Since it's 8/8/08 and the opening day of the Beijing Olympics, I thought it was only fitting to showcase the diversity of Chinese cuisine. Can I count Xinjiang as my X? Or does it fall within Chinese cuisine? I guess it counts as part of Chinese cuisine since I don't divide any of my ethnic cuisines but list them by nationality. But then if I subdivided Chinese cuisine into Cantonese, Sichuan, Shanghai, Xinjiang, etc., I'd have to do that for all cuisines. The thought of that gives me a headache.
So instead, far better that I go with my original thought and show you the diversity of Chinese cuisine. Xinjiang, or rather the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, lies in the far northwestern corner of China. This large area is sparsely populated with 45% ethnic Uyghurs, 41% ethnic Han Chinese, 7% Kazakh, and other minorities. Xinjiang is also where the Tarim mummies were found. The mummies were controversial for their European and Central Asian features such as lighter skin and reddish-brown and blond hair.
My brother recently came back from a 10-day horseback riding trip in Xinjiang, along the Kazakhstan border. (I suggested he do a series of guest-posts of his trip for the blog, but he hates to write.) He brought me some edible souvenirs. Starting clockwise from the chocolate and yogurt raisins, horse sausage, dates? (Can someone identify the bag of dried stuff?), and Xinjiang beef. He said there was camel but it was sold out.
Anyway, so I know you're all curious about the horse meat. I hadn't eaten horse before, but remembered seeing signs for chevaline at several places in Paris. Hungry in Hogtown and Chez Pim claim horsefat makes the best French fries. According to Wikipedia, horse meat is supposedly "slightly sweet, tender, low in fat, and high in protein." I guess if I was hard-core, I'd save that horsefat and try to make some French fries with it. I snuck a small corner and it tasted like normal smoked sausage.
So then I heated it up. Ewwww. The horsemeat looked even less appealing. And the smell!
Here. Get closer. Blech! I can't even describe it. Gamey didn't even come close. It was super, super salty too. I just couldn't eat this. Poor horsey. :(
I'll leave you with a slightly tastier image. My brother said he enjoyed the Xinjiang beef so much that he even bought a spice packet in hopes of re-creating it. This was the packaged beef, which cleverly included a napkin and toothpick. The package listed the ingredients as beef, vegetable oil, sugar, salt, sesame, and spices. Vague, that spices. Another section on the package said Chinese cinnamon. I thought I tasted cumin as well. Much tastier, but still too salty.
My brother said he ate lots of lamb and bread during his trip. Just so you don't think that all Chinese eat rice and noodles.
1 year ago today, I'm no Persephone because I can't resist eating just six of these lusciously sweet pomegranate seeds.