Alpargatas from Argentina, and Latina jeans

I’ve always had a slight interest in Argentina, ever since I turned down a scholarship to study for a year in Argentina. In this month’s post, I’ll write about alpargatas specifically, which is a type of traditional footwear from Argentina, and more generally about Latina fashion.

In my heart, I know I’ll never be Argentine. I’m not hug-y or kissey. Also, there are many things that I can’t understand, such as Argentine people’s very loose definition of time and punctuality, where being ridiculously late is totally fine. So I got invited to a birthday party of an Argentine friend. I actively tried to be late (by Latin American standards), purposely going shopping beforehand to ensure that I would be late. I was still too early, the first person to arrive, when other people were over an hour late.

The invitation to the party said ‘around (alrededor) 13:30′. I was thinking ‘what does ‘around’ mean?’ The day after the party, a Latino friend clarified for me:

Latino friend: ‘Around 1.30’ means 2 o’clock.

Me: So why don’t they say 2 o’clock?

Latino friend: Because if they say 2 o’clock, then people will turn up at 3 o’clock.

Me: !!! (speechless)

I also don’t understand Argentine people’s obsession with mate (pronounced ‘ma-tay’). Mate is a traditional drink, a type of tea made from the leaves of the yerba mate plant. It is the national drink of Argentina, and Argentine people drink it anytime and everywhere, out of a gourd with a silver straw called a bombilla. Mate is also drunk in Uruguay, Paraguay and the south of Brazil. When friends get together, they’ll drink mate out of the same gourd, sharing the same straw and passing the gourd back and forth between friends. I will drink mate, but I totally think it’s an acquired taste.

Drinking 'mate' with friends.

Drinking ‘mate’ with friends; drinking out of a gourd with a silver straw.

Don’t get me wrong. There are many things from Argentina that I love; for instance they cook a mean barbecue called asado, with beautiful meat. I like tango, and I love alpargatas. My soul may not be Argentine, but my soles can be. Haha!

Alpargatas are traditional footwear worn by gaucho, or cowboys, in South America. Gaucho are found in parts of Argentina, Uruguay and the south of Brazil. Gaucho are famous for riding horses and herding cattle on horseback. In the past, alpargatas were worn in rural areas. They can be worn by both men and women. Traditionally, alpargatas were monochrome, with cotton uppers and either rubber soles or soles made from jute. These days, alpargatas come in all sorts of colours and designs. Forget famous footballers; for me, I think that’s the one thing Argentina gave to the world: alpargatas. In particular, I feel that the label TOMS truly made alpargatas global.

A few years ago, alpargatas with jute soles, called espadrilles in English, were the height of fashion. They were everywhere and I was slightly obsessed with them, but I never managed to get a pair at the time. Probably because I was too picky. Styles I like didn’t come in my size and I didn’t like the ones that were available in my size, like gold or silver glitter alpargatas. And also I didn’t want alpargatas made in China.

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Shih Yen’s alpargatas from Argentina. Yes, they are very comfortable.

Finally, I have got myself a nice, traditional pair of alpargatas, made in Argentina. How does one wear alpargatas? They are casual footwear, which can be worn with or without socks, depending on how cold the weather is. If you’re going for a traditional Argentine look, you can wear them with a poncho and bombachas, or gaucho pants. I have neither poncho nor bombachas, but if I did, I think I could totally rock the gaucho look 🙂

This leads me to the second part of my post – Latina fashion. Since I didn’t have gaucho pants, I looked for something else to wear with my alpargatas. The only thing I have from anywhere even remotely near that region is a pair of butt lift jeans designed in Colombia. Just as Latino people’s concept of time confuses me, some Latina fashion also baffles me. For instance, you can get padded underwear that will give you a bigger butt! Whaaaat?? WHY?? Anyway, back to my butt lift jeans. When I told a Malaysian friend that I had bought a pair of butt lift jeans, my friend said, “Because you’re crazy?” To which, I replied, “No, because I’m curious.” I am still curious. Even after buying them and wearing them, I don’t understand why anyone would want butt lift jeans.

Shih Yen's butt lift jeans from Colombia.

Shih Yen’s butt lift jeans, designed in Colombia.

