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Islamic Food and Folk in China

by Jacqueline M. Newman

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 Islamic countries.

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 allowed.

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 no ears.

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 Nasruddin.

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 or spices.

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 mosques.

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. Then serve.

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