XINJIANG Uygur Autonomous Region is a vast area of China with a long history and splendid cultures of ethnic minorities. Well-known for its cuisine, Xinjiang boasts an abundance of fruits and expansive variety of mutton dishes. Some of the most popular are as follows:
Roasted Whole Lamb is a product of the nomadic culture in Xinjiang, which can be traced back 1,800 years. In flavor, the dish competes with Peking Roast Duck, because of the selective cooking ingredients and the distinctive cooking method. The mutton used comes from lamb no older than one year. Refined flour is blended with salt water, egg, ground ginger, pepper, and cumin powder to make a paste which is spread over the entire lamb. A stick is inserted through the lamb from head to tail, and then hung in a large oven, roasting for around one hour. The dish is generally reserved for distinguished guests. When it is served, diners cut off the meat in slices and eat with salt.
A traditional ethnic variety of the Uygur Bread is sold in Kashgar’s market.
Mutton Kebabs, meat cubes roasted on a skewer, is another popular traditional dish. The kebabs are made with both fatty and lean mutton cubes and barbecued on a grill over anthracite coals. The kebabs are sprinkled with salt, chili powder, and cumin powder. Several minutes later, the meat is glossy but tender with an alluring aroma.
Mutton Eaten with Hands is unique to Xinjiang residents. The mutton is chopped into large cubes, put in a saucepan and boiled until it is half-done. After removing the blood that forms foam in the pan, the mutton is placed on a large serving platter and garnished with sliced garlic, salt, and ground pepper, before being steamed. It is then eaten with the hands, a distinctive eating style that, locals say, makes the mutton more enjoyable.
Another local favorite is Xinjiang Sautéed Spicy Chicken, made with chicken, potato, peppers, corn, onions, ginger, and garlic. This dish is not only colorful and alluring, but also very nutritious. Belt-shaped noodles laid beneath the dish, marinated in broth, make this a classical delicious dish.
Along with savory dishes, the region also has a range of sweeter dishes. One of these is the popular Uygur Bread. This is a kind of large round flat bread baked in ceramic ovens. It is made of wheat flour, sesame, onion, egg, butter, milk, sugar, and salt. The dough is kneaded with sheep’s fat and baked until crispy. It can be preserved for two months, and is a daily staple for Uygur families. The bread looks like a round plate, and can be eaten after pouring a cup of milk tea onto it or covered in stewed mutton. Both methods are delicious.
Lastly, Rice Pilaf, a dish that is the creation of nomads and farmers, is popular for those living in the far-flung rural areas of the region. Legend has it that an old Uygur doctor, who was sick, found that taking traditional medicine did not heal his body. He took the initiative to try and heal himself with nutritious food and set about cooking carrots, rice, and mutton together, adding cooking oil to the dish, which was left to stew for some time. After he had eaten the dish for several days, he found his health improved and felt stronger. He subsequently introduced the dish to his relatives and friends, and it has now become popular among nomads across the region.