These jeans supposedly have special type of stitching to help lift the butt. To be honest, I can’t tell whether there’s any butt lifting action! To me, they just seem to be super tight jeans. In a bid to understand the butt lift jeans, I started asking Latino friends, both men and women, about their opinion of these jeans. Mostly I got 1 of 2 responses: they either laughed at my question, or were puzzled by my question. But in general, almost every Latino person I asked like this style; a couple of women were very passionately in favour of them.

I am still puzzled by butt lift jeans. I think perhaps Asian women are built differently from Latinas, and are not as curvy. I can only conclude that it is a cultural difference because of different definitions of beauty in different cultures. At least I have alpargatas, which I love.

Shih Yen wears alpargatas from Argentina with Colombian butt lift jeans.

Shih Yen wears alpargatas from Argentina with Colombian butt lift jeans.

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Dutch wooden clogs (klompen)

Happy new year 2017! It’s a brand new year and I’m excited at the start of this year to write about Dutch clogs. I have wanted to write about this type of footwear for ages and I’m happy to finally be able to do so.

When I think about icons related to the Netherlands, tulips, windmills and wooden clogs come to mind. The first ever wooden shoe came from the Netherlands, dating from about 1230 AD, meaning that the Dutch people have been wearing wooden shoes for almost 800 years. These wooden clogs are quite appropriately called klompen. In the past, these clogs were made by hand and cut from a single piece of wood. Nowadays, the clogs are machine made.

A gigantic wooden clog outside a Dutch souvenir shop. This clog is painted with a traditional motif to make the top resemble a leather shoe (Photo by Sim Kui Ping).

A gigantic wooden clog outside a souvenir shop in the Netherlands. This clog is painted with a traditional motif to make the top resemble a leather shoe (Photo by Sim Kui Ping).

The first guild of clog makers was formed in the Netherlands around 1570. Before the 16th century, only rich people could afford shoes, which were handmade from leather. Most people at that time didn’t wear shoes, so wooden shoes became a cheap footwear option for the masses. In the Netherlands, klompen were worn by peasants and farmers.

These days, Dutch people don’t regularly wear klompen anymore, though they are still worn by some people, mainly farmers and gardeners. Because klompen are made from wood, they are as safe as safety shoes or steel-capped boots, and can protect the wearer from sharp objects.

Nowadays, klompen are mainly sold as tourist souvenirs of the Netherlands, rather than as actual footwear.

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Colourful ‘klompen’ painted with a windmill design, in a souvenir shop in the Netherlands (Photo by Sim Kui Ping).

If an actual wooden clog is too large, klompen souvenirs can also come in mini forms, such as fridge magnets and pins.

A fridge magnet in the form of 'klompen' (Photo by Chang Shih Yen).

A fridge magnet in the form of ‘klompen’ (Photo by Chang Shih Yen).

Below is a brooch in the form of a pair of plain, unpainted ‘klompen’, a gift from a friend who used to live in the Netherlands.

A brooch in the form of 'klompen' (Photo by Chang Shih Yen).

A brooch in the form of ‘klompen’ (Photo by Chang Shih Yen).

Peranakan beaded slippers in Penang, Malaysia

Last month, I wrote about Chinese clogs in the state of Penang in Malaysia. This month, I am still staying in Penang, but this time I am writing about a type of footwear called Peranakan beaded slippers. Actually, these slippers are also known by many other names, such as nyonya slippers, ‘kasut manik’ in Malay, or ‘manik aey’ in the Chinese dialect of Hokkien. They may be spelt ‘manik’ or ‘manek’, which means ‘beads’ in Malay. I am calling them Peranakan beaded slippers because in my opinion, this is the most straight forward English term.

Peranakan is a Malay word that comes from the root word ‘anak’, which means ‘child’. Peranakan refers to someone born from the marriage between a native person and a foreigner. Originally, Peranakan was used to refer to the descendants of 15th and 16th century Chinese immigrants to the Malay archipelago. But technically, the term Peranakan can refer to anyone born in the Malay archipelago as a result of an intermarriage with a local. These are the countries of Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Brunei. Peranakan is still most commonly applied to Chinese people who have assimilated and adopted the Malay language and culture. Peranakan men are known as Baba while the women are called Nyonya. After writing that, I realized that people who are not from the region may have no idea how to pronounce the word ‘nyonya’. The closest I can describe it is that it is pronounced ‘neo-knee-ya’. Just say it really fast.

