Uighur Food and Footwear

Yesterday was the first day of the Chinese New Year. So, I thought I would write about something Chinese. Well, about the Uighur people (also spelt Uyghur, Uygur or Uigur) who are ethnic minorities in China.

The Uighurs are found mostly in Xinjiang Autonomous Region, in the northwest of China. They speak a Turkic language and are mainly Muslim. The Uighurs have more in common with their neighbours in Central Asia, such as in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, compared with the Chinese.

Even though I am Chinese (from Malaysia), I really don’t know much about Northern China, and I know even less about the Uighurs. My ancestors were all from the southern areas of China, where people speak, dress and eat differently from the northerners.

I have recently discovered Uighur food and it is very unique and different from Southern Chinese cuisine. In the south of China, rice is the staple, whereas for the Uighurs, noodles, bread and dumplings are more common. They do eat rice, but the rice is spiced with cumin and contain raisins. I found Uighur food quite oily, and yoghurt was served with rice to balance the oiliness of the food. I also enjoyed handmade Uighur noodles, which are wider than any other noodles I have eaten before. The noodle dish was oily with a red oil, and spicy with whole chillies AND chilli flakes.

Xinjiang-style noodles, featuring wide handmade noodles with braised chicken and potato, whole chillies and chilli flakes.

Xinjiang-style noodles, featuring wide handmade noodles with braised chicken and potato, and lots of chillies.

To be honest, I only became interested in Uighur food and culture because I fell in love with a pair of antique Uighur boots, which was part of a museum exhibition on ethnic minorities in China. These knee-length Uighur boots are made of leather, wool and silk and come from Hetian, Xinjiang Autonomous Region. They were such beautiful boots with bright, intricate embroidery. I would visit the museum exhibition just to look at that pair of boots. They drew me like a magnet and sparked my interest in Uighur culture.

A pair of Uighur boots dating from 1840 - 1949 from Hetian, Xinjian Uighur Autonomous Region. These boots are made of leather, wool and silk.

A pair of Uighur boots dating from 1840 – 1949 from Hetian, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. These boots are made of leather, wool and silk.

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