After they failed to overthrow the Qing Dynasty in 1877, thousands of Muslims living in Western China, called Dungans, were exiled to Imperial Russia, settling on the very fringes of the empire. There, a singular cuisine survived for centuries. In 2018, descendants of those displaced Muslim Chinese opened Lagman House, what is likely New York’s only Dungan restaurant.
The great-grandparents of Gulshat Azimova and her husband, Damirzhan Azimov, were among the lucky few who survived the forced, deadly crossing of the Tien Shan mountains into modern-day Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. Today, Gulshat hand-pulls the traditional, chewy noodles that appear throughout Lagman’s menu. She cooks alongside her daughter, while her husband and several other children oversee the front of a truly family-run restaurant.
While the neighborhoods surrounding Lagman’s home in Sheepshead Bay are no stranger to Central Asian cuisines, ranging from Korean-Uzbek to Uyghur, the restaurant stands alone in the story of the Dungans’ unique displacement. “You’re Chinese, but at the same time you are Muslim, but at the same time you also have a Russian background,” Aliakbar Azimov, who manages the restaurant, told a local news station.
The menu opens with a potpourri of salads ranging from beef tongue to pickled carrots to bean jelly; the server will prudently recommend several to share. Gulshat’s noodles anchor the offerings, appearing cold in the Kyrgyz classic ash lan fin (also known as ashlan fu), a sour-spicy salad of egg, noodles, and vegetables, as well as the classic lamian, where fried beef and onion are garnished with cilantro atop a hot bed of thick noodles. The huashi soup offers several varieties of meatballs in a vinegary, peppery broth swimming with boiled cabbage. Pillowy dumplings known as manti are served in bamboo steamers, sprinkled with thin-sliced scallions.
Dungan fare runs the gamut of a culinary tasting experience, ranging from hot to cold, tangy to rich, creamy to crunchy. The Azimov family’s one-of-a-kind restaurant makes something so singular feel strangely familiar.
Know Before You Go
The restaurant is closed on Sundays.