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Cuisine of the Duncan (Hui) People

by Martha A. Weeks

Chinese Ethnic Minorities and Their Foods

Summer Volume: 2004 Issue: 11(2) page(s): 9, 10, 11, and 28

The Dungan, also known as Hui, Hui-Hui, Hui-zu, or Zhongyuan-ren, are Muslim people mostly from the Chinese provinces of Xinjiang, Gansu and/or Shaanxi. They live in northern China as well as southeastern Kazakhstan, northern Kyrgyzstan, the city and province of Tashkent, Uzbekistan, and the Fergana Valley of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Tracing the word Dongan is no easy task. In the 18th century, the Uygurs of what is now Xinjiang, referred to the Chinese Muslims as Tunggan, from the word Turup Qalghan, meaning ‘a people who settled down.’ In the late 19th century, these people moved on to Russian Turkestan. There, the Russians called them Dungan, their pronunciation of the word Tunggan. Other scholars say the ethonym is derived from dunggan or a ‘great bank’ referring to the east bank of the Yellow River. Others say it might be from donggan or Eastern Gansu where many Hui people came from.

Call them Dungan or Hui, their cuisine is similar to the cuisine of northern China, but with Islamic and Central Asian influences. Mutton, lamb, and beef are their preferred meats. Animal fat and cracklings are used in cooking and bread making. Pork and pork products are forbidden to them and all peoples of the Islamic faith. Most Muslims adhere to that admonition. They can and do eat poultry such as chicken, duck, and goose. They eat the eggs of all three, as well. Fish and other types of seafood are not commonly eaten even though they are not forbidden foods. Milk is consumed occasionally. Cheeses and other dairy products are rarely consumed.

The Dungan/Hui people cook their food in a large pan or wok called a guo. They serve them on platters or big plates called lyagan, on trays called panzi, on plates known as dezi, saucers called dedezi, and in big bowls called van. They drink lots of tea, and do so in handleless teacups typical of those found in China and Central Asian countries. They call these cups vanzi. The Dungans still eat their meals with kuezi, that is with chopsticks made from wood, bamboo or ivory.

As expert agriculturalists, the Dungan/Hui population raises a wide variety of vegetables. These include carrots, onions, radishes, eggplants, cucumbers, turnips, beets, tomatoes, potatoes, celery, spinach, corn, rutabagas, sweet peppers, hot peppers, lettuce, cabbages, garlic chives (jyutse or jusay) and yard-long string beans (dyon-du), to name but a few. Fried vegetables (tse), are very popular in Dungan cuisine. Salted and pickled vegetables (yankhadi), such as Chinese Chives (jyutse), hot peppers and yard-long string beans are important in Northern China and Central Asia. In that part of the world, fresh vegetables can be hard to find during the severely cold winter months.

These people also enjoy fruits such as apples, pears, peaches, plums, grapes, pomegranates, persimmons, apricots, cherries, berries, melons and watermelons. Dried fruits, including raisins and apricots, are usually found on a Dungan tea table, along with walnuts, almonds and pistachios.

The Dungan/Hui cook meat primarily by frying then stewing, called dyankhadi, and by boiling which they call dvukhadi. Beef dishes include fried and stewed beef (dyankhadi nyuzhi) and boiled beef (dvukhadi nyuzhi). Mutton dishes include dvankhadi yenzhu which is fried and stewed mutton, and boiled mutton called dvukhadi yenzhu. They also like lanâ yenzhu, a boiled mutton sandwich, and yenzhu ton, their name for mutton soup. Chicken dishes include dyankhadi dizhu, a fried and stewed chicken, boiled chicken with a spicy relish (lyondir) and dizhu lyan zhinsin, made with chicken and ginseng. Another way meats are served is by making meatballs or cutlets. These include zhinbir vanzi (flat beef meat balls), shchuokhur vanzi (snowdrop flower meat balls), shchyushchyu vanzi (peony flower meat balls) and pino vanzi (flat meat balls covered in dough).

