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Xinjiang cuisine (Chinese: 新疆菜; pinyin: Xīnjiāng Cài) reflects the cooking styles of many ethnic groups of the Xinjiang region, and refers particularly to Uyghur cuisine (Uyghur: ئۇيغۇر تائاملىرى, ULY: Uyghur Taamliri; Chinese: 维吾尔菜; pinyin: Wéiwú'ěr Cài). Signature ingredients include roasted mutton, kebabs, roasted fish, and rice. Because of the Muslim population, the food is predominantly halal.
Xinjiang cuisine is found throughout much of China, as migrants from the region often open Xinjiang restaurants or food stands in other regions.
Ethnic groups in Xinjiang generally have different cooking and eating methods. Han people in Xinjiang use chopsticks while Kazakhs eat with their hands. Ceremonial foods for certain groups include horse milk (kymyz) for the Kyrgyz and sheep entrails for the Xibe. The dishes of the Dongxiangs are prominent in Xinjiang-style restaurants. Signature Dongxiang dishes are noodles boiled in thick mutton soup and steamed twisted rolls.
Uyghur food is characterized by mutton, beef, camel (solely bactrian), chicken, goose, carrots, tomatoes, onions, peppers, eggplant, celery, various dairy foods, and fruits. An Uyghur-style breakfast is tea with home-baked bread, hardened yogurt, olives, honey, raisins, and almonds. Uyghurs like to treat guests with tea, naan and fruit before the main dishes are ready. Most Uyghur foods are eaten with chopsticks, a custom that has been adopted from Han Chinese culture since the 19th century.
Sangza (ساڭزا, 馓子, Sǎnzi) are crispy fried wheat flour dough twists, a holiday specialty. Samsa (Uyghur: سامسا; Chinese: 烤包子; pinyin: kǎo bāozi; literally: "baked buns") are lamb pies baked using a special brick oven. Yutaza (يۇتازا, 油条子, yóutiáozi) is steamed multi-layer bread. Göshnan (گۆشنان, 馕包肉, nángbāoròu) are pan-grilled lamb pies. Pamirdin are baked pies with lamb, carrots, and onion stuffed inside. Shurpa is lamb soup (شورپا, 羊汤, yángtāng). Other dishes include Toghach, a type of tandoor bread, and Tunurkawab (馕坑肉, nángkēngròu).
A common Uyghur dish is lengmen (لەڭمەن, Shou La Mian, 手拉面, shǒu lāmiàn), a noodle dish likely to have originated from the Chinese lamian, but its flavor and preparation method are distinctively Uyghur. It is a special type of handmade noodle, made from flour, water, and salt. The dough is divided into small balls and then stretched by hand. The noodles are boiled until very soft and then served topped with stir-fried meat and vegetables (bell peppers, chili peppers, cabbage, onions, and tomatoes) in meat stock.
Another typical Uyghur dish is polu (پولۇ, 抓饭, zhuāfàn), a dish found throughout Central Asia. In a common version of the Uyghur polu, carrots and mutton (or chicken) are first fried in oil with onion, then rice and water are added, and the whole dish is steamed. Raisins and dried apricots may also be added.
Other dishes include soups made of lamb or chicken, and kawaplar (kebabs) made of lamb or beef. Bread is the Central Asian-style baked flatbread known as nan (نان, 馕, náng), using sesame seeds, butter, milk, vegetable oil, salt, and sugar.
Kebabs, seasoned with chili powder, salt, black pepper, and cumin are eaten with the skewer parallel to the mouth, gripping the kebab closest to the end with one's teeth and sliding it off the pointed edge into one's mouth.
Another popular Xinjiang dish is dapanji (大盘鸡, dàpánjī), which is literally translated as "big plate chicken." It is a spicy hot chicken stew served on a big plate, and after the chicken has been eaten, wide flat hand-pulled noodles are added to the gravy. The dish gained popularity in the mid-to-late 1990s, and is said to have been invented in Shawan, northern Xinjiang by a migrant from Sichuan who mixed hot chili peppers with chicken and potatoes in an attempt to reproduce a Sichuan taste.
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- M Cristina Cesàro (2007). "Chapter 10, Polo, läghmän, So Säy: Situating Uyghur Food Between Central Asia and China". Situating the Uyghurs between China and Central Asia. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. pp. 197–198. ISBN 0-7546-7041-4. Retrieved 2010-07-30.