What Should I Eat in Xinjiang? 10 Best Uyghur Food Options

What Should I Eat in Xinjiang? 10 Best Uyghur Food

September 2, 2016 | 14 Comments

Anybody who plans to travel to Xinjiang knows that Xinjiang cuisine is going to be a memorable part of their journey. The local Uyghur food is well-known throughout China and praised among travelers.

It’s not just Uyghur food, though. Whether you want to eat Hui food, Kazakh food or Chinese food – Xinjiang has it all. Unfortunately, not everybody knows what to eat…or even how to order it! That’s where you’ll find this guide and video useful.

Uyghur-Samsa

It doesn’t matter if you eat in a restaurant, on the street or at a local Xinjiang bazaar, you’re likely to run into the same types of foods wherever you go.

The following recommendations for good Xinjiang food obviously don’t cover everything there is to try…but it’s a good start. If you have the opportunity to eat each of these foods at least once while you’re here, you will have had a well-rounded taste of Xinjiang cuisine.

NOTE: I realize that some people may take offense at my use of “Xinjiang food” or “Xinjiang cuisine”. I choose to sometimes use this phrase not out of discrimination against the majority Uyghur people but out of recognition that the region’s cuisine is comprised of multiple ethnic groups – Uyghur, Hui, Kazakh, Tajik, etc.

VIDEO | The Best Xinjiang Uyghur Food

Because the written word doesn’t accomplish enough in the quest to describe ethnic cuisine, the next best thing besides taking you to a restaurant is to show it to you. Take a few minutes and join me here in Xinjiang as I introduce my top 10 favorite Xinjiang dishes!

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Would you like to have an easy reference guide of these and many other Xinjiang foods? Click below to download the FarWestChina guide that gives you all of these foods written in English, Chinese, Pinyin and Uyghur!

Download the Uyghur Food Guide

Top 10 Uyghur Foods & Xinjiang Foods

To give you a quick rundown, here are the ten foods I recommend you try while traveling to Xinjiang.

  1. Uyghur Polo: Known throughout Central Asia as “rice pilaf”, Uyghur polo is a tasty mix of rice, carrots and lamb meet slow cooked in oil. It is without a doubt the most popular Uyghur dish in Xinjiang.
  2. Uyghur Laghman and Hui BanMian: The Uyghur and Hui have similar dishes here – laghman and banmian. The concept is simple: pulled noodles covered in a concoction of meat, vegetables and oil.
  3. Lamb Kebabs: A staple of the Uyghur diet, lamb kebabs will have you drooling over a kind of meat you never thought you’d love – lamb. If you like kebabs, you might enjoy the conversation with a Uyghur friend of mine who told me the secrets behind the perfect Uyghur kebab.

Uyghur kebab seller in Xinjiang | Best Uyghur food

  1. Uyghur Bread: Again, this is something you’ll find all throughout Central Asia, yet the Uyghur have done a wonderful job putting their own spin on the food. Uyghur bread comes in all shapes and sizes, including flatbread and thick bagel-like bread. I recently had the opportunity to learn how to make Uyghur bread.

Uyghur bread stacked along a Turpan street in Xinjiang | Best Uyghur food

  1. Uyghur Ice Cream: During the summer months you might see mounds of ice cream being served from street carts in Xinjiang. This is affectionally referred to as “Uyghur Ice Cream”. Although it’s different than traditional ice cream, it’s still the perfect summer treat.

Uyghur ice cream in Urumqi, Xinjiang | Best Uyghur Food

  1. Samsa: I once described Uyghur samsa as “a grilled Hot Pocket“. A mixture of lamb meat and onion is covered with breading and baked until crisp. It’s an oily treat (as is most Uyghur food, for that matter), but enjoyable none-the-less.
  2. Hui DaPanJi: A lot of people mistakenly think this is a Uyghur dish when in fact it is part of the Hui cuisine. The name directly translates to “Big Plate Chicken” and it’s a pretty good description: it’s an entire chicken, cut up and cooked with potatoes, onions and other vegetables and served on a big plate. Yum!

Xinjiang's Big Plate Chicken (DaPanJi) | Best Hui Food

  1. Stuffed Lamb Intestine: This is a surprisingly good dish that’s worth a try. A rice and lamb meat mixture is stuffed into lamb intestine and served along with lamb lung. Don’t knock it before you try it! Learn more about stuffed lamb intestine here.

Uyghur Sheep Intestine

  1. Uyghur Matang: This is a nut snack (walnuts, almonds, etc.) usually sold on the streets by Uyghur vendors. It’s extremely chewy but easy to transport, so it makes for a fun snack on the bus or train.

Uyghur Matang snack in Urumqi, Xinjiang

  1. Xinjiang Fruits: Did you know that people in Xinjiang eat more fruit per capita than any other region in China? It’s true, and one of the reasons is that we have the best fruit. Almost every region of Xinjiang has it’s “specialty” fruit and if you can find out what it is (i.e. Hami melon, Turpan grapes, Korla pears, etc.), buy some to enjoy.

Conclusion | Best Xinjiang Foods?

So what do you think of this list? Like I said, I’ve left a number of great dishes off the list. If you think one of your favorites is worth a mention, please let me know in the comments below!

Also, if you’d like to download a reference guide for these foods and how to say them in both Chinese and Uyghur language, join the FarWestChina community using the button below. I’ll immediately send it to your inbox!

Download the Uyghur Food Guide

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.

Leave a Comment

  1. Dear Josh,

    Thank you to publish my last commentary on your blog .

    You certainly know most than me than the Ouzbeck have a relationship with the Ouygours and in my article, http://jmmartin.unblog.fr/2014/10/07/20-000-kms-en-tricycle-couche-n9-septies/ at the end, I ask what is the difference between the “Sonem” and the “Longham” ..

    Your article is, of course, most full than mine and I’m eulogistic on it ..

    Sincerely yours . J.M. MARTIN

    [Reply]

    Josh Summers on October 5th, 2016 at 2:34 pm

    Thanks for sharing, J.M.!

    [Reply]

  2. Great article, Josh! I think you just about covered the top Uyghur dishes. The only food that I would add would be Uyghur yoghurt. When we lived in Kashgar, we bought fresh yoghurt made that same morning. It was a little tart compared to store-bought yoghurt, so most people added a bit – or a lot! – of sugar, but I liked eating it straight! Mmm! Delicious!

    [Reply]

    Josh Summers on October 5th, 2016 at 2:34 pm

    Mmmm…yes, the Uyghur yoghurt is definitely worth a mention here. I’m one of those people who tends to add a bit of sugar to mine ;)

    [Reply]

  3. My favourite is those little lamb pies cooked inside a circular oven. The best I ever ate were in Kuche at the night market, but they sold out quickly. At the animal market in Kashgar they make mounds of them and it’s interesting to watch the whole efficient operation.

    [Reply]

    Josh Summers on October 5th, 2016 at 2:37 pm

    Thanks for the comment, Deirdre. I believe you’re referring to the samsa I mention above? It sounds like it’s the same thing.

    [Reply]

  4. Thanks for this! I’ve been a few times to xinjiang but I never ate their Uyghur Ice Cream. Seems something delicious!

    I’ve noticed that they eat much more fruit in Xinjiang than in other regions, definitely going to try out Korla pears. I think I already ate the Hami melon!

    Cheers
    Helena

    [Reply]

    Josh Summers on October 5th, 2016 at 2:36 pm

    Absolutely. My advice is to stop any time you see a fresh fruit stand in a city and see what’s fresh. You may be surprised at what you find (or maybe don’t even recognize!).

    [Reply]