Western China Food — Xinjiang, Tibetan Cuisines

Naan bread Naan bread is one of the most popular dishes in Xinjiang.

Western China is mainly Xinjiang Province and Tibet. The food reflects the characteristics of the culture, geography, climate, and agriculture of this region.

Xinjiang Cuisine — Halal Food

The region of Xinjiang in northwest China is traditionally home to ethnic Muslim peoples like the Uighur (pronounced wee-ger), so there is no pork or carnivorous animals on the menu. Being a region with lots of pasture, sheep features on top of the menu. Xinjiang is also famous for its fruit, particularly dried fruit.

Ingredients

Xinjiang is mostly composed of deserts and mountains, so arable land is limited. Wheat is the main staple grain, and a few vegetables are grown there, mostly onions, carrots, peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes. Xinjiang is also famous for its fruit, particularly dried fruit.

Being a region with lots of pasture, Xinjiang cuisine features mutton top of its ingredients list. Other protein foods include beef, camel meat, horse meat, and various dairy foods.

Xinjiang is a multi-ethnic area, so the diet of this region varies with ethnic customs, beliefs, and ways of life. There is Uyghur cuisine mainly, but also Han, Kazakh, Russian, Tibetan, etc. The common cooking methods include stir frying, roasting, and steaming.

Where to Eat Xinjiang Cuisine

Roast chickenRoast chicken

Halal food and Muslim (Xinjiang) restaurants can be found in cities and towns all over China. As Xinjiang is a poor region, many people have left their hometowns to open restaurants or food stands in other cities, which offer more economic possibilities.

Some of the most popular Xinjiang dishes include roasted mutton kebabs, roast chicken (大盘鸡 dàpánjī /daa-pan-jee/ 'big plate chicken'), 'grab rice' (抓饭 zhuāfàn /jwaa-fan/), 'hand-pulled noodles' (手拉面 shǒulāmiàn /shoh-laa-myen/), and naan bread (馕 náng /nung/).

Xinjiang Cuisine Menu

English Chinese Pronunciation Characters
Garlic Mutton dàsuàn yángròu Daa-swann yang-roh 大蒜羊肉
Crispy Sheep Leg xiāng sū yáng tuǐ Sshyang soo yang tway 香酥羊腿
Roast Mutton Chops kǎo yángpái Kaoww yang-peye 烤羊排
Mutton and Pilau Rice yángròu zhuāfàn Yang-roh jwaa-fan 羊肉抓饭
Xinjiang Big Plate Chicken Xīnjiāng dàpán jī Sshyin-jyang daa pan jee 新疆大盘鸡
Borscht (Beetroot Soup) luó sòng tāng Lwor song tung 罗宋汤
Almond Crackers xìngrén sū bǐng Sshying-rnn soo bing 杏仁酥饼
Braised Masked Palm Civet hóngshāo guǒzilí Hong-shaoww gwor-dzrr-lee 红烧果子狸

Tibetan Cuisine — Flavors of Nepalese, Indian and Sichuan Cuisine

Tibet is a high-altitude, harsh-climate area, where it is hard to grow food, so vegetables and fruits are scarce. It has a distinct food culture. The Tibetan yak has traditionally been the animal of choice for nomadic pastoralists, as it is able to withstand the harsh winters. Yak farmers can live almost exclusively on Yak products, including Yak fat tea.

Traditional Tibetan cuisine emphasizes "calm" tastes, so many dishes do not have any spicy seasonings except salt, scallion, and garlic.

sweet teaTibetan sweet tea

However, influenced by its neighbors India, Nepal and Sichuan Province, Tibetan cuisine also use lots of pungent spices and seasonings, including curries with mustard seeds and chilies.

Ingredients

Tibetan cuisine mainly uses barley, wheat, meats like beef, mutton, pork, and chicken, wheat, dairy products, potatoes, and radishes. Tibetan people don't eat horse, dog, donkey, or even fish, due to their religion and customs.

Due to the high altitude and limited resources, people who live in this region need a diet higher in fat and calories to resist the cold weather. Therefore mainstay foods are meat (mutton, beef, or yak), dairy, barley, and wheat. Their mountain barley is made into tsampa (糌粑 zānbā /dzan baa/), which is very popular and eaten every day by Tibetans.

Some of the most traditional staple foods are yak butter tea, sweet tea, barley tea, or dried meat that is either barbequed or eaten raw.

The common cooking methods include roasting, frying, and stewing.

Tibet Cuisine Food Menu

English Chinese Pronunciation Characters
Yak Meat Braised in Soy Sauce hóngshāo máoniú ròu Hong-shaoww maoww-nyoh roh 红烧牦牛肉
Tibet Fried Meat and Potato Zàng tǔdòu shāo ròu Dzung too-doh shaoww roh 藏土豆烧肉
Yadong Sautéed Sliced Pork with Black Fungus yàdōng mù'ěr ròupiàn Yaa-dong moo-er roh-pyen 亚东木耳肉片
Stewed Old Chicken and Matsutake Mushrooms sōngróng dùn lǎo jī Song-rong dwnn laoww jee 松茸炖老鸡
Tibetan Butter Tea Zàngshì sūyóuchá Dzung-shrr soo-yoh-chaa 藏式酥油茶
Ginseng Fruits Steamed Rice rénshēn guǒ zhēng fàn Rnn-shnn gwor jnng fan 人参果蒸饭
Fried Ginseng and Corn rénshēn chǎo yùmǐ Rnn-shnn chaoww yoo-mee 人参炒玉米

Where to Eat Tibetan Food

Tibetan dishes are served in Tibetan towns and cities in China around the Tibetan Plateau, as well as its neighboring countries Nepal and India. You can even find Tibetan restaurants in large cities including Beijing, Shanghai, and Chengdu.

Now in larger Tibetan cities and towns, Lhasa for example, vegetables and fresh fish are available in markets. Tibetan cuisine is supplemented by other Chinese cuisine styles, mostly Sichuan Cuisine. However, many restaurants in small cities and towns still serve traditional Tibetan food. 

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