Friday, February 27, 2009

新疆 烤包子 - Xinjiang Baked Lamb Pockets

Being in Western China, Chengdu has several Xinjiang restaurants as well as many lamb kebab and dried fruit vendors. These lamb pockets, which I love, are tougher to find. They are baked in the big hollow tandoor-like ovens that have salt water splashed on the side, so the outside is very crisp and salty.

The Uighur name I am still trying to figure out but in Mandarin they are 新疆 烤包子 - Xinjiang baked lamb pockets. My favourite purveyor of them has closed up shop, so I have been looking for a new source without much success. They are often done badly - full of grey meat mixed with un-chewable gristle. And they should only cost Y1 each; I broke down and paid Y3 once for terrible ones.

Yesterday I noticed a tray of 烤包子 at one of the most visible, and visibly dirty, Xinjiang places in town - the one on the first ring near the north gate of Sichuan Univeristy (any local will immediately know which one I am talking about). Most avoid this place due to hygiene concerns, but when I noticed the tray of 烤包子 I bought one to try. The outside was a bit too tough and there was one pretty big chunk of bone in it, but otherwise this was the best I have had in Chengdu so far - lamb meat, onions, lots of cumin. So if I am walking by hungry and they have fresh ones out I will probably get one again, but am still on the lookout.

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