From Kashgar to Urumqi: A Culinary Adventure

Kashgar to Urumqi
Kashgar to Urumqi

Traveling from Kashgar to Urumqi takes you across the stunning landscapes of Xinjiang and immerses you in the region’s rich and diverse culinary traditions. Our recent guest embarked on this extraordinary tour, sharing an array of delicious dishes highlighting the unique flavors and cultural heritage of this fascinating part of China. This article explores the culinary delights encountered from Kashgar to Urumqi, capturing the essence of a food lover’s dream journey.

The Culinary Heritage of Kashgar

Kashgar is one of the oldest cities in China and a famous spot on the Silk Road with an exciting food culture. The Uyghur ethnic group, whose cuisine is diverse and has many spirited and tasty dishes, is the major contributor to the cuisine.

  1. Kebabs (Kawaplar)

Kashgar’s most famous dish, hands down, is the kebab. Each piece of the finely sliced lamb is marinated and then grilled to the right tenderness over the coals. The taste and smell of smoke, as well as the soft texture of the meat, are delicious. Kebabs are usually sprinkled with cumin, chili powder, and salt, giving the meat an umami taste. These are typically taken with fresh nan, flatbread, and raw onions on the side, making for a good meal.

  1. Laghman

Laghman is one of the essential dishes of the Uyghur culinary culture. In this dish, noodles are drawn by hand and then served with a sauce of stir-fried vegetables and meat. The noodles are thick and drawy, complementing the sauce well. Some popular ingredients used in preparing Laghman include bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, and lamb or beef, all prepared in a spice mix that gives the dish its unique taste.

  1. Nan (Uyghur Flatbread)

Every meal consumed in Kashgar can only be completed with nan, the Uyghur form of flatbread. Nan is made in the tandoor oven and is known for its’ crunchy exterior and chewy interior. It can be finished with sesame seeds and might contain garlic or herbs for added flavor. Nan is elastic and can be eaten alone, with the meat and vegetables in between, or dipped in sauces.

  1. Polu (Pilaf)

Polu is a mouth-watering rice preparation that includes lamb, carrots, and raisins in the preparation. Rice is first fried with oil and onions, and then it is cooked with the other ingredients until the rice gets the taste of all the spices. Thus, it leads to a warm and fragrant dish that is both flavorful and on the sweeter side. Polu is one of the important dishes produced in Kashgar and consumed during family ceremonies and occasions.

  1. Samsa

Samsa is a small pie prepared from dough and stuffed with minced meat and onions, similar to the Indian samosa. It is baked until it is golden brown and crunchy on the outside while the inside is moist and flaky with a burst of flavor. Samsa is one of the most famous snacks in Kashgar and is commonly sold on the streets, making it easy to grab a quick bite.

  1. Gosh Nan (Meat Pie)

Gosh nan is another favorite Uyghur food. It is a flatbread filled with lamb, onions, and spices. The bread is then baked to a golden brown until the filling is set and the crust is crusty. Gosh, nan is usually served hot and taken with a cup of tea, giving one a nice meal.

Culinary Experiences in Kashgar

When visiting Kashgar, guests can visit different markets and taste the city’s local cuisine. Kashgar Sunday Bazaar is a very lively and probably one of the largest bazaars in Central Asia, where you can find everything from fresh fruits and vegetables to spices and even street food. Our guests tasted different snacks and dishes in this instance, all of which reflected the region’s gastronomic culture.

  1. Fresh and Dried Fruits

Kashgar is well known for its fruits, especially the fresh and dried fruits such as melons, grapes, and apricots. The market stalls were full of fruits of this kind, which are consumed both fresh and dried. Fruits are also preserved by drying, are commonly consumed as a snack in Xinjiang, and are also incorporated in cooking to sweeten dishes such as pilaf.

  1. Nang Bings

Nang is a type of large, round flat bread that is a major part of the Uyghur diet. These breads are made in tandoor ovens, and the texture of these breads is slightly hard. Nang bings are usually consumed with kebabs or are employed for soaking up the dripping from the meat dishes. The bakers were also shaping and baking the breads, and our guest was able to watch and purchase the breads while they were still warm.

  1. Kawa (Uyghur Tea)

Kawa, or Uyghur tea, is a warming drink prepared from black tea, milk, and a few pinches of salt. It is taken with food or as a warm beverage when it is cold outside. Kawa, the guest, liked the concoction, as it was a comforting and delicious drink to have with the hearty and spicy dishes of Kashgar.

