If you’re planning a trip to Xinjiang, you’ll definitely want to try the local Uyghur cuisine.
Uyghur food is well-known and appreciated by travelers from all over China.
However, if you’re not familiar with the local cuisine, it can be difficult to know what to order.
This guide and video will help you navigate the different types of food available in Xinjiang, so you can make the most of your culinary experience.
What is XinJiang Food?
- Uyghur cuisine meets somewhere in the middle between central Asian and Turkic tradition, bubbling away from the melting pot of that famous trade route.
- The Uyghur ethnic minority is predominately Muslim and so its cuisine is Halal, with lamb as the base of many dishes
- The cuisine is mild with a few spicier highlights that you can customise to order. Cumin is the spice star of this show and tomatoes provide the base of many Uyghur sauces.
Top 13 Uyghur Foods & Xinjiang Foods
To give you a quick rundown, here are the 13 foods I recommend you try while traveling to Xinjiang.
You may not like each and every one of them, but you won’t regret at least giving them a try. I promise!
1. Uyghur Polo / Pilaf-手抓饭
Uyghur polo is a dish made of carrots, peppers, rice, and lamb meat cooked in a large amount of oil.
It can take a while to prepare, so it is typically only served for lunch. However, more and more restaurants are now serving it for dinner as well.
Uyghur polo is a quick and affordable option, costing around 20 RMB per plate.
How to Order Uyghur Pollo
It’s quite simple to order Uyghur food at a restaurant – just walk in, order and pay for your meal.
The pollo (chicken) dish is usually served with a side plate of carrots and vinegar.
I also recommend trying the Uyghur yogurt, which can be quite tart. You can add a spoonful of sugar to the yogurt to sweeten it.
2.DaPanJi – Big Plate Chicken – 大盘鸡
Xinjiang DaPanJi is made up of a large plate of potatoes, peppers, a whole chicken (including feet and sometimes the head!), and various spices.
This dish is best enjoyed with a group of people, as it is quite filling and can be quite expensive.
How to Order DaPanJi
- DaPanJi is typically quite spicy, but can be ordered with less spice if desired.
- DaPanJi can be ordered as a half plate or a full plate, with the average full plate feeding 3-4 people.
- There are two types of DaPanJi – dapanji and dapantuji. The latter is more expensive but the chicken is tuji, which means it is free-range and corn-fed.
- To get the full experience, order some Uyghur naan to be served with the dish. Naan soaked in DaPanJi juice is incredible.
- Order a plate or two of noodles once you’re halfway through with your meal.
3. Lamb Kebabs – KaoRou – 烤肉
The famous Xinjiang lamb kebab is an essential part of the Xinjiang cuisine, but it is not really a meal in itself.
It is simply lamb meat on a stick, usually with alternating meat and fat pieces on the skewer.
It is cooked over a coal or wood fire and sprinkled with cumin and pepper.
Xinjiang lamb kebabs now range in price from 3-8 kuai each.
How to Order Kebabs
There are not a lot of options when it comes to kebabs. However, there are a few restaurants that will serve different sizes of kebabs (small pieces of meat vs. large).
You can order the kebabs along with your main dish, and they will often come out first, like an appetizer.
Professional video – how to make Xinjiang Lamb Skewers at home
4.Lagman – BanMian – 拌面/拉面
The Uyghur version of BanMian is called “Laghman” or “La mian”.
It is a dish of meat, vegetables and oil poured over a plate of noodles.
When ordering this dish, it often comes on two plates.
The server will either pour it together in front of the customer or allow the customer to do so.
How to Order BanMian
The main problem with ordering BanMian for most foreigners is the sheer number of choices.
My method is to just ask the waitress which is the most popular and they’re more than happy to offer a suggestion.
Once you order your plate, it’s not uncommon to ask for more noodles.
Honestly, though, take it easy on the heavy noodles. Your stomach will thank you later.
5.Uyghur Matang – 麻糖
Matang is a popular Uyghur street food that you can find all across China.
It is made using different types of nuts, kept together by honey.
It is a sweet snack that will get stuck in your teeth.
You can choose your favorite nut (almond, walnut, cashew, etc) and get that bar.
How to Order Uyghur Matang
Just choose the amount you want – anything from a small sample slice to a large bar – and pay the vendor.
Uyghur samsa is a popular Uyghur dish that is made by grilling a mixture of lamb meat and onions, and then wrapping it in breading.
It is a very oily dish, but is super tasty. These make great snacks to bring on a bus or train for a long ride.
Xinjiang is home to some of the world’s most beautiful bread, in the form of soft, flat naan decorated with seeds and punctured patterns.
It is characterized by its raised edges and flatter center.
Although it would not look out of place in an art museum, it is often sold as a street food.
Ququre is a traditional Uyghur food that can be served as a soup or main dish.
It is similar to Italian tortellini, except it is made completely from starch and is served fresh.
9. Girde Naan (Uyghur Bagels) -窝窝馕
Bagels from Xinjiang have a similar look as those from NYC. However, they are crunchier on the outside and fluffier on the inside.
The hole in the middle of the bagel does not go all the way through.
These bagels are eaten with jam and butter or dunked in soup, rather than with cream cheese.
PS! I’ve seen many good recipes for Uyghur Bagels, but none of them are as good as this one from the SilkRoadChef Blog.
10. Napariyong (Xinjiang Napoleon )-娜帊立勇
This white rectangular mille-layer cake, similar to Napoleon cake, is often called “Xinjiang Napoleon.”
Napariyong has multiple layers of fillings and meringues in the middle.
It tastes like yogurt or cheese. If you bite it down, the layers are layered and the milk is dense.
11. Ding Ding Chao Mian (丁丁炒面, Fried Noodles in Lamb Tomato Sauce)
Instead of pulling the noodles into long thin strips, you leave the noodles thick, and cut them into small chunks.
This results in a firmer shape and chewier texture. The short noodles soak up sauce nicely and keep their shape well.
12. Shurpa (Lamp Soup)-羊肉汤
This lamb and vegetable soup comes together easily with browned meat and roughly chopped carrots, potatoes, bell peppers, and onions.
It’s often served with samsas (meat hand pies).
13. Sangza-Deep Fried Noodles-炸馓子
Deep-fried flour dough noodles are served in a pyramid shape.
It is often served with a yogurt dip or herbal tea.
It can also be broken off and eaten as a snack.
This recipe includes Sichuan peppercorns for an extra-hot kick!
Do You Have an Interest in Chinese Food Traditions?
The Uyghur food list above is mainly for lunch and dinner selections.
Then you may wonder what do Chinese eat for Breakfast?
I wrote an article to cover all the choices you have for your morning meal in China. (Click here)
If you have tried something amazing in China but not listed in my articles, please leave me a message in comment section below!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):
It’s called Uyghur food or Xin Jiang food. It is characterized by mutton, beef, chicken, carrots, tomatoes, onions, peppers, eggplant, celery, various dairy foods and fruits.
A typical Uyghur breakfast consists of tea with home-baked bread, smetana, olives, honey, raisins and almonds. Super delicious!
It has a taste with tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, and spices like star anise, chili, and ginger.
Yes it is. Uyghur food is rich in nutrients and beneficial for health.