It has been 3 years since I have been to Beijing. Who would have known what a pandemic would bring to all your travel plans?
Xinjiang became a hot topic at this Winter Olympics 2022, the first time Beijing was holding it, when an Urgher athelete light the Olympic cauldron. Politics aside, I had to say it was a beautiful opening.
Talking about Xinjiang, here’s one Xinjiang meal that I had in Beijing that I didn’t manage to post about. It was not something unforgettable, but it was one of the last time was in the city.
大盆鸡 Xinjiang chicken stew
Literally named the “big plate chicken”, 大盆鸡 Xinjiang chicken stew is the curry chicken of Xinjiang. And just like our curry chicken is a mix of Indian-Chinese-Malay influences, “big plate chicken” got its influence from Sichuan and made popular in Xinjiang.
The chicken is not the highlight, the sauce is. It is made from Sichuan spices like peppercorn and red chilli, together with Xinjiang spices like anise, cumin and cloves. And homemade noodles (like a pasta) is added at the end to soak up all the sauces. Yummy.
醋泡皮蛋 Century eggs in vinegar
Interestingly quail eggs were made into century eggs. These little crystal balls were as flavourful as the regular century eggs, if not, even better for their small size.
This is a very common Sichuan method of serving century eggs, vinegar and chopped jalapeño with minced garlic. But it has found its place in many Xinjiang restaurants, even though the one ordering are usually not native Xinjiang folks. I guess century eggs have not found its place there yet. However for economic reason, the Xinjiang restaurants would include it int he menu as majority of the diners would still be Chinese.
Lamb Kebabs 烤羊肉串
Xinjiang cuisine is heavily influenced by the Middle Eastern in terms of the use of spices and the meat used are Halal due to their religious inclinations. Lamb dishes dominate the menu, including Xinjiang-style classics such as grilled lamb rack, lamb kidneys, etc.
In Xinjiang, the lamb kebabs 烤羊肉串 would use the tamarix 红柳 branches as the skewers for that added smokiness. Properly dusted with cumin, chilli, and other spices, these kebabs were the influence of the Silk Route that went through that area in centuries past. The Western influence reached its peak during the Tang dynasty, when foreigners would even take up official positions in the Tang courts. It showed that China was once a country that was very open to influences from all around the world.
And for those who could not stand the muskiness of lamb, there’s always chicken. Poultry was not raised that high up in longitude, but they were brought by traveling convoy of businessmen on caravans of camels and in modern days, convoys of monster trucks.
I just wish China opens up quickly for travels, and I get a chance to visit the place where I have enjoyed their cuisine so much.