Uyghur Ice Cream 维吾尔冰淇淋: Xinjiang's Best Food | Xinjiang: Far West China

Uyghur Ice Cream 维吾尔冰淇淋: Xinjiang’s Best Food

June 14, 2009 | 2 Comments

Local Name:  “Maruxna” (pronounced ma-rue-sh-na)
Chinese Name: 维吾尔冰淇淋 (wéiwúĕr bīngqílín)
Alternate Names: Uyghur Ice Cream
Description: “Homestyle” churned ice cream served in a small cup or cone.

Xinjiang’s Ice Cream Man (or Woman)

A small motor was quietly whirring on top of this small push cart as I approached it.  Uyghur woman serves ice creamThe motor was spinning a deep tub of ice cream ingredients while the woman on the other side used a long wooden spoon to gently scrape the sides.  The cart, set on four wheels, is essentially Xinjiang’s version of the Ice Cream Man.  They may not make their way through the city neighborhoods beckoning children with the sound of “The Entertainer”, but they have their own unique style.

Within the Uyghur markets (like the Urumqi International Bazaar) and along streets lined with Uyghur restaurants you’ll find numerous carts or stands with a large pile of recently made ice cream ready to scoop into a small cup.  These vendors usually set up their  carts in the desired location, open a large umbrella to keep the area cool, and stay put for an entire day.

The 2015 Xinjiang travel guide is here!

This Ain’t Bluebell

A street vendor's ice cream cartI have to be honest and say that the first time I ate Uyghur ice cream I didn’t like it very much.  When I hear the word “ice cream” I usually begin daydreaming about a large gallon of Bluebell or a small pint of Ben and Jerry’s (I’ve been in China too long!) but this stuff is a whole different genre of frozen desert.  Uyghur ice cream has a very milky flavor and is usually grainy in texture.

The ice cream can be made in different flavors, but all share the same tint of yellow.  Some are milk flavored while others are flavored to a specific fruit, but you’ll have to ask to know for sure.  I once heard rumors that they use goat and camel milk as the main ingredient but all the Uyghur I have talked to laugh at this idea.

To Eat or Not to Eat?

A Uyghur vendor serves ice creamThere’s no doubt that if you come to Xinjiang during the summer you’ve got to at least give this ice cream a try.

There’s a chance you won’t like it and you can always stop by the local store for regular ice-cream-on-a-stick, but it’s another great example of interesting foods, foods like incredibly tastyXinjiang bread or the Big Plate Chicken, that you’ll only be able to (easily) find in this part of China.

Still not convinced?  A single cup, like you see in the picture above, is only 2-3 RMB (about 25 cents).  There’s really no excuse.

About Josh Summers

Josh is a writer, musician and entrepreneur who currently resides in Urumqi, capital of China’s western province of Xinjiang. He has been traveling and writing about this region since 2006 and has no plans to stop in the near future.

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The 2015 Xinjiang travel guide is here!