Soups (ton) are well represented in Dungan/Hui cuisine. Several noodle soups include tonfan, khinâ erfan, chyorshetu and ton lyumyan. Rice soups include tsinkhuadi miton and tyan miton. For meat soups, they prepare both yenzhu ton (mutton soup) and dizhu ton (chicken soup). An unusual soup is finton benâ shi, a meat broth with cubes of rice or corn starch and small boiled dumplings.

Should you be wondering about the words in italics that name these Dungan/Hui dishes, they are transliterated from the only Dungan cookbook I ever saw. It is in Russian and in the Cyrillic alphabet, and listed at the bottom of this article. But back to more about their foods.

A popular Dungan dish in Central Asia is fintezi (or funchoza), also known as bean thread noodles, glass noodles, or cellophane noodles. The fintezi are made from mung bean starch. They are available dried and in bazaars for those who cook at home. Lyon fintezi is a cold salad or appetizer made with these noodles and a hot pepper sauce. Tsokhadi fintezi is their hot main course dish with a meat and vegetable sauce. Both can be found in the cafes and restaurants of Kyrgyzstan. The editor has found similar dishes in Hui regions in and around Xian in China.

Wheat flour is used for making noodles, dumplings and breads. Their best known Dungan/Hui noodle dish is lyuman, also known in some parts of China as lagman. These are thick noodles with a meat and vegetable sauce, like a stew, which can and be served as a soup (ton lyumyan), or they can be fried (tsokhadi lyumyan). Noodle bits with sauce (myanpar) and cold cooked noodles, starch cubes, eggs and shredded vegetables (ashlyamfu or lyonfir) are also commonly eaten.

Dumplings are very popular with the Dungan/Hui people. If prepared with a noodle dough, they can be steamed or fried and are called bozi. In some parts of China and central Asia, they are called manti. When baked, they are called shobozi. Bozi and shobozi can be filled with meat, usually mutton, or non-meat items such as pumpkin, Chinese chives, eggplant, cabbage and/or potato.

Smaller boiled dumplings, served on their own or in soup, are called benâshi. These can also be filled with meat or Chinese chives, eggplant, radish, or other non-meat items. Some people recognize them by more Russian names such as pelâmeni or chuchpara.

Dungan/Hui people like to eat bread with their meals, and they make them steamed, fried or baked. Guokuy or bizi-mo, are flat breads baked in a wok. Jin-mo and yutazi are steamed breads or buns. Yugshchyan, tonmyan shchyuenzi, dinmyan bizi, and pantszi are other types of flat breads which can be made either from a flaky dough or a leavened dough and cracklings. Some use baking powder. Dyubin or dyutsekhuor is a flat bread filled with Chinese chives.

Rice (fan) is also eaten by the Dungan/Hui people, though less commonly than wheat flour products. There are several dishes of note. Ganfan or ganmifan is the best known. It is made with white rice topped with a meat and vegetable sauce. Other rice dishes include chuchunzi (a pilaf), tyan miton (soup), tyan mifan or yumifan (a porridge) and mifirfan (a sweet and made with dried apricots and raisons).

Dungan/Hui people prepare eggs and egg dishes (dan) inlcuding tsokhadi dan (fried or scrambled eggs), dakhadi dan (boiled eggs), lyon dan (cold chicken eggs), dan suozi (flakes from eggs) and yankhadi yazi [ne] dan (salted duck eggs). Dengo (or nego) is prepared with eggs, milk, sugar and raisins. The editor had this same dish in Xian, but without raisons. It is available in the marketplace wrapped in cloth and kept cool in water.

Relishes, condiments and spices are common in Dungan/Hui cuisine. Lazi (hot pepper sauce) is a relish made from cayenne pepper, garlic, and vegetable oil. Another type of relish is made with tomatoes, onions, garlic, peppers, vinegar, and spices; it is sometimes available in markets. Other common spices and seasonings include aniseed, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, coriander, dill, garlic, black pepper and cayenne pepper.

The Dungan people of Central Asia do not have dishes with soybean curd or soy sauce, but they do use other soy products including soy bean oil (dyon you) and soybean paste (duduzi dyon).

