It’s safe to say this entry is long overdue. After eating so many meals at this restaurant since arriving in Beijing, I’m not quite sure why we haven’t written about it sooner, but better late than never.
I’m referring to Crescent Moon, which serves Xinjiang Uyghur food. For those not familiar with these terms, Xinjiang is located in north-west China, and the Uyghur people are a Turkic ethnic group living in this region.
The first thing one notices when entering the restaurant is the colourful, traditional clothing of the waitresses, who have long, braided hair and distinguishing Uyghur features – green/blue eyes and European-looking faces, reflecting their part-Caucasoid ancestry. Most Uyghur are Muslim, so the music, decorations and writing around the restaurant reflect this. Jess particularly loves the pigeon statues sitting in the corners of the ceiling.
A simple but favourite dish of ours is the peanuts soaked in brown vinegar. Washed down with a cold, Sinkiang beer (it comes in pale, regular or dark brews), it’s the ideal way to start the meal. I’ve soiled many a shirt by trying to get more than one peanut to stay in between my chopsticks – perhaps next time I should ask for a bib, or better still, a spoon!
Without fail we always order the lamb kabobs (kebabs), a signature dish of the region. These arrive on long metal skewers and are sprinkled generously with spices including cumin, chilli powder and salt. If you do order the kebabs, listen out for the waitresses screaming out loudly to “RACHMAN” to cook more kebabs. Presumably he’s the little genius upstairs in the kitchen who sits all evening over the hot coals making these delicious creations. The meat is always tender and juicy, and although Jess doesn’t eat the fatty pieces which are included on each skewer, I gladly eat hers. I’ve not tried better kebabs/chuanr in China. We always order the house-made sweet yogurt to dip the meat into – it’s a terrific combination. Not quite as terrific a combo as banana and Nutella, but terrific nonetheless.
The fish-flavoured eggplant (yu xiang qiezi) is rich, silky and smooth and always way too hot to eat until it’s been on the table for at least 10 minutes. Still, I’ve burnt my tongue too many times than I care to remember because I can’t resist the flavours and wait for it to cool down.
The fried beans with garlic and Sichuan peppers is another one of our go-to dishes, even though I don’t like Sichuan peppers. Like a greedy bear in a honey pot I’ll eat every last morsel of garlic, carefully avoiding the peppers, but the dish overall could do with a little less salt in my opinion.
The cold vegetable salads – one with purple cabbage and a sweet dressing and another with finely chopped onion, tomato and cucumber served with a sweet and sour vinegar dressing – are the perfect complement to all of the above.
For atmosphere and consistently good food with no frills, we strongly recommend a meal at Crescent Moon. You’ll find it down Dongsiliutiao hutong, past all the plumes of kebab smoke from all the other little restaurants and outdoor diners sitting at little tables along the street. After writing this I can almost taste the juicy lamb … think we might head there again tonight!!