If you are spending Spring Festival in Shanghai or Beijing, you might have noticed signs up on the doors of almost every small restaurant and shop announcing they are closed because they returned to their hometown for the holidays. A lot of large restaurants are closed, too, as staff returned home.
Where to eat for the lazy or incompetent who can’t cook at home?
Not to worry: Hui and Uyghur restaurants are still mostly open. Hui and Uyghur are two ethnic groups from the west, whose members are mostly Muslim, who have opened a lot of halal restaurants specializing in noodles and lamb meat across the country.
In Shanghai, there is a Hui noodle restaurant near the north square of the train station. The owners put many photos of Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu province, where the famous Lanzhou pulled noodles originate from, and posters explaining local dialect. They didn’t go to Lanzhou for Chinese New Years because they don’t celebrate it, workers said. Instead, they celebrate Hui New Years in the early summer–around June.
(According to an article by Zheping Huang in QZ.com, one-tenth of all Lanzhou noodle restaurants are run by Hui from the Hualong Hui Autonomous County in Gansu.)
Josh Summers, editor of Far West China, writes that Uyghurs don’t typically celebrate Spring Festival either, instead celebrating Noruz, the first day of spring, in March.
Now I’m in Dangshan, a small county-level city in northern Anhui, and a lot of restaurants are open here, because many of the owners are locals who didn’t have to leave to be home.
Feature photo by Sigismund von Dobschütz from Wikimedia.
Mitchell Blatt is a travel writer, editor, and columnist who has lived and worked in China for six years. He is an author of two guidebooks, Panda Guides Hong Kong and Panda Guides China. He has been published in National Interest.org, The Korea Times, The Shanghai Daily, Roads & Kingdoms, Vagabond Journey, City Weekend, Silkwinds and The World of Chinese, among other outlets. See examples of his published articles.