The Peranakans have a unique culture, a mix of Malay and Chinese, which seems to be slowly disappearing. Their language is a mix of Malay and Chinese. Their cuisine is famous. Known as Peranakan or Nyonya food, it is a fusion of Chinese and Malay cuisine. It existed way before the term ‘fusion food’ became fashionable.

The traditional dress of Peranakan women is the ‘baju kebaya’. If you don’t know what this looks like, female flight attendants on all the major national airlines in the Malay archipelago wear a modern version of the ‘baju kebaya’ as their uniform. These are the female flight attendants on Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Garuda Indonesia and Royal Brunei Airlines.

Shih Yen wears a vintage Nyonya kebaya with hand embroidery on the edges. This kebaya has no buttons, but is pinned with a kerosang.

At her graduation ceremony, Shih Yen wears a vintage Nyonya kebaya with hand embroidery on the edges. This kebaya has no buttons, but is pinned with a kerosang.

Close up of Shih Yen's kerosang or kebaya pin.

Close up of Shih Yen’s kerosang or kebaya brooch.

The traditional ‘baju kebaya’ consists of a sheer blouse with a batik sarong. The traditional kebaya blouse was always beautifully embroidered, especially all around the edges. The traditional kebaya blouse had no buttons. Instead, a 3-piece linked brooch was used to fasten it down the front. This brooch is called a ‘kerosang’ or ‘kerongsang’. There is a type of kebaya called the nyonya kebaya, worn mostly by Peranakan women of Chinese ancestry, especially in the Straits settlements. The Straits settlements are Malacca and Penang in Malaysia, and Singapore.The proper footwear when wearing a nyonya kebaya is Peranakan beaded slippers. There are two styles of Peranakan beaded slippers – covered or peep toe. These beaded slippers are handmade and time consuming to make. A design is first cross stitched onto the slippers, and then beaded over with very tiny glass beads called ‘manik potong’. Traditionally, nyonya women were proud of their cooking, embroidery and beadwork. A nyonya’s wedding day was an opportunity for her to show off her hand embroidery in her baju kebaya, and beadwork in her slippers.

Peranakan communities are found in Penang, Malaysia, so in this post, I will write about where you can buy Peranakan beaded slippers in Penang. One shop that sells these beaded slippers is Eng Ong Heong Trading on the eastern end of Jalan Burma, or Burma Road. I wrote about this shop last month, as it also sells Chinese clogs. This shop sells many things apart from Chinese clogs and Peranakan beaded slippers. This shop also sells Chinese prayer materials and retro things, like kerosene lamps, tiffin carriers and nyonya baskets. Nyonya baskets are tiered baskets, usually in a black and red colour, and are used for carrying food.

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Peranakan beaded slippers sold at Eng Ong Heong Trading in Penang. The beaded slippers shown here are all in a peep toe style.

Another shop in Penang that specializes in Peranakan beaded slippers is Hong Kong Shoe Store. Originally located on Muntri Street, it is now on Kimberley Street. This shop is famous also for being the place where famed shoe designer Jimmy Choo started out as an apprentice. Other than Peranakan beaded slippers, this store makes beautiful bespoke shoes. Mr Wong, the shoemaker at Hong Kong Shoe Store, can custom make shoes to any design, and to fit any size or shape. He learned the craft from his father, the late Mr Wong Sam Chai. The prices at this shop are also very reasonable.

Hong Kong Shoe Store, now at Kimberley Street, Penang, Malaysia (Photo by David Lee).

Hong Kong Shoe Store, now at 20 Kimberley Street, Penang, Malaysia (Photo by David Lee).

Chinese clogs (木屐) in Penang, Malaysia

When I write a blog post, I never really know which posts will be popular. There are some posts that are popular, which surprise me. One of my most popular post is on Chinese clogs, which I wrote about back in January 2012. People are very interested in this type of footwear, and I have received many comments and messages about Chinese clogs. This is surprising to me because I feel that Chinese clogs are a slightly old-fashioned type of footwear, something that my grandmother would wear. But it seems retro is cool these days, so I am again writing about Chinese clogs.

