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Taste of Kashgar

By Yang Feiyue | China Daily | Updated: 2015-01-22 07:13

 Taste of Kashgar

A staff member (above) sells traditional Xinjiang snacks at Kashgar Restaurant, a highly popular Beijing eatery that offers a variety of Xinjiang food including the famous roasted lamb leg (below). [Photo by Feng Yongbin / China Daily]

Evoking the wild-west aura of the caravan days, a Beijing eatery captures the rustic charm of a vibrant cuisine, Yang Feiyue reports.

Being tucked away in a quiet hutong hasn't stopped Kashgar Restaurant from becoming one of the most popular Xinjiang eateries in the Chinese capital.

The unassuming decoration makes the restaurant more like a traditional Chinese canteen. The noisy atmosphere created by customers doesn't make for a very cozy and intimate dining experience, but is a testament to the restaurant's popularity.

Kashgar offers a variety of traditional Xinjiang food, including roast mutton, hand-pulled noodles and authentic snacks. Chen Yuxin, a 28-year-old chef with the restaurant, says that Kashgar cuisine is the most authentic in the Xinjiang region because it's so far west, and thus less affected by influences from other parts of China.

The roasted lamb leg (168 yuan or $27) is an eye-opener, because it retains the shape of the leg on the serving plate. The chewy mutton is sliced into bite-size chunks, which are loosely re-assembled and presented atop a leg bone. The skin is roasted into a thin, crisp layer and blends in with the thick and tender meat.

Any unpleasant mutton scent is eliminated through the preparation, cooking and seasoning, and the lean and fat meat layers blend lushly together on the palate. But do eat it up while it's hot, because the meat hardens and loses its easy-to-chew tenderness once cold.

The chicken with hot peppers (45 yuan for half a portion) was the sassiest dish we ordered - potentially a challenge for those who have little tolerance for spicy food. This cold dish is already an adaption of the original version, which is much more pungent and spicy, the chef tells us later. In this version, the heat slowly spreads in the mouth and paralyzes the tongue. The chicken pieces include skin and bone, and the meat has a very springy texture.

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