شىنجاڭ‎ Uyghur Irish Stew

Now this one…this one’s going to be a search engine disaster in the making. It may also be the one that gets me pushed over the proverbial edge of the Great Firewall. Sorry.

This stew is technically a basic Irish stew, though lacking in lamb and Guinness. I did, however, have some leathery supermarket Chinese beef and a bottle of  Sinkiang stout from the far, far west of China, from what’s known on maps as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (or شىنجاڭ ئۇيغۇر ئاپتونوم رايونى or Shinjang Uyghur Aptonom Rayoni or 新疆维吾尔自治区).  I made the stew yesterday, along with the spicy roasted pumpkin soup. It was a lovely autumnal dinner.

After nearly three years in China, with my Mandarin abilities being freakishly stunted in spite of repeated efforts at learning (I think I might be tone deaf), I occasionally find myself secretly wishing we could have moved to, say, Kashgar. Because, absurd as it may sound, at least I’d be able to communicate half-way intelligently there. My 6 years in Turkey have finally proven to be of some use in retrospect: I can understand elementary Uyghur with pretty much no effort.

About a year ago, I downloaded a Teach Yourself Uyghur pdf textbook (as one does) from a university website and realized after only 2 minutes of study that I knew far more Uyghur than I knew of Mandarin after 80 hours of intensive coursework.  My battered self confidence rose somewhat with that realization. Turkish is to Uyghur what Flemish is to Dutch or Afrikaans, at least at the elementary level. They share a lot of Arabic, Farsi and Turkic root words, just like English can be deconstructed back into its French, Germanic and Old English/Anglo Saxon origins. It’s fascinating.

Can I show you some basics? The words on the left are Uyghur and the ones on the right are Turkish. If there’s just one word, it’s the same in both languages.  The Uyghur spellings were taken from the textbook I found, so any irregularities are theirs. I wouldn’t know any better. The Turkish equivalents came from my faulty, tired brain, so if I made any spelling mistakes I apologize.

My Handy Dandy Basic Turco-Uyghur Glossary


          1. bu- this
          2. shu-şu- that
          3. ne- what?
          4. ne(de)- at what?
          5. qanche- kaç – how many?
          6. kitab/p- book
          7. kim- who
          8. -mu (question suffix for  yes/no questions)
          9. u- o – he/she/it
          10. adem- adam- man
          11. bir- one
          12. birinchi- birinci- 1st
          13. ikki- iki- two
          14. uch- üç- three
          15. tort- dört- four
          16. besh- beş – five
          17. alte- altı- six
          18. yette- yedi- seven
          19. sekkiz- sekiz – eight
          20. toqquz- dokuz- nine
          21. on- ten
          22. on bir- eleven
          23. on ikki/iki- twelve
          24. yigirme- yirmi- 20
          25. ottuz- otuz- 30
          26. az- few
          27. yüz- 100/face
          28. koz- göz- eye/eyes
          29. yerim- yarım- half
          30. gül- flower (in Turkish it’s specifically a rose)
          31. depter- defter- notebook
          32. söz- word
          33. ders- lesson
          34. derslık- pertaining to lesson
          35. sohbet- dialogue/conversation
          36. qelem- kalem- pen
          37. kichik- küçük- small
          38. oghul- oğul- boy/son
          39. isim- name/noun
          40. ish- iş- work
          41. yengi-  yeni- new
          42. kerek- gerek- necessary
          43. ich- iç – inner part, within
          44. her- each
          45. it- dog (but kind of rude in Turkish, like ‘itin olurum’- ‘I wanna be your dog’)
          46. at- horse
          47. beliq- balık- fish
          48. pikir-  fikir- idea
          49. eng- en- most (superlative)
          50. aq- ak- white
          51. emma- ama- but
          52. tashliq- taşlık- covered in stone, gravelly (taş- stone, as in Tashkent= Stone City)
          53. tekrar- repetition
          54. top- ball
          55. su- water
          56. bugün- today
          57. belkim- belki- maybe
          58. bil(mek)- to know
          59. kelmek- gelmek- to come
          60. kormek- görmek- to see
          61. qara- kara- black/dark
          62. yeshil- yeşil- green
          63. qizil- kızıl- red
          64. manta- mantı- steamed dumplings
          65. hem- also/as well
          66. we- ve- and
          67. yash- yaş- age
          68. etmek- to do
          69. ye/yemek- to eat
          70. til- dil- language/tongue
          71. demek- to say/speak
          72. sen/siz- you/y’all (polite singular, but also plural in Turkish)
          73. shepke- şapka- peaked cap
          74. kun- gün- day/sun
          75. yaz(maq/mak)- to write
          76. oqu(maq)- oku(mak)- to read
          77. yer- place/location
          78. satmaq- satmak- to sell
          79. alma- elma- apple
          80. uzum- grape
          81. bashqa- başka- other/another
          82. yumshaq- yumuşak – soft
          83. Yurt- hometown/place of origin
          84. meydan- town square


So yes, I feel slightly less stupid when dealing with the Uyghur language, which is a welcomed feeling after nearly three years of feeling like an incomprehensible doofus in Mandarin. And so, my tribute to them in the form of a really lovely, comforting autumnal stew.