Chinese clogs (木屐), or ‘mu ji’ in Mandarin, literally translates as wooden clogs. My family calls them ‘cha kiak’ as this is the pronunciation of ‘Chinese clogs’ (木屐) in the Chinese dialect of Hokkien that we speak. Chinese clogs is a very old type of footwear. Apparently, Chinese clogs pre-date the Japanese ‘geta’ or Japanese wooden slipper. Chinese clogs are unisex, worn by both men and women. But clogs with straight sides are meant for men, whereas clogs with sides that curve inwards as if the clog has a waist, are for women. The clogs are made from wood, and are surprisingly comfortable to wear despite the flat, hard wood surface. Because of the elevated sole, the clogs keep the wearer’s feet clean and dry. There is no left or right side to a Chinese clog; you can wear them on either foot. Traditionally two pairs of clogs, usually painted red, form part of a dowry for a Chinese bride.

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Painted clogs. This pair is featured next to a live fish. The Chinese word for ‘fish’ (鱼) sounds the same as 余 the Chinese word for ‘plentiful’, so fish are a Chinese symbol of abundance, surplus and plenty.

Chinese clogs remind me of my childhood because they were commonly worn at my grandmother’s place. We wore regular unpainted clogs. I wore Chinese clogs as a child when I visited my grandmother and the clacking noise the clogs made on the floor reminds me of times spent at my grandmother’s shop. My paternal side of the family come from Hainan Island, and in Malaysia, we ran coffee shops, a very traditional Hainanese profession.

Chinese clogs (木屐) or 'cha kiak' from my grandmother's home

Plain, unpainted Chinese clogs (木屐) from my grandmother’s home.

This photo reminds me of my childhood at my grandmother's coffee shop.

This photo reminds me of my childhood at my grandmother’s coffee shop.

My father’s side of the family live in Penang, on the mainland side of the island state. It was a working class area, a bit rough, and when my father was young, gangs used to ask for protection money from the family’s coffee shop. The money was supposedly to ‘protect’ the shop, but if you didn’t pay up, it was the gangsters who would come and trash the shop. There were many gangs back then, with names like ‘see kang’ (four holes), ‘khong pek’ (08) and ‘ang hwa’ (red flowers). My aunt told me that back then even gangsters wore Chinese clogs. I find this funny because I don’t think of clogs as a tough guy gangster footwear. Rather, I associate them with something my grandmother would wear. Though I suppose one could use the wooden clog as a weapon, if you really wanted to. These days, the gangsters have moved into the loan shark business, rather than extorting money.

One of the questions that I get asked is ‘Where can I buy Chinese clogs?’ This is a hard question to answer because this is footwear that you would normally buy at the market or at a small sundry shop, which are becoming increasingly rare these days. But now I know of a shop in Penang which sells Chinese clogs. It is called Eng Ong Heong Trading on the Eastern end of Jalan Burma, or Burma Road. This shop sells many things apart from footwear. This shop sells Chinese prayer products, retro stuff, as well as traditional footwear like Chinese clogs and nyonya slippers (more on that in a future post).

If you want to buy Chinese clogs in Penang, you can't miss the entrance of Eng Ong Heong Trading on Burma Road, with its gigantic clog in front of the shop.

If you want to buy Chinese clogs in Penang, you can’t miss the entrance of Eng Ong Heong Trading on Burma Road, with its gigantic clog in front of the shop.

Chinese clogs are made by hand, but this is now a dying art as the traditional clog has to compete with modern footwear and the perception that clogs are old-fashioned and noisy footwear. There are very few skilled Chinese clogmakers these days, and clogmaking is a vanishing trade, going the way of TV repair men (remember them?).

An example of a Chinese clogmaker's workshop, where clogs are made by hand.

An example of a Chinese clogmaker’s workshop, where clogs are made by hand.

These days, clogs are more often sold as a souvenir item for tourists, rather than as actual footwear. You can also buy key chains and fridge magnets in the shape of Chinese clogs, if you feel that buying an actual clog is too much of a commitment.

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Souvenir key chains and fridge magnets in the shape of Chinese clogs, also sold at Eng Ong Heong Trading on Burma Road in Penang.

 

Alpargatas from South America

Recently, I’ve been a bit obsessed with footwear called alpargatas, and let me tell you why. It was a couple of months ago after I had just finished writing about Argentine tango shoes. I was walking along wondering what other footwear from Argentina I could write about. I was thinking about alpargatas, but I didn’t have a photo of them. Then, I saw a man walking ahead of me wearing the exact shoe that I was thinking about. I couldn’t believe it. I walked with him for 2 blocks. No, I was not following him! We just happened to be walking in the same direction for 2 blocks. I walked with him and stared at his shoes until I had to turn to go to my workplace. I had my camera with me that day and I wished that I had stopped him, but I am not enough of a lunatic to stop a complete stranger on the street and ask if I can take photos of his shoes! I really regretted it though for I never saw him again. But to be honest, I wouldn’t recognize him anyway; I would only recognize his shoes. For a while, every time I walked that way, I would look out for a man wearing alpargatas. I think of them as the shoes that got away, and the whole incident inspired me to write a poem. Yes, I wrote poetry about alpargatas! I debated whether or not to share my poem here, but decided that since this blog has been non-fiction so far, I would like to keep it that way. So after that very long preamble, let me get on with actually writing about alpargatas.

