xinjiang eats

I recently traveled to Xinjiang spending a few days each in Hotan and Kashgar, which are in the south of the province. The region is wonderfully colorful and unspoiled and this was definitely one of my most memorable trips in China–even including the 11-hour bumpy bus ride crossing the desert from Hotan to Kashgar. While there I took every opportunity to sample the wonderful cuisine of the Uyghurs, a Turkic-speaking Muslim people with a rich history and culture.
I’ll divide my writing on my trip into two parts. In Part I I’ll tell you a little bit about Uyghur food and introduce some restaurants to try in the two cities I visited. Part II will describe the abundant supply of wonderful street foods and snacks available in Xinjiang.
First, a little bit about Uyghur cuisine. The region’s universal diet evolves around lamb and mutton, prepared by roasting, grilling or boiling.  Onions, green peppers, garlic stems, zuchinni, carrots and tomatoes play prominent roles in Uyghur dishes, while cumin and ground chillies are indispensable flavorings, and the hallmark of Uyghur cuisine. The repertoire of Uyghur dishes includes laghman–hand-pulled long noodles, flat and squary like small tiles, served in soup or stir-fried. Also very popular here are nan, a flatbread of infinite variation, the most common being a round bread with a risen, soft and chewy rim that resembles a pizza. The flat center part is marked with a nail-studded stamp called chekich that leaves a traditional design on the flatbread; poluo–rice cooked with carrots or fruit, such as dried apricot and fresh apple pieces; roasted leg of lamb and meat skewers char-grilled on make-shift barbeque stands or in barrel-shaped clay ovens. If you like the Uyghur food available in Beijing, you’ll love the food here—there’s no comparison.