  • A bottle of stout
  • Beef or lamb, in cubes, from a slab about the size of three decks of cards
  • Spuds and carrots and about half a medium onion
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and pepper


You’ll need a wok to brown the meat and a crock pot or stew pot to cook everything together.

The process is very simple.


  • Cut up all the veggies into shapes and sizes that please you.
  • Cube the meat and marinate it for maybe an hour with some worcestershire sauce and a little salt and pepper
  • Brown the meat in the wok. The beef we get is weirdly watery and takes a while to brown.
  • Sautee the onion in the beef detritus in the wok, adding a little more oil.
  • Throw everything into the crock pot, including the bottle of stout and a bit of water so it has something to stew in, and cook on high for an hour then on low for another hour or two. It gets better with time so we tend to leave it going for the afternoon. Check every so often to make sure the liquid levels are okay.



Still life with spuds in the sink
This is what you get when you mix metaphors
Marinating the awkward beef
Chinese beef tends to be very dry...yet very wet.
Everything just gets thrown in, all haphazard
The crock pot, before the lid comes down
This was dinner: pumpkin soup, Irish stew, savoury buttermilk scones


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  1. Kirstin says:

    I bet you can also speak elementary Uzbek, Kyrgyz, Kazakh, and Turkmen too. I studied Arabic for three years before switching to Russian, and the few similarities between Arabic and Turkic languages are absolutely infuriating compared to how much I’m struggling на русском!
    Kirstin recently posted..where is home?My Profile

    1. MaryAnne says:

      I know that I can follow Azeri newscasts, though it’s not easy. When I lived in Istanbul I used to sometimes watch AzTV because their variety shows were brilliant (like, a half dozen little girls in poufy dresses and old skool Soviet hair bows dancing to the Prodigy’s Smack My Bitch Up). I’d love to see how much of the other ‘Stan languages I can pick up. When I was spending a lot of time in Arabic speaking countries back around 2005-2006, I was amazed by how much I could get by on using just shared pleasantries, greetings and shared root words (book, pen, square, library, etc).

      I’m always curious about differences though- I mean, in Turkish, a kazakh is a sweater… is Kazakhstan the land of sweaters? 🙂

  2. Sasha says:

    This looks delicious! I have another reason for to move to Kashgar besides your gift with the language, damn good lamb! Oh man I love Xinjiang food!

    1. MaryAnne says:

      Oh, me too! I love the whole lamb/yogurt/bread theme! Yum!

  3. Selly says:

    This looks so so so very yummy and really easy to manage…I would manage to make that without setting the kitchen on fire…yet another great recipe!!! Thanks for sharing!

    1. MaryAnne says:

      It’s very, very easy- we make it all the time (which is maybe why my instructions are so vague and blase…). Do make it- it’s comfort food!

  4. Gwyneth says:

    I miss Xinjiang, I really do. Not for the lamb, but for the bread. All of it, in its carbohydrate goodness. Also, whatever that dessert thing is with the honey and the walnuts and the dried fruit. Now, if you could figure out how to make that, perhaps? *grins evilly*

    1. MaryAnne says:

      I love bread. We can get Xinjiang bread here, but the folks nearest to us who sell it (a street-side kebab joint), have a tendency to sell stale rock-like round loaves— an affront to bread-loving cultures worldwide! I know from my travels what that bread *can* be so that’s just madness! Now, as for the honey, walnuts and dried fruit…tell me more!

  5. Oooooooh… this looks awesome! It’s also getting to be that ‘stew’ time of year. “You’ll need a wok to brown the meat” – you make me chuckle 🙂
    Nicola @ unhip squirrel recently posted..chai-spiced apple galetteMy Profile

    1. MaryAnne says:

      Heh, yeah- I suppose that was an odd sounding directive… but since that’s often the default pot here, it had to be said 🙂 And you know, a well seasoned wok does an AWESOME job of browning!

  6. TracyAnn0312 says:

    Wow these taste wonderful. I love to have it. Thanks for sharing the recipe. These is good these winter.

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