Alpargatas, or espadrilles in English, are traditional footwear worn by the gaucho, or cowboys, in South America. Gaucho are found in parts of Argentina, Southern Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. They live in rural areas, and are well known for riding horses and herding cattle on horseback. Alpargatas originated in the Pyrenees, the area between France and Spain, before being brought to South America by Basque settlers. Alpargatas are warm weather shoes, worn in the spring or summer months. Alpargatas can be worn by both men and women.

These alpargatas have the traditional soles of jute rope, but modern uppers made of leather.

These alpargatas have the traditional soles made of jute, but modern uppers made of leather.

Even though alpargatas has an association with peasant footwear, or footwear for the common man, they have become fashionable worldwide. I know this because I have seen alpargatas worn as far away as in New Zealand, and I have also seen them for sale both in New Zealand and in Malaysia at high-end prices for this humble footwear.

Traditionally, alpargatas were made with cotton or canvas uppers and with soles of jute. And traditionally, alpargatas came in monochrome colours like black or white. These days, there are all sorts of modern variations on alpargatas. They come in different colours, fabric design, and different materials. Alpargatas can now have rubber soles instead of jute soles, and some have wedge heels made of jute, but all can still be called alpargatas.

The stranger I saw was wearing this pair of TOMS alpargatas. These alpargatas have modern rubber soles, but traditional canvas uppers.

The stranger I saw was wearing this exact pair of TOMS alpargatas. These alpargatas have modern rubber soles, but traditional canvas uppers (Photo from the TOMS website).

The stranger I saw on the street was wearing alpargatas from a label called TOMS. This is a label started by Blake Mycoskie in 2006. Blake first went to Argentina as a contestant on the TV show ‘The Amazing Race’. When he later visited Argentina again, he saw poor children who did not have proper shoes, and this inspired him to start TOMS shoes. The TOMS motto is ‘one for one’. For each pair of TOMS shoes sold, another pair of shoes would be given to a child in need. TOMS currently gives shoes to children in over 60 countries around the world.

The logo of TOMS shoes, which is sewn onto the back heel of TOMS shoes.

The TOMS logo, which is sewn onto the back heel of TOMS shoes.

Some TOMS shoes are made in Argentina, and the TOMS logo is a variation on the Argentine flag. The logo is sewn onto the back heel of TOMS alpargatas. Personally, I would have a problem if my nation’s flag was used as a brand logo and then placed in such a lowly position as the back of the heel.

Padaung women and footwear in Thailand

Back in December 2013, I wrote about footwear in Thailand. I have visited Thailand again since writing that post, so I thought I would write another post about footwear in Thailand.

The majority of people in Thailand are Buddhist. Over 90% of Thai people identify as Theravada Buddhists. So it is a common sight to see Buddhist monks in Thailand. Additionally, it is desirable for Thai men to spend time being a monk at some point in their life. It is common for Thai men to be temporarily ordained, so they can be a monk for a few weeks or a few months, and return to secular life after that.

In Thailand, Buddhist monks are identified by their shaved heads and robes, usually in a saffron or maroon colour. The robes are simple, an imitation of Buddha’s dress. The humble robes are meant to represent the monk’s disinterest in worldly possessions in the pursuit of enlightenment. The usual footwear for monks are slippers or sandals, but when they are out collecting alms, monks will go barefoot.

This colour co-ordinated Buddhist monk wears saffron robes with matching socks and hat.

This colour co-ordinated Buddhist monk wears sandals, saffron robes with matching socks and hat.

In my last trip to Thailand, I went to Chiang Mai in the north west of Thailand, near the border with Myanmar (Burma). I was most interested in the hill tribes in this area. There are many different hill tribes in this region, each with their own culture. The tribe that I was most interested in are the Padaung people. The Padaung people are known by many names. They are also known as Kayan Lahwi, Karen and Karenni. Other less flattering names for the Padaung people are ‘long-neck women’ and ‘giraffe women.’ I am calling them Padaung because I asked a tribeswoman what her tribe is called, and she told me ‘Padaung.’