The Journey to Urumqi

When our guest went further to the capital of Xinjiang – Urumqi, they noticed that the choice of food was even greater. Being one of the largest cities in China, Urumqi embraces people of different cultures and, therefore, different foods.

  1. Dapanji (Big Plate Chicken)

One of the standout dishes in Urumqi is Dapanji, or Big Plate Chicken. This hearty stew is made with chicken, potatoes, and bell peppers, all cooked in a rich and spicy broth. The dish is served with wide, hand-pulled noodles that soak up the flavorful sauce. Dapanji is a communal dish, perfect for sharing with friends and family.

  1. Kawaplar (Kebabs)

The kebabs in Urumqi are a form of meat stick where one can get beef, chicken, and lamb, among others. The kebabs are prepared in a special way with special spices and are then grilled to give them a juicy and tasty stick. He mentioned that the kebabs in Urumqi tasted somewhat different than the ones in Kashgar, owing to the different influences on the city’s food culture.

  1. Yoghurt and Fruit Platters

Yogurt and fruit platters are a great way to cool off after a meal; one can pair smooth, creamy yogurt with chunks of ripe fruits. These platters are light yet tasty and have a good composition of sweet and healthy dessert choices. The guest appreciates the sourness of the yoghurt served with sweet fruits such as melons and grapes the most.

  1. Nang Chaomian (Stir-Fried Flatbread)

Nang chromian is a special dish made with bits of leftover flatbread, also known as nan. The bread is then cooked with vegetables, meat, and a mouth-watering sauce to make a wholesome meal. This dish proves that Uyghur cuisine is quite innovative and efficient in its use of ingredients.

  1. Street Food Delights

Urumqi’s street food scene is vibrant and diverse, offering various snacks and dishes. Our guest sampled several street food delights, including:

  • Roasted sweet potatoes over charcoal are one of the favorite snacks vendors offer in the winter. The sweet potatoes are cooked tender and caramelized, making them a comforting dessert.
  • Grilled Fish: The most common food that can be bought on the streets of Urumqi is fresh fish, marinated and grilled over hot coals. The fish is commonly eaten with a spicy sauce that is used to dip the fish into pickled vegetables.
  • Sesame Seed Cakes: These are cake-like snacks made from dough that is coated with sesame seeds and then deep-fried. It has a subtle sweetness and goes great with, well, just about anything.

Culinary Experiences in Urumqi

In Urumqi, our guest was taken to several restaurants to eat as well as visited food markets in the city. Foodies should make it a point to visit the Grand Bazaar in Urumqi, which has an endless choice of spices, dried fruits, nuts, and street food.

  1. Urumqi’s Grand Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar is not for the faint-hearted, as this place will overwhelm you with the colors of spices, fruits, and nuts. The guest also noted as a strength the availability of spices, such as cumin, chili, and saffron, among a few others. These spices are commonly used in many of the dishes in Xinjiang cuisine to enhance the taste of the food.

  1. Local Restaurants

The local chefs prepared some of the traditional dishes and served them to the guests during dinner at various restaurants in Urumqi. One memorable meal included:

  • Korma: A thick soup prepared using lamb, vegetables, and spices. The meat was well-cooked and juicy, and the sauce had a rich smell.
  • Tugur: A yummy Uyghur dish that is prepared with mutton, onions, and spices and is taken with rice. The dish was indeed, filling and tasty; the taste was well amalgamated.
  • Mantou: Meat and vegetable balls with fluffy buns made with flour and steamed. These buns were soft and fluffy, and the savory filling tasted so good and was comforting.
  1. Tea Houses

Tea houses are traditional to Uyghur society and serve as social places where people may spend their time. Our guest visited many tea houses in Urumqi, and he felt the people’s hospitality. Apart from kawa, they tasted different teas, such as green and jasmine tea, which are quite different and enjoyable.

A Culinary Journey to Remember

From the food street of Kashgar to the supermarkets of Urumqi, the tastes one gets to enjoy on this tour are as rich and colorful as the place’s culture. Every dish was presented in a way that described a story synonymous with Xinjiang’s culture and history. The photos the guest took did not only feature the food served but also depicted happiness and enthusiasm for tasting something new.

Traveling from Kashgar to Urumqi is something you should not miss because it will literally feast your taste buds and create memories that will last for a long time. If you like tasty meat courses, rice with a pleasant smell, or sweet fruits and other sweets, you will be satisfied with the food in Xinjiang. The food of Xinjiang does not only lie in the cities visited during the trip but also in the journey itself, and that is the beauty of it.

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