THE HUNGRY TRAVELLER
Travellers are hungry, not just for local cuisines but also for authentic experiences. In Asia, food is a central element in celebrations as well as daily life. Join us in our culinary journey in Malaysia and China as we celebrate Hari Raya and discover halal food influenced by trade between east and west.
When you plan a trip to China, breathtaking views, historical treasures and exotic flavours immediately spring to mind. Islamic culture rarely takes the spotlight here, despite its huge influence on China’s flavours.
Over 1,000 years ago, Arabs travelling along the ancient Silk Road introduced Islam to China. Along with their religion, they brought their customs, commerce and cuisine.
Chinese Muslim food, called ‘qingzhen cai’, is a unique fusion of Middle Eastern and Chinese. ‘Qingzhen cai’ typically favours wheat over rice, beef and lamb over pork and sweet over strong flavours.
Go on a food adventure through the famous snack streets of China in search of the best halal food.
Xi’an Muslim Quarter
Xi’an, famous for its Terracotta warriors, is also home to one of the oldest Muslim communities in China. China’s oldest mosque is in its Muslim Quarter, which is reputed to be the snack centre of Xi’an.
Its Muslim Quarter plays home to the oldest mosque in China and is reputed to be the snack centre of Xi’an.
As you meander through the market’s cobbled streets, allow yourself to get lost in the exciting sights, sounds and smells. With a colourful set of vendors selling all manners of things, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
Keep an eye out for these highly-recommended snacks: yangrou paomo (crumbled flat bread in mutton stew), lamb or beef roujiamo (commonly known as the Chinese hamburger) and zeng gao (glutinous rice with jujube).
Shanghai Muslim Market
Open near Huxi Mosque every Friday before prayers, the Shanghai Muslim Market is the epitome of Muslim life in China: buzzing with culture and community, and filled with delicious treasures.
To the dismay of food lovers, the market was closed by authorities early last year due to complaints about traffic disruption. However, public demand brought it back in a smaller form only a few months later – visitors can never predict which stalls will be open every week, so be prepared for surprises!
Some must-haves that do make a show every Friday are: pulao (rice pilaf cooked with onions, carrots and lamb), samsa (baked lamb and onion pies) and lamb kebab.
You’ll find this market in full swing by 11am every Friday. It closes at sunset.
Niujie Muslim Snack Street
Over 20 minority groups live on Niujie Street, and the Muslim Chinese make up the greater part of this community. This melting pot of cultures contains the best blend of exotic flavours from each of these groups.
Niujie Street forms the heart of Islamic culture in the capital, housing the largest and oldest mosque in Beijing, so come prepared to enjoy the world-famous Beijing street snacks with a halal twist.
Some food items to keep your eyes peeled for: ai wo wo (sticky rice with sweet filling), baiting zaisui (sheep innards soup) and chao ma doufu (stir-fried tofu).
Eat as the Chinese eat
You don’t have to be fearful of falling sick when savouring street food in China. Lines of locals at a particular snack stall are usually the green light that it has a good reputation and won’t get you ill. Avoid meat snacks after morning hours in the summer and anything raw.
Complete the experience
These street markets are usually built around mosques, the heartbeat of Muslim communities. Mosque architecture in China also showcases a unique blend of the two cultures and is well worth the visit. Just remember to dress respectfully.