Uyghur Food Recipes from Xinjiang | Ultimate Collection of the Best Foods!

Best Uyghur Food Recipes from Xinjiang, China

October 16 | 30 Comments

Often when people return from traveling Xinjiang and the Silk Road, they tell me their favorite memory was the local Uyghur food. While it’s virtually impossible to recreate this memory at home, it’s always worth a try. For this reason, I’ve collected some of the best Uyghur food recipes for you to use in your own home.

Uyghur food recipes

Unfortunately – at least as far as  I can tell – there is no formal Uyghur food cookbook in English. There’s plenty available in Uyghur and a few in Chinese, but that doesn’t help much.

Thankfully, there are plenty of online resources that can help…if you’re willing to dig and find them! I’ve decided to take a few minutes here to share with you a few of my favorite Xinjiang foods as well as the recipes that will allow you to cook them at home.

Each dish will have an internal link that will give you more details about the specific dish, as well as an external link to an authentic recipe for you to use.

Uyghur Bread Recipe – Naan (馕)

Uyghur bread from Xinjiang, China

A couple years ago, I had the opportunity to go behind the scenes at a Uyghur bread shop in Turpan to learn how they make the famous flatbread. It was an incredible experience, but is it possible to do this same process in your own home?

Believe it or not, with the use of a good pizza stone or some clay quarry tiles, it is possible. It might not be exactly the same as what you remember in Xinjiang, but it will be the next best thing.

rolling the Uyghur bread dough

Check out this video to see how Uyghur bread is made in Xinjiang!


Big Plate Chicken Recipe – DaPanJi (大盘鸡)

Big Plate Chicken is probably one of the most tried and failed recipes in all of Xinjiang. Most people just don’t realize that the secret behind what makes DaPanJi so special is the red sauce.

Dapanji, or "Big Plate Chicken" is great Uyghur food in Xinjiang

The DaPanJi recipe I’m sharing here is a bit difficult because there are some unfamiliar ingredients (Shaoxing wine for example), but this can be overcome.

If you don’t have access to a Chinese supermarket to get rice wine, a pale dry sherry will do the trick (apple juice will do if you don’t want to visit the liquor store). Also, the Xinjiang spice can be either a complex mix of spices, or you can just substitute cumin.

Xinjiang's Big Plate Chicken (DaPanJi)

Uyghur Polo Recipe – Pilaf (抓饭)

Some people call it Uyghur Pilaf; in Xinjiang, it’s mostly referred to as Uyghur Polo or “zhua fan” after the Chinese name for the dish.

Although I believe this dish is more “Central Asian” than “Uyghur food”, it is still a dish that most people absolutely love when they travel here to Xinjiang.

There are quite a few different types of polo that the Uyghur people make, but the most common is what you see here (and what the recipe describes).

Uyghur lamb pilaf, also known as Uyghur polo

Uyghur Lamb Kebab Recipe (烤肉)

One of the staple street foods in Xinjiang is the famous lamb kebab. In some areas of the province they are cooked over wood while others are cooked over coal, but the smell is irresistible either way.

Uyghur kebabs, a staple of the Xinjiang cuisine

No matter what you do, it’s going to be impossible to perfectly replicate a Xinjiang lamb kebab. I personally took lessons from a kebab seller on how to make lamb kebabs and I can’t do it.

Still, armed with this recipe you can at least give it a try!

A Uyghur grill kebabs during a BBQ

Uyghur Laghman Noodles (拌面)

In my mind, it’s almost as fun to watch a Hui or Uyghur man make “pulled noodles” as it is to eat laghman. It’s a talent that takes years to perfect, so don’t expect to do it at home (I just use spaghetti noodles as a substitute).

If you want to try your hand a making and pulling your own noodles, see this noodle recipe. Oh, and good luck with that :)

For the rest of us, the following recipe will suffice when it comes to recreating another great Xinjiang dish.

A Uyghur dish called "laghman" or "ban mian"
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Uyghur Samsa Recipe (烤包子)

Last but not least, another great street snack from Xinjiang. Similar to the Uyghur bread, it’s impossible to accurately replicate this dish without a coal-heated oven, but it can still be done.

The following recipe is written in Chinese characters and I wouldn’t consider it completely “authentic”, but it’s great for home use. Best of all it comes with pictures for everybody who wants a step-by-step guide. Ha!

A fresh batch of Uyghur Samsa

Great Chinese Cookbook in English

If looking through these recipes and trying them out at home is something that appeals to you, I highly suggest this book called Beyond the Great Wall. While most of the recipes are the recognizable Chinese dishes, there are also quite a few Xinjiang recipes you’ll enjoy.

Aside from recipes, the book also covers many of the ingredients you’ll need – including descriptions of what they are and how they’re used. Grab a copy for yourself – and help support this website in the process!

Paperback | Kindle Version

Final Thoughts | Uyghur Recipes

When it comes to Xinjiang, people tend to travel for a number of different reasons: beautiful scenery, history, exploration, culture, etc. But more often than not, people tell me that they travel to Xinjiang to experience the Uyghur food.

Whether you can make the trip or not, it’s so much fun to try these Uyghur food recipes at home. You can find out more about the most popular Uyghur cuisines and then give them a try yourself.