The Padaung people are most easily identifiable by the brass neck rings worn by the women. These heavy neck rings push the collarbones and ribs down, giving the impression of a long neck. Padaung girls start wearing these brass neck rings from around the age of 5. As the girls grow, the length of the brass coil is increased gradually. For young girls, the weight of the brass coils is about 2 – 5kg (4 – 11 pounds). For older women who have continued to add coils to their neck, the weight of the brass rings can be as much as 10kg (22 pounds).

A Padaung woman with neck rings weaves on a loom.

A Padaung woman wearing neck rings weaves on a loom.

When I was at the village, I tried on half size neck rings that weighed about 2kg . This is considered child size for Padaung women! It was extremely uncomfortable for me; the rings dug into my collar bones and made it difficult to turn my head. I had to take them off after 5 minutes. I don’t know how Padaung women can wear these neck rings for life,and I wonder how they wash their necks!

I think what surprised me during this visit to the village was that young girls were currently wearing neck rings. I had the mistaken belief that this was something only worn by older women of the tribe, and out of fashion among the young. I met two Padaung girls, who each told me they were 10 years old, and both were already wearing the neck rings of their tribe. Neck rings are seen as a symbol of beauty, status and cultural identity.

This 10 -year-old Padaung girl wears brass neck rings, silver bracelets, brass leg coils, footless socks and slippers, all traditional dress of her tribe.

This 10 -year-old Padaung girl wears brass neck rings, silver bracelets, brass leg coils, footless socks and slippers – all traditional dress of her tribe.

In addition to neck rings, Padaung women also wear coils on their arms and legs. Understandably it is the neck rings that have gotten the most attention because they are so different. Rings on the arms are worn from wrist to elbow, and brass coils on the legs can extend from ankle to knee. Some women also wear cloth coverings, which look like legwarmers or footless socks, on their legs. On their feet, Padaung women generally wear slippers or sandals.

For me personally, I hope that wearing the brass rings is truly a sign of cultural identity, and not just because it’s a means to earn the tourist dollar.

Uighur Food and Footwear

Yesterday was the first day of the Chinese New Year. So, I thought I would write about something Chinese. Well, about the Uighur people (also spelt Uyghur, Uygur or Uigur) who are ethnic minorities in China.

The Uighurs are found mostly in Xinjiang Autonomous Region, in the northwest of China. They speak a Turkic language and are mainly Muslim. The Uighurs have more in common with their neighbours in Central Asia, such as in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, compared with the Chinese.

Even though I am Chinese (from Malaysia), I really don’t know much about Northern China, and I know even less about the Uighurs. My ancestors were all from the southern areas of China, where people speak, dress and eat differently from the northerners.

I have recently discovered Uighur food and it is very unique and different from Southern Chinese cuisine. In the south of China, rice is the staple, whereas for the Uighurs, noodles, bread and dumplings are more common. They do eat rice, but the rice is spiced with cumin and contain raisins. I found Uighur food quite oily, and yoghurt was served with rice to balance the oiliness of the food. I also enjoyed handmade Uighur noodles, which are wider than any other noodles I have eaten before. The noodle dish was oily with a red oil, and spicy with whole chillies AND chilli flakes.

Xinjiang-style noodles, featuring wide handmade noodles with braised chicken and potato, whole chillies and chilli flakes.

Xinjiang-style noodles, featuring wide handmade noodles with braised chicken and potato, and lots of chillies.

To be honest, I only became interested in Uighur food and culture because I fell in love with a pair of antique Uighur boots, which was part of a museum exhibition on ethnic minorities in China. These knee-length Uighur boots are made of leather, wool and silk and come from Hetian, Xinjiang Autonomous Region. They were such beautiful boots with bright, intricate embroidery. I would visit the museum exhibition just to look at that pair of boots. They drew me like a magnet and sparked my interest in Uighur culture.

A pair of Uighur boots dating from 1840 - 1949 from Hetian, Xinjian Uighur Autonomous Region. These boots are made of leather, wool and silk.

A pair of Uighur boots dating from 1840 – 1949 from Hetian, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. These boots are made of leather, wool and silk.