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Xinjiang/Uighur Home Cooking


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Can anyone on here tell me why so many non-Uyghur Chinese don't like food from that area?

My local Xinjiang food area is packed every night.

The locals queue up for 羊肉串, 牛肉孜然夹馍, 羊肉泡馍.

I'll be in 柳州 soon - can you tell me where the Xinjiang food area is (road name in Chinese)? Guilin only has 1-2 restaurants and only one is worth the trip.

Also for the Chinese folks on here, do you consider 羊肉泡馍 and 肉夹馍 to be Xinjiang food or Chinese? Obviously they're products of the Silk Road, but it seems most Chinese folks I know have a different perception about those dishes. I lived in Xi'an for a while and that stuff was to the locales there, Uyghur and non-Uyghur, what 米粉 is to locales here.

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Can anyone on here tell me why so many non-Uyghur Chinese don't like food from that area?

Also for the Chinese folks on here, do you consider 羊肉泡馍 and 肉夹馍 to be Xinjiang food or Chinese?

Sorry, I'm aware that I'm falling into that bad habit of separating the two. 中国统一!!!

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Monday and Tuesday I tried the two Fuchsia Dunlop recipes that I linked above:


Both came out well, especially the pasta dish.

I had to substitute a Sichuan-style hot paste for the "Turkish chili paste", and replaced leeks and garlic stems with shallots. I used the noodles at hand, angel hair, and had a side of pea shoots sauteed with garlic. Very nice supper.

This is neat: I listened to the local classical music station(WBJC) while I fixed supper on Tuesday. Just as I set the table and sat down they played "On the Steppes of Central Asia." Top that!

I got the lamb from a nearby Halal butcher. It had good flavor, but I have little experience in selecting and preparing the cuts he carries. The shoulder I got weighed about 2.7 pounds - about half bone - so I ended up with 13 oz. of kebabs and about 10 oz. to make the pasta sauce. The chicken stock I used for the pasta was fairly rich, so the flavor didn't suffer.


Food is all about history and geography.

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My Hui ayi has just arrived and I've asked her what she defines as Hui and what as Uyghur. I showed her this discussion, but she doesn't read english so I did a bit of translation. She also turned up with a big box of Ba Bao Cha which she's going to show me how to brew today!

Basically, she singled out mutton and egg pancake (羊肉鸡蛋饼) as appearing very Xinjiang, but says that most of the dishes mentioned would be interchangeable between Uyghur and Hui, though differing in style.

She always said that Hui cooking differs from Han cooking most in the areas of cooking Lamb and Beef. With Chicken and Fish, the styles converge much more.

She mentioned her stewed beef as a special example and said that Han people would never use the same spices as she did! That the taste was completely different.

She also got extremely miffed at the idea that Hui people were sort of Muslim Han people. It provoked a reaction of 'No Way! Of course we're not Han in any way!' from her :smile:

Anyway, she's making curry chicken for lunch. *NOT* a traditional Hui dish - but it's good for me! :raz:

<a href='http://www.longfengwines.com' target='_blank'>Wine Tasting in the Big Beige of Beijing</a>

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Sorry, LuckysticksPRC. I just noticed your question.

Unfortunately, the local government decided to make the city more beautiful by closing down everything that was in the slightest bit interesting and replacing it with neon lights, signifying nothing.

This included the Muslim style food area. There are pockets. Check out the place full of stalls just beside the Liujiang Bridge 柳江桥 (west side near the big UBC coffee place.) On 龙城路 and thereabouts.

When do you plan to be in 柳州?

Later today, I'm off to the UK for two weeks. First time in 5 years!

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.


The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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Sorry, LuckysticksPRC. I just noticed your question.

Unfortunately, the local government decided to make the city more beautiful by closing down everything that was in the slightest bit interesting and replacing it with neon lights, signifying nothing.

