If you order a kebab, ask the vendor to heat up a naan while they’re at it. Then put the kebab in, fold the naan and take the stick out and you have a lamb burger!
Xinjiang is the westernmost province of China, a vast and barren but beautiful region of deserts and mountains. Pressed up against neighbouring countries like Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia and Kazakhstan, and once along the route of the ancient Silk Road, it is home to many ethnic minority groups, including the Turkic Uyghur people.
The Uyghurs are a Muslim Chinese people. They make up about half the population of Xinjiang which, although it is part of China, bears many Turkish and Central Asian characteristics. The Uyghurs have migrated to all regions of China in search of work, and many have opened restaurants, spreading Xinjiang’s cuisines and its non-Chinese influences across the country. Almost everywhere in China you can find Xinjiang lamb kabobs being roasted over coals, but perhaps even more ubiquitous is the Xinjiang naan, a flat disk of bread baked in a large stone oven, the inner wall of which is salted.
Uyghur food is very varied, but the naan is a mainstay. It is served with soups, kebabs, stews, and often by itself before the rest of the meal even reaches the table. Along with tea, it is a sort of ritualistic tradition — think tea and crumpets. Sometimes you get it for breakfast too, with kefir or yoghurt with raisins.
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