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Friday, August 08, 2008

Chinese Food from Xinjiang -- Beef, Horse, and Chocolate and Yogurt Raisins

Chinese Food from Xinjiang Beef, Horse, and Chocolate and Yogurt-Covered Raisins 1

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.

Chinese Food from Xinjiang Beef, Horse, and Chocolate and Yogurt-Covered Raisins 2

So then I heated it up. Ewwww. The horsemeat looked even less appealing. And the smell!

Chinese Food from Xinjiang Beef, Horse, and Chocolate and Yogurt-Covered Raisins 3

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. :(

Chinese Food from Xinjiang Beef, Horse, and Chocolate and Yogurt-Covered Raisins 4

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.

Chinese Food from Xinjiang Beef, Horse, and Chocolate and Yogurt-Covered Raisins 5

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.


  1. oh gosh...sorry for the horsey...

    i tried buying some beef stomach too from china...it's some kinda snack...and it was BLUEUEESSCCCHHHHKKKK


    and normally i am a beef stomach lover

  2. Aiiiiiikkss!!! Horse sausage!!!??!!! Big no no for me! I tried donkey meat in Beijing before. It was very very salty and gamey.

  3. I'm usually very open-minded about different types of food, but the horse sausages do not look appetizing AT all. Now, if you were to marinate and then nuong it, than I may consider it.

    Your brother is really sweet to bring you back souvineers.

  4. MCR,
    I like honeycomb tripe, but not the thicker inner portion. Haha! I've never heard that expression before! Too funny!

    I imagine horse and donkey would taste similar. Salty and gamey describes my small bite of this sausage.

    Nope, not in looks, smell, or taste was this the least bit appetizing for me. My brother always brings me back souvenirs. I've got a nice duffel bag and scarf too.

  5. Hey WC - That looks kinda....icky. A friend of mine insists that Horse Sashimi is simply the most amazing thing. I'm not quite sold on it. I told the same guy to go to his favorite Vietnamese Restuarant and order "Thang Co"...I never told him what it was, but he told me the Server couldn't stop laughing....

  6. Aw...well, at least now when someone says to you "I'm so hungry, I can eat a horse", you can chime in with a very witty retort!

  7. Whoa: the horsemeat with the stuff leaking out of it. That does look -- well, something I wouldn't want to eat.

    Horse is one of those things I have yet to try, but I don't think I'll be trying it real soon. I just don't have a great desire to get that horse notch on my culinary belt. I think it has something to do with their hair: it seems too human-like to me. Weird, eh?

  8. Kirk,
    Horse sashimi doesn't sound at all appealing either. I'm trying to remember if you ate any when you were in Sa Pa, but I can't recall if you did.

    Ha! I didn't even think of that! Well, I can definitely say I'd probably never say that.

    It wasn't something I went out of my way to try, but since it was there...I would have tried the camel too if there was any left for my brother to buy.

  9. in all fairness to the thousands of horse meat loving humans out there, i dont think you should base your opinion of an entire ingredient from a package of meat.

    i associate the quality of food in a plastic bag to be the same as the horrific pre-made "sandwiches" they sell at 7-11.

    im sure if you were to go to a nice little restaurant in Xinjiang, had some fresh horsy cooked up with tasty spices you would not have the same reaction.

    just a thought :)

  10. Jeremy,
    If you read the post carefully, I didn't say anything about condemning people who like horsemeat. For that matter, I didn't make any assumptions about horsemeat in general. I only said this particular package of horsemeat was not appealing to me.

    I'm sure if I were in Xinjiang and was offered horsemeat, it would taste much better than this package. But I'm not, and as horsemeat is not something available where I am, this was the only type offered. So I tried it. And said I didn't care for it. That's it.

  11. ha! no no, you took that the wrong way!

    nothing wrong with the way you wrote it, i just thought maybe it was not the best first introduction to the food

  12. Jeremy,
    Ah, well, apologies for the miscommunication then.


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