This included the Muslim style food area. There are pockets. Check out the place full of stalls just beside the Liujiang Bridge 柳江桥 (west side near the big UBC coffee place.) On 龙城路 and thereabouts.

When do you plan to be in 柳州?

Later today, I'm off to the UK for two weeks. First time in 5 years!

Possibly this weekend - maybe just for the day. Have some 螺蛳粉 and go home. I figure its just around the corner and all this time in Guilin and I've never been. I'll check out the spot near the bridge - thanks for the help!

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I know exactly diddly squat about Xinjiang and its cuisine, but I did travel there this summer and eat many, many delicious things. I did prefer the food I encountered when I was actually there to be better then the Uighur food I had in Beijing. I would also agree (with my super limited experience) that Xi'an style food and Uighur food are very different indeed, though they do share a reliance upon lamb. I absolutely miss Uighur food, especially since we don't have anything approaching a Uighur restaurant here in Sacramento...at least that I know about.

We had many amazing meals in Xinjiang, but my absolute favorite is still the dapanji, or big plate chicken. Our guide took us to a totally local place in Turfan, and we ordered up chicken, vegetables, and the seemingly obligatory lamb dish. The chicken came out on a huge garlic and chili laden plate, chopped up into an incredible number of pieces, and all of us ate it with blissful gusto, spitting out bones onto the table. About halfway through the dish, we ordered some lamian to throw in to sop up the sauce...delicious. It was so damn good that my dad looked in vain for the spices required in a superstore in Urumqi with limited success. I'm still hunting a good recipe.

Other favorite foods:

- Eating freshly cooked nang out of a plastic bag on the walk up to Tian Shan. I don't know why, but that nang was by far the tastiest I had - soft yet crispy, with a slight dusting of salt and sesame seeds.

-The incredible variety of raisins available in Turfan, and those tiny, tart, and incredibly flavor grapes that droop from every arbor. I hated grapes before I visited Turfan; now I eat them constantly. I still think that it's a travesty that it's hard to find more raisin varieties then "dark" and "golden" in this country...they had at least 20 different varieties on offer in burlap sacks on every street there. Throughout my time in Xinjiang, I was totally content to simply shred some nang and eat grapes for breakfast - nothing simpler, nothing better.

-Pilau, eaten in a small restaurant in a back alley in Urumqi. No ordering: you ate what they brought you. The pilau was aromatic with spices and shredded, delicate lamb meat - we accompanied it with shredded carrot salad and tart, liquid yogurt. Wash it all down with a highly carbonated honey beer and you're good to go.

-Lamian, everywhere, everyway, and always fantastic. We ate a big plate of these tomatoey noodles at a street restaurant in Turfan - another dish I want to replicate or find again somewhere in the United States.

- The huge food street market that got going around 11:00 near Turfan's rather opulent main square. We stopped by stuffed and didn't eat anything, but the dizzying array of options on hand was amazing - men carving off huge chunks of meat from hanging sheep carcasses, every variety of nang you can imagine, tiny quail impaled on sticks, "burritos" with a choice of every condiment, pickle, and sauce you can imagine....I'll return to Turfan just to plow through that someday.

In any case, Xinjiang was definitely an unexpected food destination for me. (And if anyone knows how to make a good dapanji, I am forever indebted to you.)

(EDIT: I have some photos if anyone would like to see them. )

Edited by faine (log)
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Fengyi: Thanks for asking your ayi! Some very interesting information she offered there. So that means that um...there's still alot of similarities b/w the two? Sorry for my stupidity :P

I know that the Hui and Uighur are both Muslim (duh) but I don't think they're really connected beyond that (correct me if I'm wrong). The Hui are also much closer to the Han than Uighurs. It seems there's been a fair bit of a 'loss in history' about their culinary (and ethnic) heritage.

