Uyghur “keebabs” are sought after in China as a street food of choice. Originating in Xinjiang, these kebabs have bridged political, ethnic and culinary differences across China.
Uyghur kebabs are a staple of Xinjiang cuisine, and consist of alternating pieces of seasoned lamb meat and fat cut into medium-sized chunks and marinated in traditional spices (usually a closely guarded secret) and then grilled over wood. They are best eaten with traditional ‘naan’ Uyghur bread.
China’s Hui and Uyghur communities are distinguished by their language and the hats they wear – the Huis typically wear white skullcaps, while the Uyghurs wear a square black and green ‘doppa’ – but both are united in their love for Uyghur kebabs, like most mainland Chinese.
The diet in Xinjiang is mainly dependent on (halaal) meat and these traditional kebabs are so popular that Kudret Yakup, the first Uyghur graduate of Harvard College, opened Kebab Empire in New York, the first Uyghur franchise in America.
- 1 lb of boneless lamb leg or shoulder, cut into approximately 1 inch squares (with fat)
- 1 Onion
- 2 tbsps of vegetable oil
- ¼ cup pomegranate juice
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp of freshly ground black pepper
- 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
- ¾ tsp of cayenne pepper
- 1 tbsp of sea salt
- 1 tsp of ground cumin
1. Make the marinade: Add onion, pomegranate juice, garlic, oil, salt and pepper and blend. Add the chunks of lamb in a bowl and cover with the marinade. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours to marinate.
2. Soak bamboo skewers in water for 30 minutes (with a heavy plate or spoon on top to prevent floating).
3. Preheat the grill to medium-high. Skewer the pieces of meat onto the skewers, leaving enough space between them so the meat browns. Place the kebabs on the hot grill.
4. Grill for about 2 minutes on the first side then turn, cooking for 7-8 minutes more, turning the skewers so they get good even color.
5. Combine the salt and cumin together. Cook the meat to your liking and sprinkle the cumin-salt immediately after it comes off the grill.
- Flour (all purpose or bread flour, both give different results)
- Egg (optional)
- Warm water. Ratio of flour to water by volume: 3 to 1. By weight: 1.5:1.
1. Place flour in a large bowl, pour warm water into the middle.
2. Add half a packet of dry yeast and a bit of sugar. Mix well and let stand for a few minutes. When frothy, add the salt and the egg. Then mix everything, adding water as needed to a smooth consistency.
2. When everything is well mixed, flour a surface and knead the dough for 10 minutes until it no longer sticks to your hands.
3. Lightly oil a bowl and put the kneaded dough ball in, cover with a cloth and let rest for at least 40 minutes in a warm place.
4. When the dough has finished resting, knead it a bit more.
5. Roll the dough out into a round, flat circle. It should not be too thick or too thin. (If it’s too thin, it will burn when you bake, and if it is too thick it will remain uncooked.)
6. Form an edge all around the bread.
7. Take a bread stamp and make concentric patterns all around the center, making sure to press hard so the spikes go all the way through. Alternatively, you can use any round object to stamp around the center. Then use a fork to poke holes, poking all the way through the center to prevent it from rising.
8. Lightly brush oil all over the top and sides of the bread and top with sesame and black seeds (nigella).
10. Ready to bake. Put the dough into your 500F preheated oven and bake until the bread is golden brown all over (10-15 minutes). Lightly brush the bread with oil after it is baked.