For many people, Chinese cuisine calls to mind several delicious dishes like noodles, dim sum, and fried rice. Those who are more gastronomically adventurous may know that popular Chinese food generally comes from the eight great cuisines that are widely regarded in China: Anhui cuisine, Cantonese cuisine, Fujian cuisine, Hunan cuisine, Jiangsu cuisine, Shandong cuisine, Sichuan cuisine, and Zhejiang cuisine.
However, there is also one lesser-known culinary style that many have thought to be the “forgotten ninth cuisine” of the country: Uyghur Cuisine.
Located in the northwest, by the borders of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, Xinjiang is the autonomous province of the Uyghur people, a predominantly Muslim Chinese minority. Owing to geographic and religio-cultural influences, Uyghur Cuisine, also alternatively called Xinjiang cuisine, is a delicious Halal fusion between Chinese food and Central Asian food, which contains multiple Middle Eastern elements.
Uniquely mouthwatering, the cuisine typically makes use of signature ingredients such as mutton, kebabs, fish, rice, dairy products, and fruits among others. With such a distinctive combination of food styles, there is no doubt that the cuisine is worth a food trip or two.
For those looking for their next culinary adventure, here are five must-try dishes from Uyghur Cuisine:
1) Lamb Kebabs (羊肉串, yáng ròu chuàn)
Lamb is one of the most common features of Uyghur cuisine. Skewered, grilled, and seasoned generously with cumin, this simple dish will make stomachs grumble from miles away!
2) Baked Lamb Buns (烤包子, kǎo bāo zi)
Locally known as samsa, these bread buns are traditionally stuffed with marinated lamb, onion, and spices. They are often brushed with oil and topped with sprinkled sesame seeds.
3) Nan (馕, náng)
A disc-shaped flatbread common in Central Asia, nan (not to be confused with naan) is baked with sesame seeds, butter, milk, vegetable oil, salt, and sugar.
4) Big Plate Chicken (大盘鸡, Dàpánjī)
Dapanji is a hearty and rich chicken stew rich in ingredients such as potatoes, chilies, onions, ginger, and garlic. Those eating this also often enjoy the wide flat noodles that accompany the dish, using them to soak the remaining sauce towards the end of the meal.
5) Laghman (拌面, bàn miàn)
Considered a staple of Uyghur cuisine, laghman is a dish that features hand-pulled and hand-cut noodles that possess a thick and bouncy texture. Boiled for a lengthy amount of time to obtain the desired chewy consistency, its noodles are customarily served in a rich tomato sauce that comes with bell pepper, garlic, onions, and meat.