Xinjiang, located in western China, is rich in history. Because of the region’s location between Mainland China and Europe, the majority of the Silk Road cut across it.
You might know The Silk Road for its exchange of trade, culture and religion. Yet, one of its greatest impact is on Xinjiang cuisine- a tasty fusion of Chinese, Central Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines.
Xinjiang food is some of the best in the world, and it is a great representation of the region’s diverse culture. If you are a Xinjiang food newb, here are the five dishes that you should try!
1 Lamb Kebabs, 羊肉串
These juicy, delectable skewers of grilled meat will leave your mouth drooling and your stomach growling. The smokey spice blend of cumin and pepper perfectly compliments the fatty and tender lamb. These kebabs are very cheap—3 to 8 yuan—and are usually sold in individual portions, so you can order a lot as an appetizer or even as the main dish!
2 Laghman (Hand-Pulled Noodles), 拌面
These hand-pulled noodles are a staple of Uyghur Cuisine. Different from the Chinese style of making noodles, where the dough is continuously folded, Laghman noodles are rolled out in one hand and pulled with the other. The texture of these noodles is amazing, with a thick, bouncy chew to every bite, and the noodles are smothered with tomato sauce, garlic, pepper, onion, bell peppers, and different types of meat.
3 Kao Bao Zi (Tandoori-baked Lamb Buns), 烤包子
In comparison to traditional steamed Chinese Bao Zi, these Xinjiang buns are filled to the brim with tender and juicy lamb meat and placed inside a Tandoori oven to give the skin a thin and crispy texture. The spice blend is a peppery mix of cumin, black pepper, onion, and other unique herbs like star anise. When eating these delicious, oven-baked treasures beware—the juice that floods from the first bite is incredibly hot and will burn your entire mouth!
4 Da Pan Ji (Big Plate Chicken), 大盘鸡
Da Pan Ji, or Big Plate Chicken, is a large chicken stew that is extremely popular in the Xinjiang Region. Usually served at large gatherings, the dish is stacked to the brim with all different parts of the chicken and covered in a spicy red sauce containing bell peppers, potatoes, onions, ginger, garlic, and more. This dish is usually served with Uyghur flatbread which is used to dip into the sauce throughout the meal. When most of the chicken is gone, be sure to ask for a plate of noodles! These flat and chewy noodles soak up the remaining sauce, which some believe is the best part of the meal!
5 Uyghur Polo (Pilaf), 抓饭
Uyghur Polo, commonly known as Pilaf throughout the rest of the world, is a rice dish cooked in oil and broth and tossed with carrots and lamb chunks. The carrots, after being stewed for a long period of time, develop a sweet flavor that perfectly compliments the fragrant and savory lamb. This dish, however, is quite oily and filling, so be sure to order light side dishes. Tossed cucumbers can be a great option as they are light and refresh the palate!