by Jamie Barys, Chief Eating Officer of UnTour Food Tours
So you read about the 10 best Xibei restaurants in Shanghai and are addicted to the cumin, lamb and naan bread? Here are some of the province’s best dishes that will please the whole family.
1.Lamb Fried with Naan 羊肉炒馕
This dish showcases a combination of the best things about the Uighur’s unique cuisine: lamb and naan. And nothing is tastier than fried bread! Just try this dish at Lele and you’ll be addicted.
2.Rice Pilaf 手抓饭
This dish makes the rounds in most east & central Asian cuisines, but here steamed rice is fried in lamb fat with carrots, sultanas and chunks of lamb. Try it made in a giant wok at the Muslim Market.
Sounds simple, but the yogurt from Xinjiang is not like the watery, drinkable stuff you get in most Chinese supermarkets and convenience stores. Made in the region with sheep or cow milk, this thick, fermented dish is a delicious dessert at any Xinjiang restaurant. There’s usually no sugar added, although you may get a drizzle of honey if you’re lucky. Try it A Luo where you can also choose to top it with raisins and nuts.
4.Pulled Noodles in Beef Broth 牛肉拉面
The KFC of China – if KFC were freshly made to order and actually good for you! La Mian is hand-pulled to order, mostly by Hui minorities, on what seems like every street corner in Shanghai. Watching the hand pulling is half the fun, and even after years of seeing them turn a block of dough into 256 perfectly symmetrical strands, it still seems like a magic trick. Try them at any Lanzhou Lamian in town.
Sometimes called a Chinese hamburger, this dish usually consists of pork (a rare non-halal dish) that has been stewed for hours in a fragrant broth spiked with cinnamon, cloves, star anise and other delicious spices. Zhu Que Men’s version uses a mother broth that is has been on the boil for over 20 years. Or try the lamb version at Dunhuang Xiaoting.
6.Da Pan Ji 大盘鸡
Translated directly, this dish is called Big Plate of Chicken and it lives up to its name. Usually, a whole chicken is stewed in a tomato based sauce with potatoes for heft and peppers for spice. The chicken is cut into smaller pieces, but is always on the bone, except at Xibo where they’re prepared for the laowai diner.
7 .Liang Pi 凉皮
The English name of this translation is cold skin, but don’t let that turn you off. Made of flours from beans, wheat or rice, these cold noodles are jelly like in texture and usually a pale yellow or white color. Zhu Que Men makes their strands in-house, then tosses them with a delicious vinegar sauce and tops them with julienned cucumber.
8.Yang Rou Pao Mo 羊肉泡馍
This starchy noodle dish has both vermicelli and bite-sized bits of pita bread, torn up and tossed in the lamb broth. Pao in this case means to soak and that’s exactly what the bread (mo) is doing – soaking up all that lamb broth goodness. When you order it at Dunhuang Xiaoting, the bread comes out freshly-baked and whole on the side of the soup dish, so you can tear it to your desired size.
9. Kao Baozi 烤包子
If you’ve lived in Shanghai for any length of time, you’ve tried baozi, fluffy buns stuffed with a variety of flavors. The Xibei version of this dish bakes the buns in a kiln instead of steaming them in a bamboo basket. The version at the Muslim Market is stuffed with spiced, fatty lamb, or you can get a steamed version with lamb and pumpkin.
10.Sinkiang Beer 新疆啤酒
Although most of the restaurants we recommend are halal, many of them also serve up the local brew, a black beer made with hops from Loulan, an oasis town in Xinjiang. Miss Ali also serves the golden of this brew, which I’ve never spotted outside Xinjiang except here.
Written by Jamie Barys, Chief Eating Officer at UnTour Food Tours.
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