Final Travels on the Silk Road: Kashgar Markets & Uygur Food
We have one more entry about our visit to Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. It is about the markets we visited. As this is part of the old Silk Road, trading and markets, or bazaars, have flourished here for over 2000 years.
As Marco Polo said about the Kasgari people, “Cascar is a region lying between north-east and east, and constituted a kingdom in former days, but now it is subject to the Great Kaan. The people worship Mahommet. There are a good number of towns and villages, but the greatest and finest is Cascar itself. The inhabitants live by trade and handicrafts; they have beautiful gardens and vineyards, and fine estates, and grow a great deal of cotton. From this country many merchants go forth about the world on trading journeys. The natives are a wretched, niggardly set of people; they eat and drink in miserable fashion. There are in the country many Nestorian Christians, who have churches of their own. The people of the country have a peculiar language, and the territory extends for five days’ journey.” (from The Travels of Marco Polo/Book 1/Chapter 33
(From Wikisource)) Of course, he was just there 900 years ago!
So these people have been trading, bargaining, bartering, and selling/buying things for a long time.
The Sunday Market in Kashgar is considered a fantastic market. An interesting fact, even though its name is Sunday Market, it operates every day of the week!
Sunday just happens to be the biggest day at this market…that is the day they also trade/buy/sell livestock-sheep goats, cows, donkeys, even camels…although the livestock market is located a bit away from the regular Sunday Market. We visited the market on the Sunday we arrived, but did not go to the livestock market.
This market has just about everything you could ever want. It has the traditional items, like spices, rugs, dried fruit, along with all sorts of food. But you could also buy televisions, refrigerators, washing machines, if you wanted to, and then load it on your camel! People do not ride camels to market anymore, motor vehicles have replaced them-cars, taxis, 3-wheeled motorcycle carts. Some people have complained that this market has lost its old market appeal, as much of it is undercover now, and not “open air.”
We visited the Monday market which is located in the small town of Upal about 45 minutes from Kashgar. Monday is livestock day so we got to see all the animals being brought to be bought, sold, traded. This is still an “open-air” market…so it is set up and taken down each Monday. The vendors put up red sheet-like covers over their wares.
As a lot of these animals will be butchered, there is a need for sharp knives. We saw two sharpening units “honing” blades, One pair of men worked as a team. One fellow pulled leather straps back and forth to turn the sharpening wheel, and the other guy sharpened the blades. Another sharpener sat on his bicycle, made stationary, and with the bike chain rerouted to turn his grinding stone, he sat and sharpened blades. They should add this to our exercise bikes!
The Upal Mondsy Market was very busy. We tried some fresh watermelon, and regular melon, being sliced. We had some fresh bread that looked like bagels and tasted a bit like pretzels…YUM!. We also tried some lamb dumplings, not as good as the bread. Because Uygurs are Muslim, they do not eat pork, so we saw no pigs…just lots of sheep, goats, and some cows.
So, to tell you about Uygur food, we have to start you off with some fantastic bread, or “nang,” as it is called, fresh out of the oven, or “tonnir.” There are supposed to be about 50 different kinds; we only tried about 5 or 6 types.
The most common looks a bit like a pizza dough embossed with a design, and baked by wetting the back and slapping it against the inside wall of the “tonnir,”
which is an oven resembling a brick kiln. The baker reaches in and slaps the dough to the side. We had some rolls stuffed with onions and cooked in these “tonnirs,”…quite tasty!
They also stuff them with lamb. They put either wood, charcoal, or coal in the oven to heat it, and cover the top with a metal cover.
The cost of this bread or rolls is usually 1 or 2 RMB…more than that, and ou are paying too much…”tourist price”!
There definitely is a lot of hanging meat as they make many dishes from lamb, goat, and beef…along with chicken. One of the delicacies here is goat’s head.
The Uygurs also eat chicken and fish.
One item that the area is known for is its rugs…which go along with all the trading. We bought a couple of Uygur rugs; one made of felt and colorful design, and the other made of wool, in a traditional pomegranate design.
That gives you some ideas about the markets, Uygur food, and Kashgar. It is a colorful interesting place. We’ll leave you with a few more images of this unforgettable place…