Oh, and one more thing…

If you’re planning to visit Xinjiang in the future, make sure to grab a copy of the FarWestChina Xinjiang Travel Guide. Not only will you support this website, it’s also the most comprehensive, up-to-date book on the region available.

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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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  1. I may have to try making naan at home when the weather cools off enough to use the oven. I’ve also found that Turkish pride bread makes a decent substitute. And fortunately, my wife makes dapanji…and has even taught me to make it (though I sometimes forget an ingredient or two).

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  2. This is a great, great idea. I’ve tried to make Dapanji at home a few times but there’s always something missing, a certain flavor that’s lacking. Thanks for these recipes!

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    Josh on August 9th, 2011 at 7:57 am

    My pleasure, Felix! Hopefully you’ll get to try and enjoy a couple of the other recipes as well.

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  3. I really disagree with the use of Mexican peppers in DaPanJi. It totally changes the flavor. You must use Asian red peppers. When in the US, I find then dried at the World Market. I also make it American style-boneless, skinless chicken breast so no one gets a surprise and breaks a tooth ;) Actually, I think it’s better and easier to eat but I never turn down the real thing-yum!

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    Josh on August 10th, 2011 at 8:23 am

    I agree, although I think that some people would prefer to avoid the red peppers altogether, just like you would rather avoid the bones! If my wife is making it in the US for family/friends, we usually avoid bones as well, but if we want it to be authentic there’s just no substitute for chopping up an entire chicken…head, bones, feet, and all!

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    Jerms on January 24th, 2012 at 10:15 am

    I fell in love with this dish when I lived in
    Chengdu, and I imagine that its a little different in Xinjiang (though sounds exactly the same). I agree, use what you can find–just as different peppers will change the flavor, but removing skin and bones from chicken will also change the flavor of the dish (no fat or marrow reduces the richness), and the meat will dry out sooner. Btw, what is “Xinjiang spice” that’s mentioned in this recipe?

  4. There is at least one English-language cookbook out there! You should check out Lois Bachmann’s 2003 “Cooking for Uyghurs.” I think some of these recipes you’ve linked to might be better and more suited to an American kitchen, though.

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    Josh on August 12th, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    I have never seen it! I’ll definitely look that up…thanks for sharing.

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  5. Really useful post. I’m on a huge kick at the moment to expand my (always interested, never mastered) cooking skills and I can’t wait to try some of these.

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  6. We love love love Uyghur food and miss it so much. While it’s npt entirely recipies from Xingjoang, this cookbook does have some… “Behind the Great Wall”, by Naomi Duguid.

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  7. Hi Josh,
    Since moving back to Malaysia, we’ve been deprived of good uyghur cuisine. We used to frequent restaurants with names like Silk Road and Taklemakan right smack in Sydney CBD. Now I can at least try make that big plate chicken dish. Oh, I never knew the names of the dishes as the restaurants wrote them in Chinese with numbers next to it. My favourite was number 7, something like a kebab (the marinate) but fried instead of grilled. The lamb kebab is also heavenly, unlike the drier Turkish version. Now, where can I get hold of Xinjiang spices in Kuala Lumpur? purrr…meow!

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  8. Hello Everyone (anyone),

    I’m doing a research on the herb called ‘Maca’. A Chinese man wrote this statement in Wikipedia, “Maca is widely consumed in Xinjiang, western China. We put it into lamb soup with potato & carrot. People think it is very good for health.” What I need is the Chinese name for Maca, in Chinese.

    I have a Chinese friend who is bad need to take this herb, but unless I can tell her the Chinese name for it, she would not know it. Please, help! Thank you.

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    Mark Tunnell on November 23rd, 2014 at 10:18 pm

    Hello,

    I have a feeling you don’t need it anymore but just in case, the Chinese name for maca is 瑪卡

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  9. Er? Wondering about your recipe for dapanji. The people of Xinjiang are muslim. So how does their most famous dish contain xiaosheng wine from Meizhou City, Guangdong Province, China?

    Muslims technically don’t drink or use or handle alcohol.

    Is your recipe authentic and traditional or some ersatz popularized version?

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    Ari on December 21st, 2015 at 8:14 pm

    Dapanji was invented by a migrant worker from Sichuan who lived in Urumqi… so yeah I guess you can’t say it’s “authentic” but it’s so popular that it doesn’t really matter.

    His is only one version of how to make the dish… quite often, it doesn’t have any alcohol in it. You can look up substitutes.

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    Kash on February 22nd, 2016 at 12:21 pm

    @Ari Whoever the migrant worker was. But he added alcohol in addition to the main ingredients :-) It can be cooked much better without using wine or alcohol.

    Kash on February 22nd, 2016 at 12:14 pm

    @Steve_H you are 100% right. I am Muslim from Pakistan and living in China for last 8 years. Dapanji (Big Plate Chicken) is a compulsory menu item in all Lanzhou Lamian (Halal certified muslim beef noodle shops spread all over china) and Xinjiang restaurants (Owned by Muslims or halal certified). The recipe of Dapanji here with the use of alcohol is certainly not authentic.

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  10. The Sichuan pepper in the Xinjiang spice “complex mixture of spices” is ground, but what about the Sichuan pepper listed as an ingredient in the main recipe? Does that also refer to ground, or whole Sichuan peppercorns?

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