For Mother’s Day, Jan has requested Uyghur Shashlik and Naan for dinner. Normally, if I was making these dishes, I would make a tomato and cucumber salad as the side dish. For me this has gotten to be a bit boring and predictable. I want to do something else.
Note: When I told Jan that I was not planning to make Central Asian tomato and cucumber salad, she went, “You’re Not?!!!” [boobooFace], so I guess I am making three salads for this meal.
Recently, giant carrots have shown up in Lion Market. While I did see these gigantic carrots in Xinjiang, I am not sure if any Uyghar would eat them raw like this. In Han China, to the east, it is common to use “night soil” to fertilize the vegetable plots. As a result, you need to cook anything you harvest from those plots very well. I do not know anything about the horticultural techniques used by the Uyghur, so I do not know if their vegetables are safe to eat without cooking.
Most Western carrots are about an inch in diameter and 8 – 12 inches long. These Asian carrots are 1½ to 2½ inches in diameter and about 6 – 9 inches in length. I have never bought them befor, because if a Western carrot was allowed to grow that big it would be woody and tasteless. What have I been missing? While these carrots are enormous they are tender and tasty. I also saw raisins while we were in Kashgar’s Sunday Market. This too I will add to my salad. What I end up with may not be exactly Uyghur, but I believe it will taste nice.
For our 30th anniversary I made a special carrot salad for Jan. While she liked it, she admitted she preferred a honey/yogurt dressing on her carrots. Yogurt was readily available in Kashgar, as was honey. This will be the base of my dressing. As far as additional spice elements: coriander, because it complements the carrot taste so well; a pinch of salt and a pinch of Indian Chili power to give it a kick (and because I like it).
In many of my salads I like to add pine nuts for their nutty flavor. I do not think there is a pine tree within a thousand miles of Kashgar. Black Sesame seeds, a more available ingredient in that vast dessert, will step in for the pine nuts nutty flavor and also add an interesting color note. This dish should perhaps be more appropriately called a Uyghur inspired salad, because although all of the elements might be available in Xinjiang, I am not sure that any Uyghur cook would combine them in quite this way.
Karl’s Uyghur Carrot Salad
2 lb. carrots
¼ cup raisins
2 Tbs. black sesame seeds
½ tsp. coriander seeds
½ cup Greek yogurt
4 tsp. honey
¼ tsp. Kosher salt
¼ tsp. Indian chili power
1. Coarsely grate carrots and put them in a medium mixing bowl.
2. Toast the sesame seeds in a small skillet over a medium heat. Put them in a small bowl and set them aside.
3. Toast coriander seeds in a small skillet over a medium heat and crush them finely.
4. Add the ground coriander, yogurt, honey, salt, and chili to the small bowl and mix well.
5. Add the raisins and the dressing to the carrots and toss well to coat the carrots. Let the salad rest for at least 20 minutes to meld, tossing occasionally.