They have some sweets and confections (dyanshchin) which are popular with other Central Asians. There is sanzi consisting of deep-fat fried dough straws usually piled up like rope or string. (They are illustrated in the hard copy of the last issue of this magazine in the article about Uygur food.) There are small baked turnovers called tamomos or ton momos. They can be had with a sweet filling, usually walnuts and sugar, sweetened sesame seeds, or dried apricots. Yuton suguozi is fried dough and raisons stuck together in a honey syrup. Other sweets include makhuor which are deep fat fried dough twists. Several of these confections have poetic names including maezi or 'pitted leaf,' eazi which is called 'little leaf,' and mushchyor with the name of 'sprouted clover.'

The most commonly served beverage is tea (tsa), usually unsweetened. Both black tea (khi tsa) and green tea (lyu tsa or lunkhua tsa) are consumed. Some Central Asian Dungans drink theirs with added milk and/or sugar (nezi tsa). Other beverages include shchingar fi, their dried apricot and plum drink, and shchintor fi, a cherry and apple drink). Some families prepare zhyong fi, a beverage made from the broth noodles and cabbage leaves were boiled in; they call this zhyong fi. Consumption of alcoholic beverages is not common due to Islamic prohibitions.

For guests, the Dungans serve the traditional four dish (si-pan) meal, consisting of at least two vegetable dishes and two meat dishes, but usually with more things. Banquets and feasts can consist of nine or thirteen, or eighteen, twenty-four, thirty-six or forty-eight dishes. Except for the thirteen dish meal, dishes, bowls and saucers are arranged on a long rectangular table in rows of three.

References about the foods of this cuisine are hard to come by. If you are lucky, you may be able to locate one of the following:

Savurov, Mane Daurovich, Sekreti Dunganskoy Kukhni (The Secrets of Dungan Cooking). It was published in Tashkent by Mekhnat Publishers in 1989. This is the only Dungan cookbook I know of, it is in Russian and contains nearly two hundred recipes, includes some cultural information, and has an excellent section with color photographs of many of their dishes.

Sushanlo, Muhammed Yasizovich, Dungane (The Dungans), Frunze was published by Ilim Publishers in 1971. This, too, is a Russian language book. It discusses many aspects of their culture. There is a large section on food and cooking (pp. 150-169) with several recipes in the text and a photo of a Dungan tea table piled high with sanzi and sweets.

Dyer, Svetlana Rimsky-Korsakoff, Soviet Dungan Kolkhozes in the Kirghiz Ssr and the Kazakh Ssr is in the Oriental Monograph Series, No. 25, done by the faculty of Asian Studies ar Australian National University and published by their press (ANU) in Canberra in 1979. This English language book was written by an Australian-based Dungan-language linguist who visited Dungan kolkhozes (collective farms) and selos (villages) in the summer of 1977. The book is a chronicle of what she saw and learned. Part of Chapter Five titled: Life in the Dungan Kolkhozes (pp. 62-75) discusses their foods. Unfortunately, there are no pictures of their dishes.

