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Islamic Food and Folk in China
Chinese Food in the Middle East
Spring Volume: 2017 Issue: 24(1) pages: 11 to 12
Chinese Islamic people live everywhere in the
world and guide their lives using the teachings of
the Prophet Mohammed. The rules he was said
to have written are in the Hadith and/or in the Quran.
Both are said to have come from Allah, their creator,
who tells adherents what is halal or permitted and
what is haram or not allowed.
There is a large Muslim population in China, some
twenty-three million which is close to two percent of
China’s total population. Most Muslims live in Western
China, their cuisine said to have originated with beliefs
and dictums about food and other behaviors in other
During the Yuan Dynasty (1279 - 1368), halal methods
of slaughtering animals was forbidden by Mongol
Emperors starting with Genghis Khan. Islamic cuisine
or qingzhen cai, also known as huizu cai or Hui people’s
cuisine, relies on beef, lamb, and mutton and forbids
eating pork. It also requires special slaughtering of
animals and done by Muslim people. There are many
different Muslim ethnic minorities in China including
the Bonan, Dongxiang, Dungan, Salar, Tibetan and
others who adhere to Muslim dietary tenets.
Muslims love lamian which are hand-made handpulled
noodles served in a beef or mutton-flavored
soup, and they love chuanr or lamb kebobs, niang pi
or cold noodles, and doufu and suan cai, the latter
pickled cabbage. They like them with nang, their
unleavened flat bread that is usually round.
Permitted foods include all things created by God.
There are prohibitions due to impurities and harmful
things. Things permitted are not what is superfluous
or falsely represented. Prohibited are intentions
unlawful or unacceptable. Doubtful things must be
avoided, unlawful things prohibited, no exceptions
Muslim dietary laws are practiced in China and
elsewhere that prohibit the eating of carrion or dead
animals, animals with flowing or congealed blood,
swine and their by-products, animals killed that
prevent blood from being fully drained from their
bodies, and animals slaughtered saying a name other
than Allah. Intoxicants of all types are also forbidden
as are alcohol and drugs, and carnivorous animals
with fangs, birds with sharp claws, and land animals with
According to the tenets of this religion, every Muslim
should fast during daylight during the month of Ramadan
which is the ninth month of their 354 day year. They
should also help the less fortunate, and eat only two
meals during Ramadan.
One meal they call fatoor, it is eaten at sunset, the other
is called schoor and eaten before sunrise. Those age ten
to fourteen are at the age they should practice this fast
and eat just these two meals, as do all older folk. The
fatoor meal should begin with an odd number of dates
followed by a soup. Drinks are preferably made with milk
or milk products, and they eat main courses.
All foods must be clean, made with clean utensils, and all
waste discarded. Women need not fast if menstruating,
pregnant, or nursing, but they should make up any missed
days after Ramadan when these conditions do not exist.
Men and women should not eat more food than needed,
two-thirds of their normal capacity is recommended.
Most Muslim women wear head coverings and Muslim
men wear beards as they do not shave. Many Muslims
have the surname Ma, probably from the first syllable of
Mohammed, or they have the surname Na or Ding, from
Muslim favorite restaurant fare varies. For Hui people,
it can be noodles in a spicy beef stew, their lamien,
laghman, lagmian or polo. These are particularly also
loved by Uyghur Muslims. Tea is a favorite beverage of
most Muslims. They like it sweet and made with herbs
Many millions in China are Muslim, many are craft
people who take pride in their work be it making jewelry,
preparing perfumes, or collecting and selling spices.
Some are butchers who slaughter the halal meat, others
sell halal foods. They might live anywhere in the country,
are highly visible, and many of them live in Gansu,
Qinghai, Shaanxi, Ningxia, or Xinjiang.
Most Muslims in China are descendants of people from
the Middle East or from Central Asia. Many of their
forebears came to China during the Tang Dynasty (618
- 907 CE), and many are Sunni Muslims. They follow
the Nanafi Muslim School of thinking. The Chinese
government often calls all Muslims Hui or Huihui
though they may not belong to this specific ethnic
minority population. We do not know why; perhaps a
reader can educate us about this nomenclature.
Not all Muslims speak the same language. For example,
Uyghur Muslims speak a Turkish dialect as do the
Kazaks and both can write in Arabic, as do Tatars and
Salas people. Those who are Bao’an speak and write
Islamic Food and Folk in China
their own language, the Dongxiang speak a Mongolian
language, and the Tajiks speak a tongue related to
Persian. In most mosques, Arabic is the calligraphy
used, and found on tombs. It is often spoken in their
There are very few cookbooks following Halal protocols
or books other than those already mentioned, that
non-Muslims can use to educate themselves. Often just
eliminating pork is the only thing the Muslims do.
|Nang Bing, A Local Flat Bread|
1½ teaspoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1½ cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup pastry four
1 cup wheat germ
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon peanut oil
Optional are: various seeds such as sesame, nigella,
fennel, ground black pepper, and/or coarse salt
1. In large bowl with a dough hook, mix yeast, salt,
sugar, and 1 cup warm water, and let stand until foamy,
then add a quarter cup more flour, the wheat germ,
butter, and the oil and mix until dough comes together.
2. Preheat oven to 500 degree F, and insert a pizza
stone. Punch the dough down, cover it, and let it rise
until double in volume. Then put it on a floured surface
and divide iy into four parts. Let them rest for fifteen
minutes before rolling one flat and into a seven-inch
circle. Put it on a floured baking sheet, and repeat
until all are made and have been able to rise another
half an hour.
3. Slightly prick the dough with a fork, brush with water,
and sprinkle with desired seeds, then transfer to the
hot stone and bake until golden, about three minutes.