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Food & Drink / What to eat

9 Xinjiang dishes you mustn’t miss

By Minjun Xu

July 21

Here are some famous Xinjiang-style dishes you have to try for yourself.

Here are some famous Xinjiang-style dishes you have to try for yourself.

Located in northwestern China, Xinjiang is famous for its extraordinary natural landscapes and various ethnic customs. But Xinjiang cuisine is also a must-try during your trip. Food here is heavily influenced by Muslim cuisine and has a much more Central Asian flavor than anywhere else in China.

1. Xinjiang-Style Braised Chicken 新疆大盘鸡

Xinjiang-Style Braised Chicken [Image Credit:]
Xinjiang-Style Braised Chicken [Image Credit:]
Despite coming to the scene in the late 1980s, the popularity of Xinjiang-style braised chicken has since spread all over China. The main ingredients are chicken, potatoes, chilies, green peppers and “belt” noodles.

Tips: Try the dish in Shawan (沙湾) County west of Urumqi — its place of origin.

2. Samsa 烤包子

Samsa [Image Credit: Jihu]
Samsa, in the Uyghur language, refers to a roast bun usually stuffed with minced lamb and sweet onions. Baked for about 10 minutes, Samsas are crispy on the outside while the meat inside stays tender.

Tips: Samsas can usually be found in northern Xinjiang in areas around Turpan (吐鲁番) and Hami (哈密).

3. Meatball Soup 丸子汤

Meatball Soup [Image Credit:]
Meatball Soup [Image Credit:]
Xinjiang meatball soup borrows heavily from Hui cuisine. Besides meatballs, the soup includes beef, vermicelli and fresh vegetables.

Tips: The most famous meatball soup can be found in the Changji Hui Autonomous Prefecture (昌吉回族自治州).

4. Pilaf 手抓饭

Pilaf [Image Credit: Jihu]
Pilaf [Image Credit: Jihu]
Perhaps the quintessential food of the East, the innumerable varieties of pilaf vary from country to country and town to town.  In Xinjiang people generally use mutton, carrots, onions, vegetable oil and melted sheep’s fat. Vegetarian pilaf uses dried fruits, like raisins, as main ingredients.

Tips: Pilaf is a feature of festivals, weddings and funerals.

5. Naan

Naan [Image Credit: Xinmin]
Naan [Image Credit: Xinmin]
This type of bread is a staple for many ethnic groups in Xinjiang. Sometimes naan is made with sorghum flour, and topped with sesame seeds, onions, eggs, vegetable oil, butter, milk, or really anything you want.

Tips: Naan is great to carry on long trips because of its dryness — it doesn’t spoil easily or make a mess.

6. Lamb Kebab 烤羊肉串

Lamb Kebab [Image Credit:]
Lamb Kebab [Image Credit:]
Lamb kebab has become synonymous with Uyghur cuisine across China. Sliced mutton is strung on long brochettes and roasted after being seasoned with salt, chopped ginger, scallions and pepper.

Tips: Try one of the meter-long kebabs if you’re really hungry.

7. Xinjiang-Style Spiced Chicken with Chili Sauce 新疆椒麻鸡

Xinjiang-Style Spiced Chicken with Chili Sauce [Image Credit:]
Xinjiang-Style Spiced Chicken with Chili Sauce [Image Credit:]
Another classic Xinjiang dish created by the Hui people, Xinjiang-style spiced chicken is served cold and can be quite spicy. It somewhat resembles a chicken salad, in Western terms.

Tips: If the heat gets to you, compliment your meal with Xinjiang’s most famous beer: Sinkiang Black Beer.

8. 新疆拌面

Xinjiang Noodles [Image Credit: Jihu]
 Noodles in Xinjiang are protein-heavy (often including deep-fried mutton and stir-fried eggs) and laden with tomatoes and chilies.

Tips: Another way locals make noodles is by cutting them into small pieces after boiling, then frying them with fat, mutton, tomatoes and chilies.

9. Stewed Lamb Feet with Pepper Sauce 胡辣羊蹄

 Stewed Lamb Feet with Pepper Sauce [Image Credit:]
Stewed Lamb Feet with Pepper Sauce [Image Credit:]
This dish gets its name from the pepper sauce seasoning, which makes the lamb taste spicy but delicious. Do as the locals do by eating the feet with your hands.

Tips: Try some of the famous Turpan wine with your lamb feet, called museles if it’s home-brewed.

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