Worry not, you can make some with the recipes below and see and taste them for yourself.
Lyondir: Chicken with a Spicy Relish
2 pounds chicken pieces (legs, breasts, thighs, wings)
2 onions, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 red bell peppers, seeded and julienned
1 cup scallions (green part), cut into one-inch pieces
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp salt
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1. Boil the chicken pieces in six to eight cups of water until thoroughly cooked and soft.
2. While the chicken is boiling, prepare the vegetable relish by heating a wok or frying pan, adding the oil, and frying the onion, garlic, red bell pepper and scallion until the onions and red bell peppers are soft, about ten to fifteen minutes. Season with salt and cayenne pepper and stir well.
3. Combine the vegetable relish with the boiled pieces of chicken, and serve. Note: Traditionally served cold, this dish is also tasty if served hot.
Mifirfan: Rice with Apricots, and Raisons
1 cup dried apricots
2 cups sticky, short grain white rice
1 cup seedless raisins
1 and 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1. Soften apricots in a bowl filled with two cups of hot water. Drain and cut each one into four pieces.
2. In a pot, bring four cups of water to a boil. Add the rice, and stir for about a minute.
3. Then add the apricot pieces, raisins, and granulated sugar to the rice and continue to cook until the rice is soft. Transfer to a flat rectangular dish with sides and allow it to cool after making the top surface flat and smooth. When cool, cut into diamond shaped pieces and put them on a plate. Serve.
Ganfan: Rice with Meat and Vegetable Sauce
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 pounds meat (beef, lamb, mutton, or chicken), cut into two-inch slices
3 radishes, cut into thin strips
3 or 4 onions, peeled, halved, and sliced
2 or 3 green bell peppers, seeded and cut into julienne slices
3 or 4 tomatoes, diced, or 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup cabbage, shredded
2 or 3 carrots, peeled and cut into thin strips
1/2 cup scallions (green part only), cut into one-inch strips
1 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups long or medium grain white rice
1. In a large pot, fry the meat in hot vegetable oil until browned. Then add radishes, onions, green bell peppers, tomatoes (or tomato paste), cabbage, and scallions. Add enough water (one to two cups) to cover the ingredients, then simmer until the ingredients are soft and the water has evaporated. This should leave a moist sauce. Season with ground red pepper, black pepper and first teaspoon of salt.
2. In another pot, bring four cups of water to a boil. Add the second teaspoon of salt and then the rice. Cover the pan, and simmer until all the water is absorbed, about twenty minutes. When the rice is soft, remove from the heat and let stand five to ten minutes in the covered pan, then fluff the rice with a spoon or fork.
3. For the ganfan, serve the meat and vegetable sauce on top of cooked thermally hot white rice.
Lyumyan: Noodles in Meat and Vegetable Sauce
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 pound meat (beef, lamb, mutton, or chicken), cut into two-inch slices
2 to 3 onions, peeled, halved, and sliced
2 to 3 carrots, peeled and cut into strips
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 to 3 tomatoes, diced, or two or three tablespoons of tomato paste
2 green bell peppers, seeded and cut into thin strips
1/2 cup scallions (green part), sliced into 0ne-inch pieces
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup fresh dill, chopped
1 pound linguine noodles
1 teaspoon salt
1. Heat oil and fry the meat until browned, about five or ten minutes, then add one cup of water. Bring to a boil.
2. Next, add the onions, carrots, garlic, tomatoes (or tomato paste), green bell pepper, scallions, salt, ground red pepper and black pepper. Simmer in a covered pot for about one hour, until the ingredients make a sauce.
3. While the sauce is cooking, bring six to eight cups of water to the boil, add salt and then the linguine noodles. Cook for about 10 minutes or until the noodles are soft, then drain them in a colander. Put them in individual bowls, and divide the sauce by pouring some over the noodles in each bowl. Garnish with fresh dill, and serve while still hot.
Tsokhadi Fintezi: Bean Threads, Meat, and Noodles
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 pounds meat (beef, lamb or mutton), cut into one-inch pieces
2 to 3 carrots, peeled and cut into thin strips
2 to 3 onions, peeled, halved, and sliced
2 green bell peppers, seeded and cut into thin strips
2 red bell peppers, seeded and cut into thin strips
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tomatoes, diced, or two tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 eight-ounce package mung bean thread noodles
1. Heat oil then fry the meat until browned.
2. Next add the carrots, onions, green bell peppers, red bell peppers, garlic and tomatoes or tomato paste. Fry for another ten to twenty minutes. Then add two to three cups of water to the fried meat and vegetable sauce and simmer until most of the water has evaporated. The meat and vegetable sauce should be moist, but not like soup.
3. Add salt, ground red pepper, and black pepper, and stir well.
4. In another pot, heat six to eight cups of water to a boil. Add the mung bean thread noodles. Boil them until softened, about five to ten minutes, then drain the noodles, put them into a large bowl, top with the meat and vegetable sauce, and serve.

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