commonly featured in Sichuan cuisine.
Overall, this mid-priced restaurant makes for a nice change from regular Hong Kong fare. Those who have lived in the mainland will be quick to point out how it lacks complete authenticity, but to the uninitiated it’s a fun, different meal great for larger groups (when you can eat a whole lamb leg, or even a whole lamb, if you book in advance).
Ba Yi: 43 Water Street, Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong. 2484 9981. Tue. to Sun: 12pm-3pm,6pm-11pm. Closed Mon.
Photos: Laurel Chor/Coconuts Media