Btw, I've read that the Hui are ethnically the same as the Han, with only their religion being different (thus distinct eating habits) but that's pretty much it. Apparently their daily lives are otherwise the same as the mainstream Chinese. Hmm...though I'm guessing the Hui like to associate themselves as a clearly separate group judging from your ayi's reaction.

faine: Please DO! :)

Musings and Morsels - a film and food blog


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Sorry for the slow response..been pretty busy! But yes, here they are.

Our trip to Xinjiang began with the flight from Xi'an to Urumqi. The sand-blasted landscape outside the window was fascinating to me, though I will always remember that moment where my dad said, "Wait, where are we going again?" He's entirely too trusting....


This is the view from the window of our rather luxe hotel. Urumqi reminds me of Salt Lake City in an alternate universe, to be honest. I loved it.

Our guide directed us to a Uighur restaurant right next door to the Hoi Tak Urumqi hotel where we were staying for our dinner. We were seated, and then had to go through the long and arduous process of ordering - difficult, since our Mandarin was very rusty, and the waiters, of course, didn't speak much English. My dad confused them further by attempting to order a "nice" red wine. Still, after pointing to a variety of items and miming eating, we recieved these yummy dishes:


This is a spicy mutton and carrot dish, with a delicious, oily sauce. The meat was falling off the bone and took on an almost osso-bucco like character. Totally irrestible. You can see a huge pot of crysthanemum tea on the table - it had a very subtle, floral flavor.


Continuing the mutton theme (go figure, being in Xinjiang) we have a dish of stir-fried celery root and mutton, with a substantial kick of chili. This was very tasty - sort of like a highly evolved and fresh version of a more usual Chinese stir-fry.


Communicating that we wanted lamian was surprisingly hard - they were under the impression we just wanted plain noodles, due to our horrific Chinese. Still, they finally bought out the plate, and we pronounced it yummy - though I would have better versions as the trip went on.

We also ended up with some sort of stir-fried green, which I of course neglected to photograph. The wine? Surprisingly drinkable.

That evening, we went to Urumqi's main square and watched the massive street gathering that takes place after 11, as the heat of the day dies down. People were eating just about every Xinjiang street food under the sun, from home-made vanilla ice cream to thousand year eggs to rounds of nang...but we were stuffed.

The next day, we drove up to Tian Shan, or the Heavenly Lake - an interesting drive, as we passed through a burning desert filled with Bactrian camels and graveyards, up into a refreshing mountain enviroment, full of Kazakh herders and gaping Chinese tourists.

On the walk up, I spotted a variety of food stands catering to the healthy summer tourist population.


Here's a nang stand. Our guide bought a couple just baked rounds for us to snack on as we walked up the hill. They were amazingly good - thin, crisp, and chewy, with a slight dusting of salt and sesame seeds.


This is another food stand. Note the hanging lamb (or mutton?) carcass on the left. This is a very common and delicious sight.


Another impressive carcass. This is where all those delicious cumin drenched kebabs come from. Thanks, sheep!


These gentlemen are whipping up an impressive wok full of pilau, the Uighur version of pilaf (I guess.) Here, it's usually flavored with cumin, carrot, and lots and lots of lamb. It is incredibly good and available almost everywhere. Our guide said people tend to make a lot of the "simpler" kind of pilau at home, although they prefer to go out for the "harder" version. I think this "harder" version also involves saffron.


These rounds were the most common nang shape I found, but I also encountered delicious and yeasty stars, twists, and even bagel-variants throughout my travels.


And this is the Heavenly Lake itself. It's very pretty. Especially when viewed while eating nang and kebabs.

We drove down the hill back to Urumqi for lunch, where our guide promised to take us to her favorite pilau joint. We were not disappointed. After driving through a few back neighborhoods, past hordes of men manning kebab stalls and pulling huge rounds of nang out of street side brick ovens, we found this store front.


The restaurant was clean and rather opulent inside, at least by Urumqi standards.


But how about that food? We were started off with a wide variety of side dishes, which were constantly refilled - along with the pilau. Nice.


