Snacks at Night Market
When darkness falls, snacks at night market will appear miraculously in Urumqi. Snacks at Erdaoqiao Night market are the most famous.
Roasted whole lamb
Roasted whole lamb is the most treasured of ethnic dishes in Xinjiang. It is sort of Beijing Roasted Duck or Guangzhou Roasted Suckling Pig, but looks more extravagant. To roast a whole lamb is a delicate and complex job. A two-year-old Altay lamb is killed and stripped, and the internal organs are removed. Then fix the lamb, from head to tail, to a club with big nails on one end. Then dress the lamb with a mixture of egg yolk, brine, turmeric, kumin(speciality of Xinjiang), pepper, and flour. Later put it into a pit and close the lid, sealing with a wet cloth, bake the lamb for about one hour till it is golden brown outside and the meat near the club turns white.
Shish kebab enjoys the same reputation as roasted whole lamb. Skewered slices of fresh lamb are grilled on burning coke. The aroma is very tempting, you may add some cayenne or pepper to it if you like hot flavour. The guests are seated around the fire, appreciating the workmanship and eating the delicacy.
Boiled lamb soup
It is another way of eating lamb, which is natural, crude and simple. Fresh lamb is stewed in a big pot. When it is half done, take it oiut and cut it into small pieces. It is eaten with salt and soy sauce. This kind of delicious food is the favourite of Kazak, Mongolian, Uyghur, Kirgiz and Tajik people.
Pilaf is called”pilau” or “polo” in Mongolian language and is an important food for the Uyghur and Uzbek groups. As the food is eaten with clean bare hands, we called it finger food in Chinese. Pilaf is baked with a mixture of rice, lamb, carrot, raisin, onion and cooking oil. With a tempting flavor, the glossy food is very palatable. Xinjiang pilaf enjoys a great variety, in addition to lamb, the meat ingredients include chicken, duck, goose, and beef. The sweet or vegetarian pilaf may include raisin, kernel, carrot, and dried apricot.
It is similar to Han group’s baked bannock. But with its decorative patterns on the surface, it looks more attactive. There are sliced nang, meat nang, oil nang and sesame nang, to name a few. Nang is the main staple for many ethnic groups. Fermented dough(without salt or soda) is firstly made into the shape of a circle, thin in the middle and thick on edge, something like the Italian pizza. Then decorate it with ethnic patterns and bake it in a special pit. The oil nang is made with lamb oil. The meat nang is filled with mutton, kumin, pepper, and onion. The sesame nang is filled with sesame and grape juice.
The main feature of the lamb bun lies in its thin wrapper and big filling. The delicious food is the favorite of the Uyghur people. Fresh lamb is chopped into small pieces and mixed with minced onion, pepper, and salt and then filled into thin wrappers. Finally the bun is steamed for 20 mins.
It is a kind of wheat flour food, which looks round and thin and feels smooth. Something like the begetable braised noodles of the Han people, it is eaten with dishes such as fried egg with tomato and fried boiled chichen. The vital processes of making the hand-stretched noodle are “mix” and “stretch”. Mix flour with water, add salt and knead the dough till it is soft; and the noodles can be stretched in dough or in a single line.
The main ingredient of milk tea is cow milk or ewe milk, but the techniques in choosing the ingredients and and making the tea, as shown by many ethnic groups, are so diverse that you cannot simply form a single idea of “milk tea”. In choosing the ingredients and making the tea, for example, the Kazak people like Mixing tea, the Mongolian people prefer green brick tea, and the people of Uyghur, Xibe and Tartar are fond of red brick tea. In making the tea, people first break the brick tea into pieces and put them into a copper kettle. When it boils, put milk into the kettle and stir till the milk and tea are mixed perfectly together. Take the tea grounds out and add salt and it is done. However, the Kazak and Tartar people separate tea and boiling water, they put the milk into a bowl and add think tea, then boiling water and it is ready.
Mare milk wine
Drinking mare milk seems quite unusual, but drinking mare milk wine is even more unusual. However, it is the most favourite drink of the Kazak people known as “a people on horseback”. Put fresh mare milk into a keg, and add some distiller’s yeast, then put it in a warm place to let it ferment gradually. Every day stir the milk with a stick, and several days later, the milk wine is done, with a slight sour taste and fresh aroma. The alcohol content of the wine is very low, about 3%. It is said that the wine can be used to treat indigestion and stomachache.