Our life in Urumqi

As we’ve already commented, the Chinese are nose to tail eaters. Along with chicken breasts you can buy chicken heads and chicken feet at every supermarket. Like pork chops? They’re just beside the trotters and snouts. Like salmon? Well, you can only have thin slices of it at exorbitant prices. But, hell, we’re living in the most inland city this rock has to offer.

Aside from the weird stuff, there’s a vertitable feast of good meats on offer too. A favourite Chinese snack is beef or yak jerky. It comes is all kinds of flavours and is a perfect beer-time snack. The best tasting jerky is nothing more than thin strips of beef, cut from a joint, dried and put in a packet. Others come basted in spice mixes and are also fun.

Roast horse is my absolute favourite. We were invited to attend a Kazakh coming of age ceremony (well, asked to be entertainment as it turned out) and given a free meal afterwards. First thing out on the table: a huge lump of roasted horse on the bone. Brilliant! As the only guy in the group, it was my job to get my hands dirty and carve; something that gave me huge satisfaction. For those who have never tasted it, our equine friends come somewhere between beef and venison in the red meat stakes (pun intended). We should eat more horse, that’s all I’m saying.

Camel is another one tried here. It’s not really that exciting, but something one ought to try when they’re so plentiful. Best way to describe the taste: bland. There you go. Camel talk over.

Deep fried beef heart is awesome, try it. Basically, get a big bowl of oil, water mixed with spices (Sichuan peppers, prickly ash etc.) and heat it up at the table. Skewer your heart pieces and leave them in there for a while before enjoying the tough, meaty flavour. Not to be dismissed out of hand, it’s delicious. Of course, this being China, it’s supposed to be good for your own heart too. Rubbish, but it is goooood.

Lamb fat. Good old plain and simple fat, skewered and cooked over hot coals. This done, cover it in spices, pick up a naan, add some pickled onion and enjoy. I’ve not quite went this far yet (I like the meat itself too much). That said, the kebabs come with an equal meat to fat ratio, which adds no end to the amazing texture of the kebab. Uyghur cooking doesn’t get much better than this. I’ll find out exactly what’s in the spice mix and get busy on the BBQ some time, you’ll love it.

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