The village of Yrdyk is approximately 10 km west of Karakol. Here lives the closed community of Dungans, the successors of the Muslim Chinese, in China described as Hui. Until recently, only Dungans who are married to Dungans are allowed to live in Yrdyk.
About 140 years ago, the Dungans were expelled from China and came in three groups to Kyrgyzstan. One of these groups settled in Yrdyk. The other two groups were largely assimilated by the local population. Approx 1000 people came to Yrdyk. Today, about 3000 inhabitants live here. They have kept their own culture, which is reflected in architecture, clothing and many other habits.
Yrdyk has two attractions, a mosque, and a Dungan Museum.
At the mosque, we meet Aman from Destination Karakol, with whom we already made the food tour in Karakol.
He gives us an overview of the history of the mosque. Originally it was designed by the same architect who built the Dungan Mosque in Karakol. The mosque in Yrdyk should be twice as big. During the construction phase, an insurrection of the Kyrgyz against the Russian Empire took place, and the Dungan also joined the uprising.
But the uprising was defeated and the unfinished mosque turned into a warehouse. Then it was burnt down by the Dungans. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the independence of Kyrgyzstan, today’s mosque was rebuilt 20 years ago. Only men have access.
The Dungan museum is only a few streets away. Here, Mr. Lyck Lee awaits us already. He even speaks a little German. Aman acts as an English interpreter.
The immigrant Dungans belong to two ethnic groups, the Ma and the Lee. Mr. Lee is 65 years old and, as the name suggests, a representative of the Lee ethnic group. He says that Bruce Lee is one of his relatives 🙂
He tells the story of the Dungan which came as Arab warriors to China to support the emperor. To make them stay in China, they were married to Chinese women. Paintings and pictures show these couples. Dungans live according to Chinese tradition and customs but have Muslim faith.
150 years ago there was an uprising in China because of the restrictions on the living conditions for farmers. After a 15-year fight, the people had to escape over the Tien Shan Mountains in wintertime.
Original photos show their lives on the run with covered wagons and show how their first houses looked like. These were dug half into the earth and consisted of only a few walls and a roof. By hard work with fruit and vegetable-growing, they were able to create a degree of prosperity over the decades.
They also brought opium from China, which they planted and used as a medicine. At the end of his explanations, Lyck Lee shows us a typical Dungan dance.
But I have to leave the room because I once again feel discomfort and sit down in front of the museum on a bench. Lyck Lee notices and speaks to me. I tell about my stomach problem, he says he has a remedy for me. He brings me an apple from his orchard and it actually helped a little. Still, I prefer to stop eating this evening, even though we go to a family dinner afterward.
Dungan Family Dinner
In cooperation with destination Karakol, we are invited to Karim and Hamida’s house to experience a famous Dungan Family Dinner.
The property is built in Chinese style with courtyard, surrounded by the residential and farm buildings. To the street, there is a high wall with a gate. Karim also grows fruit and vegetables, but mainly garlic and onions, a large quantity of it is in a storeroom.
Hamida teaches to prepare us to Ashlan-fu, the most famous Dungan dish, by our own.
Ashlan-Fu consists of handmade pasta and cornstarch, served with a special sauce made of meat, onion, and vegetables, as well as soya vinegar.
Then we can take a seat in the modern equipped living room.
The food of the Dungans consists of meat, combined with vegetables, a Dungan salad. Depending on the season, one uses different vegetables, that can even be smoked.
The secret of the Dungan cuisine lies in the spices. The most popular spices are cloves, coriander, ginger, cinnamon, paprika, and dill. Finely tuned, each dish is individually prepared. Each Dungan dinner must include at least eight dishes.
Unfortunately, I could only visually inspect these delicacies. But Ursula certifies that it tasted excellent.
Plead read on > Przhevalsky Memorial Park
You like to enjoy a traditional Dungan dinner?
Please check Destination Karakol for further information and booking.
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Disclosure: Our trip was organized in cooperation with Discover Kyrgyzstan, and made possible by the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). All opinions are our own.
Text, photos and video: Copyright © myVideoMedia
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