Lamb Kebabs 烤肉: Xinjiang’s Best Food

August 30 | 7 Comments

[sam id=”1″ codes=”true”]Local Name: “keebab”
Chinese Name: 烤肉 (kăo ròu)
Alternate Names: Xinjiang BBQ, kebabs, lamb-on-a-stick
Description: Alternating pieces of lamb meat and fat roasted with spices on a stick

Continuing our presentation of the daily food we eat here in Xinjiang, I will now introduce you to our good friend Mr. Lamb. Now before my wife and I arrived here in China we had never eaten lamb before and I think many other A plate of delicious Xinjiang kebabswesterners are the same way . Needless to say, new meats are always an interesting experience, and lamb is no exception.

Uyghurs and Lamb

Uyghur, one of the many different people groups present here in Xinjiang, are the experts at cooking lamb kebabs. Come to think of it, they’re experts at everything having to do with sheep meat and all other body parts. Because they are usually Muslim, naturally they can’t eat pork. While this does leave chicken and fish as options, they usually forgo these two and make every dish with some part of the lamb.

A Uyghur vendor makes lamb kebabs in XinjiangVarious forms of kebabs are available (with various parts of the lamb), but the most common and our favorite is what is simply referred to as “ke-bab”. It usually involves alternating pieces of meat and fat (surprisingly good!) seasoned with a blend of spices which can be quite tasty (albeit a bit spicy) and cooked over a special grill using coal – not charcoal.

[sam id=”2″ codes=”true”]

Warning: Do not try Coal at Home

This last point is important because the story has been passed down of an American here in Karamay who thought it would be so cool to grill steaks for his Chinese friends. Sounds like a good idea, right? Well, using coal for his grill just as he would charcoal, he ended up grilling a fine layer of coal grime onto the steaks while simultaneously smoking out the neighborhood. Grilling with coal is an art, and unlike us Americans, the Uyghur have it down.

The best part about kebabs? They are super cheap! One kebab costs one RMB (update: that was in 2008… in 2010 they are 2-4 RMB), the equivalent of 15 cents, so the plate of kebabs in the picture above probably cost us close to $3. It’s not a full meal in itself, but it makes for a nice side order. Although the best kebabs are found in Xinjiang, you can find them in almost any major city in China…once you find a Muslim restaurant or a Muslim quarter, you’ll find lamb kebabs.

About Josh Summers

Josh is the author of Xinjiang | A Traveler's Guide to Far West China, the most highly-reviewed and comprehensive travel guide on China's western region of Xinjiang. He lived, studied and run a business in Xinjiang, China for more than 10 years, earning recognition for his work from CCTV, BBC, Lonely Planet and many others.

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  1. :) so funny , your preamble is beauty about Kebab …
    I am a Persian , do you know Kebab is a Persian Food in Iran … is very likely food …
    In Persian Turkish Kebab is very Famous , because we have different foods between tribes .. and “Ash” is very much better than all foods (Humm) :D… thx


  2. The Chinese name “kao rou” listed means “beef meat” in Mandarin. Lamb kabobs are yang rou chuan. Thanks for the pictures and info!


    Josh on November 11th, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    Thanks for the comment. While you are correct that “yang rou chuan” is the technical term for lamb kebabs, the slang term used almost everywhere in Xinjiang is “kao rou” (which means “roasted meat”, not “beef meat”). You tell somebody in Xinjiang that you want 两个烤肉…they’ll know exactly what to serve you!


  3. Dear Josh,
    My favorite past time is go around the Xinjiang Bar-B-Q mobile karts in Flushing. I go to five of them to compare the taste. My favorite is lamb, but they serve chicken and beef, as well. So far, I think the best is the one next to the vegetable
    and fruits sidewalk vendor in Flushing (Kissena Blvd.)and my next choice is the one beside Chase Bank. I was so happy to see your written article but I was dissappointed not to find the recipe. I will be moving out to South Carolina from New York and I don’t want to miss the xinjiang bar-b-q. I want to learn to prepare it even in South Carolina. Would you please give me the authentic recipe of this bar-b-q or kebab? Thanks in advance.


    Josh on June 25th, 2012 at 8:43 am

    Have you seen the two articles I posted that had numerous Xinjiang recipes?

    Uyghur Recipes Pt 1

    Uyghur Recipes Pt 2


  4. Hi, Josh,

    Thanks for your response. Yes, I finally saw it. I will try to experiment making the Xinjiang B B Q.

    What a coincidence, I myself have been traveling before in China, among many other countries. During mu spare time doing something connected to business, I try to live the local culture and cuisine and make new friends in the process. I lived many years in different Middle East countries but have not encountered this kind of B B Q.

    I know how to prepare a special Filipino B B Q. You should taste that too. I live now in New York City. If you happen to come the great Apple, let me know. I’ll prepare the fantastic Filipino B B Q for you, but teach me to prepare the Xinjiang B B Q too. Until wishes.


  5. Hello,
    I am searching for the following recipes. Can anyone help please.
    • Chu’Chura (or Chochura) – Tiny Dumplings in Lamb Soup
    • Tawa Kebab (or Taba Kewap) – Stewed Lamb Ribs served with Nahn Bread
    These recipes are delicious, and we can’t find a recipe anywhere.
    Thanks :)