The carrot salad was yummy, with a sharp, vinegar kick. The yogurt was plain, unflavored, and a bit runny - just perfect when used as a pilau condiment. I wish we could get stuff like this easily in the USA. The watermelon, served with just about everything during an Xinjiang summer, was tasty as well.


And the main attraction! (Sorry for the photo...the restaurant's other patrons were looking at me like I was utterly insane for photographing my food, so I had to move quick.) The rice was sauteed with pine nuts, saffron, and some other flavorings I couldn't identify - but it was smoky, soulful, and rich, one of the most delicious things I ate during my time in China. The mutton chunks were a bit gamy, but I happen to love intensely flavored meats. Heaven. Our driver ate three servings.

Okay, that's all for now. I have a few more photos from Turfan and Urumqi I'll share sometime in the next few days. It was an amazing trip, and I'd definitely recommend taking the plunge and going if you ever get the chance. I don't think there's anywhere else quite like Xinjiang.

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faine: Awesome pictures! Thanks so much for taking the time to post those. It looks like you had a really great time (btw I know this sounds very ignorant but I never knew Xinjiang was so developed/modern).

This dish in particular


is what I really want to learn to make! Looks delicious!

Is pork entirely unseen in Xinjiang (considering it's a predominantly Muslim area)?

Are the other usual Chinese cuisines seen in Xinjiang?

I wonder...do the Han in Xinjiang share the same eating habits as the Uighurs or do they have their own distinct Han Xinjiang cuisine? Hmm...

Musings and Morsels - a film and food blog


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I certainly didn't see any pork. Our guide, who was Han, reported that that can be a big point of contention between the two populations - the Han want their pork, dammit, and the Muslims aren't thrilled about it.

You can definitely find Han Chinese food in Xinjiang, since the Han population is pretty considerable - I believe there are lots of government incentives/encouragements for Han to move out there. It's a very sensitive subject, because many Uighur believe that it's a similar situation to Tibet: the more Han in Xinjiang, the less control the Uighur people will have over land they believe they should be governining. You'd have to do some research to get a real grasp on the situation beyond my minimal knowledge, though...

As for a Han/Xinjiang fusion cuisine, I'd say that some of that does occur. Our guide said that Han families in Xinjiang tend to be pretty comfortable cooking both cuisines on a regular basis. Same thing with people who immigrate to anywhere, I imagine. Perhaps given time, the cuisines will fuse more.

I imagine making that lamian dish would be pretty darn easy, though of course making the noodles yourself would be a real pain in the butt. :) It's pretty much just stir-fried mutton, pepper, chili, and a few spices far as I can tell.

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  • 9 months later...

Horse sausages aren't particularly confined to Xinjiang. They are available

in Yunnan and here in Guangxi. Horse hotpot is very popular in Guilin, too.

Now. Donkey sausages. They are the business!

Here are a few Xinjiang dishes -

Chicken Giblet Noodles


Lamb in Pitta 羊肉夹馍


Xinjiang Da Pan Ji (Big Plate Chicken) (新疆大盘鸡)


...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.


The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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Horse hotpot! Now that's something you don't hear everyday! Are there many Muslims in Guangxi and Yunnan or is that just an aspect of the various minority groups' eating habits?

Is there a difference between Dapanji and Shopanji? I'm going to an Uighur restaurant in the coming few weeks and am trying to decide between the two. Or do the names simply translate as 'big plate' and 'small plate'?

Edited by Ce'nedra (log)

Musings and Morsels - a film and food blog


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There are Muslim communities in most cities in China, but they are not particularly large outside of the North-West.


The picture I posted was described as a small Dapanji - Yes - small Big Plate Chicken. It came in two sizes. The small one was more than two very hungry people could get through.


小盘鸡 Xiao Pan Ji is probably the same - a smaller version. (Google has a whole three results for "Shopanji")

Edited by liuzhou (log)

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.


