Xinjiang cuisine is found throughout much of China, as migrants from the region often open Xinjiang restaurants or food stands in other regions.
Ethnic groups in Xinjiang generally have different cooking and eating methods. Han people in Xinjiang use chopsticks, while Kazakhs eat with their hands. Ceremonial foods for certain groups include horse milk (kymyz) for the Kyrgyz and sheep entrails for the Xibe. The dishes of the Dongxiangs are prominent in Xinjiang-style restaurants. Signature Dongxiang dishes include noodles boiled in a thick mutton soup and steamed twisted rolls.
Uyghur food is characterised by mutton, beef, camel (solely bactrian), chicken, goose, carrots, tomatoes, onions, peppers, eggplant, celery, various dairy foods, and fruits. An Uyghur-style breakfast is tea with home-baked bread, smetana, olives, honey, raisins, and almonds. Uyghurs like to treat guests with tea, naan, and fruit before the main dishes are ready. Most Uyghur foods are eaten with chopsticks, a custom that was adopted from Han Chinese culture in the 19th century.
Sangza are crispy fried wheat flour dough twists, a holiday specialty. Samsa (baked buns) are lamb pies baked using a special brick oven. Yutaza is steamed multi-layer bread. Göshnan (گۆشنان, Гөшнан; 馕包肉, náng bāo ròu, نْا بَوْ ژِوْ) are pan-grilled lamb pies. Pamirdin are baked pies with lamb, carrots, and onions stuffed inside. Shorpa is lamb soup. Other dishes include Toghach (a type of tandoor bread) and Tunurkawab.
A common Uyghur dish is lengmen, a noodle dish likely to have originated from the Chinese lamian, but its flavour and preparation method are distinctively Uyghur. It is a special type of handmade noodle, made from flour, water, and salt. The dough is divided into small balls and then stretched by hand. The noodles are boiled until very soft and then served topped with stir-fried meat and vegetables (bell peppers, chilli peppers, cabbage, onions, and tomatoes) in meat stock.
It was noted that words that begin with L are not native to Turkicso that “läghmän” is possibly a loanword from Chinese.
Another typical Uyghur dish is polu (literally: “grabbed rice”), a dish found throughout Central Asia. In a common version of the Uyghur polu, carrots and mutton (or chicken) are first fried in oil with onion, then rice and water are added, and the whole dish is steamed. Raisins and dried apricots may also be added.
Other dishes include soups made from lamb or chicken, and kawaplar (Uyghur: كاۋاپلار, каваплар) (kebabs) made from lamb or beef. Bread is the Central Asian-style baked flatbread known as nan, using sesame seeds, butter, milk, vegetable oil, salt, and sugar.
Kawaplar, kebabs seasoned with chili powder, salt, black pepper, and cumin are eaten with the skewer parallel to the mouth, gripping the kebab closest to the end with one’s teeth and sliding it off the pointed edge into one’s mouth.
Another popular Xinjiang dish is dapanji, which is literally translated as “big plate chicken.” It is a spicy hot chicken stew served on a big plate, and after the chicken has been eaten, wide flat hand-pulled noodles are added to the gravy. The dish gained popularity in the mid-to-late 1990s, and is said to have been invented in Shawan, northern Xinjiang by a migrant from Sichuan, who mixed hot chili peppers with chicken and potatoes in an attempt to reproduce a Sichuan taste.
Spices include cumin seeds, red pepper flakes, salt, and black pepper. Sultanas (raisins) and the fat of meat are also used for flavouring dishes.
Beverages include Chinese black tea, kvass (格瓦斯, gé wǎsī, قْ وَصِ, квасс; a non-alcoholic drink made from honey), and other drinks available in other areas of China (bottled). Another famous beverage is the locally produced Xinjiang Black Beer, known to be stronger in flavour than other local Chinese Beers. It is shipped throughout China.
Grapes are grown in the Xinjiang region, which are used for wine production and other grape products. In Turfan, wine is an important part of the local economy and was known in the Tang dynasty. The wine, called museles, is commonly made and used by the locals, which is also produced commercially for export outside the region.
While it is different from Middle Eastern phyllo dough made Baklava, the same appellation is used for Uyghur nut cake. Dates, raisins, walnuts, and syrups are the ingredients of the nut cake.