Trio of Xinjiang cooks

I have already been criticised, and no doubt will be again by reviewers, for writing a lot about food in Women of the Gobi. But the women whose route I followed across northwest China also wrote about their diet, probably because it was so monotonous. In the 1920s, when Mildred, Eva and Fransesca were travelling the Silk Road on a donkey cart, they lived off fresh noodles mixed with dried chilli, the same oil they used to grease the cart wheels, and any green desert herbs the carter might pick up along the road.

Last year, in the markets of Xinjiang oasis towns, I discovered that oily, chilli-flavoured noodles with a few miscellaneous vegetables were still standard fare. Of course there were masses of juicy kebabs to go alongside the noodles. These three men ran a stall in the Hami market that served up classic Xinjiang food; tasty and filling, but not a lot of emphasis on presentation.

The first guy pulls and slices the noodles…

Xinjiang chef (2 of3)

The second guy fries up the veggies…

Xinjiang chef (1 of 3)

And the third bakes flatbread inside a dirty old oil drum.

Xinjiang chef (3 of 3)

Yum yum.

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