The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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  • 1 year later...

I just had a big dinner with some of my co-workers to celebrate Eid - we went to a Uighur restaurant in our neighbourhood and had some seriously good eats. We started with da pan ji, which I found incredibly similar to Andong style jjim ddalk, a Korean dish - except instead of broad noodles, jjim ddalk uses glass noodles. Yum. We also had lamb kebabs (succulent) fried lamb ribs with a dry-spice dip (fatty and fine) and short, gnocchi-like noodles wok-fried with lamb, tomatoes, and beans. We also had a naan bread smothered with ground lamb fried with cumin, cilantro, and carrot shreds. I don't think that dish survived a full revolution around the lazy-susan, now that I think about it.

There's another, smaller Uighur restaurant around the corner from my flat, which serves the same kebabs, but also has the carmelised potatoes (OMG, OMG), and does a dry-fried green bean with Sichuan peppercorns. Both restaurants turn out some of the finest comfort food I've found in Asia. What I need to know now is - recipes? Anyone have a good source on learning to make this stuff? The da pan ji I could probably figure out, but I'm interested in those noodles - how are they made? And what's in that spice dip?

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    • By liuzhou
      Big Plate Chicken - 大盘鸡 (dà pán jī)

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      So what is the "authentic" Chinese food? Well, like any question about China, there are several answers. It is not surprising that a country larger than western Europe should have more than one typical culinary style. Then, we must distinguish between what you may be served in a large hotel dining room, a small local restaurant, a street market stall or in a Chinese family's home.

      That said, in this topic, I want to attempt to debunk some of the more prevalent myths. Not trying to start World War III.

      When I moved to China from the UK 25 years ago, I had my preconceptions. They were all wrong. Sweet and sour pork with egg fried rice was reported to be the second favourite dish in Britain, and had, of course, to be preceded by a plate of prawn/shrimp crackers. All washed down with a lager or three.

      Yet, in that quarter of a century, I've seldom seen a prawn cracker. And egg fried rice is usually eaten as a quick dish on its own, not usually as an accompaniment to main courses. Every menu featured a starter of prawn/shrimp toast which I have never seen in mainland China - just once in Hong Kong.

      But first, one myth needs to be dispelled. The starving Chinese! When I was a child I was encouraged to eat the particularly nasty bits on the plate by being told that the starving Chinese would lap them up. My suggestion that we could post it to them never went down too well. At that time (the late fifties) there was indeed a terrible famine in China (almost entirely manmade (Maomade)).

      When I first arrived in China, it was after having lived in Soviet Russia and I expected to see the same long lines of people queuing up to buy nothing very much in particular. Instead, on my first visit to a market (in Hunan Province), I was confronted with a wider range of vegetables, seafood, meat and assorted unidentified frying objects than I have ever seen anywhere else. And it was so cheap I couldn't convert to UK pounds or any other useful currency.
      I'm going to start with some of the simpler issues - later it may get ugly!

      1. Chinese people eat everything with chopsticks.

      No, they don't! Most things, yes, but spoons are also commonly used in informal situations. I recently had lunch in a university canteen. It has various stations selling different items. I found myself by the fried rice stall and ordered some Yangzhou fried rice. Nearly all the students and faculty sitting near me were having the same.

      I was using my chopsticks to shovel the food in, when I noticed that I was the only one doing so. Everyone else was using spoons. On investigating, I was told that the lunch break is so short at only two-and-a-half hours that everyone wants to eat quickly and rush off for their compulsory siesta.
      I've also seen claims that people eat soup with chopsticks. Nonsense. While people use chopsticks to pick out choice morsels from the broth, they will drink the soup by lifting their bowl to their mouths like cups. They ain't dumb!

      Anyway, with that very mild beginning, I'll head off and think which on my long list will be next.

      Thanks to @KennethT for advice re American-Chinese food.
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