There have been rumors that Xinjiang produces millions of tons of beef and mutton but no vegetables at all, it makes Xinjiang people sound like they are still primitives. Actually the rumors used to be partly true,because nomads had to eat meat as their staple food, due to their special way of living,and vegetables were rare in some mountain areas, due to the long winters. However these winters remain in the past. Today, Xinjiang cuisine has become a major flavor in China.On our menu, there are meat and vegetables,cold dishes hot dishes,noodles,tea and alcohol,and of course the barbecue.Cumin is the very special seasoning in Xinjiang. A local cuisine is always related to local agricultural productions and local cultures.
The vast grasslands in Xinjiang breed millions of cattle,sheep and horses,and produce plenty of fresh milk.The oases yield an abundance of wheat,corn and fruits,as well as various kinds of vegetables,such as, carrots,potatoes,onions and fennel.These local products dictate that Xinjiang cuisine is mainly about meat and pasta.
Xinjiang people are very practical about their food, for them, the taste is more important than appearance.The “pilaf” or “shouzhuafan -mutton with rice that you eat with your fingers” ,has been popular for nearly thousands of years. The plain-looking“Lagman”,or“Banmian-seasoned noodles”, never gets old. And there is the “Dapanji”,or“spicy big plate chicken” served on a huge plate’,one of the best known Xinjiang dishes Throughout China.
Pilaf or Polo is a king of Xinjiang food, it is a essential meal for every guests we invite to our home. Pilaf is very nutritious, and can make your body very strong, so we have a saying that “Pilaf is food of man”. it ios called “zhuafan” in Mandarin, in which there are not only mutton and rice, but also carrot, onion, raisin and dry apricots. It’s not compulsory to eat “zhuafan”with your hands. Eat with a wooden scoop still tastes yummy.
Beef and mutton are the two major kinds of meat used in Xinjiang cuisine,and they are usually prepared in very simple ways-water-boiled or shallow-fried-to preserve their original meaty tastes. It can be hard for many people to imagine that mutton is cooked in pure water with no condiment at all.Eaters season the meat with salt and eat it with raw onion.The simple and original taste is what this dish all about.
Flour is traditional staple food of the Xinjiang people. There are many manifestations:“lamian”(pulled noodle),“ganmian” rolling noodle),”ximian’,“naren”,“baked nang”,“cold noodles” “baoershake”(a fried snack) and a type of Russian-style bread. Famous dishes made of pasta include“latiaozi”,“youtazi”,”liangpizi”, “michangzi”,“mianfeizi”and “thin-crust stuffed buns”.
The Nan a roasted bread, it is “nang ” in Chinese, is part of Xinjiang people’s every meal. It looks like an average baked pancake,but is actually made with special procedures, and tastes different.A good Nan is made with water,egg and milk. The dough is baked attached to the inner surface of a clay-made stove. Nan has more than hundred different shapes, mostly it is shaped like a plate,but is thicker on the rim and thinner in the center, looks very beautiful with it’s texture on the surface.The thick part tastes tender and the thin part is crispy. The mixed taste of tenderness and crispiness is the charm of a Nan. As a symbol of Xinjiang cuisine, Girda Nan of Kashgar, meat stuffed Nan of Hotan, thin big flat Nan of Kucha are the most famous ones.If you have chance to go to Nan museum in Dabazha ,you will see many kinds of it.
Another popular Xinjiang snack is “Cold noodle”, “liangpi” in mandarin. It is different from the“liangfen”and “mianpi”from central China.“Liangpi”is made out of steamed flour. It is chewier than “liangfen”and looks more transparent than“mianpi”.It’s served with a kind of special sauce and tastes simply appetizing.
Xinjiang barbecue is very characteristic.When a distinguished guest comes visiting, locals usually roast a lamb as a greeting food. Shish Kebab are a decent,economic choice of food for friends reunion.
It may also be an unforgettable moment when you first drink genuine milk tea, eat fresh horse meat and seasoned sausages, make a toast to your hospitable nomad hosts,and sing along with them in their yurts on the grassland. Of course, if your stomach is too stubborn to accept the Xinjiang food, you can always find your familiar dishes there too. In Urumqi, many other towns and cities in Xinjiang, there are many restaurants serving Sichuan cuisine, Guangdong cuisine, Hunan cuisine, Shandong cuisine, Huaiyang Cuisine and Northeastern cuisine.Guangdong-styled seafood, Chongqing-styled spicy hotpot, Beijing-style boiled mutton, Chengdu-style snacks,Yunnan-style rice noodles, Yangzhou-style stirred rice ,Lanzhou-style beef noodles, Inner Mongolia-style boiled lamb, Xi’an-styled buns soaked in mutton soup, pickles and roasted fillets from South Korea, sashimi from Japan, flying pie from India, Kentucky Fried Chicken and other Western cuisines are all available.
Xinjiang also boasts quite a few specialties that are unique -“Kunlun snow crabs” from Xiaohaizi, cold water salmon from the sayram Lake, “dog fish”from the Irtish River, “snake-head fish” from Wullung Lake,”white fish”from the Irtish river, yak meat from the Pamirs. mushrooms from Qinghe, “desert mushroom” from Maralbishi, “sheep stomach mushroom” from the spa, the honey brewed by the black bees from Nilke, wild fruit juice from Konas, wild celery from Gongliu and the armeniaca from Kashgar. They’re all precious foods with great nutrition and yummy tastes.
As long as you’re not a peculiar eater, Xinjiang should be a gastronomic paradise for you.
It may be a treat to your taste buds and your brain to sit under a grape tree in the oasis, chewing newly-baked Nan, smelling the tempting smoke from the barbecue,learning how to eat“Pilaf” with your fingers, and inquiring into how to cook the yummiest mutton.