Chinese Islamic cuisine

Chinese Islamic cuisine
Part of a series of articles on

Islam in China

Chinese Islamic cuisine


Beef noodle soup
Suan cai

A Halal Bakery in Tuanjie St, the main street of Linxia City.

Chinese Islamic cuisine (Chinese: 清真菜; pinyin: qīngzhēn cài; literally "pure truth cuisine" or Chinese: 回族菜; pinyin: huízú cài; literally "Hui people's cuisine") is the cuisine of the Hui (ethnic Chinese Muslims) and other Muslims living in China.



A halal meat store sign in Hankou, ca. 1934-1935.

Due to the large Muslim population in western China, many Chinese restaurants cater to, or are run by, Muslims. Northern Chinese Islamic cuisine originated in China proper. It is heavily influenced by Beijing cuisine, with nearly all cooking methods identical, and differs only in material due to religious restrictions. As a result, northern Islamic cuisine is often included in home Beijing cuisine, however seldom in east coast restaurants.

During the Yuan dynasty, Halal methods of slaughtering animals and preparing food was banned and forbidden by the Mongol Emperors, starting with Genghis Khan who banned Muslims and Jews from slaughtering their animals their own way, and making them follow the Mongol method.[1][2]

Among all the [subject] alien peoples only the Hui-hui say “we do not eat Mongol food”. [Cinggis Qa’an replied:] “By the aid of heaven we have pacified you; you are our slaves. Yet you do not eat our food or drink. How can this be right?” He thereupon made them eat. “If you slaughter sheep, you will be considered guilty of a crime.” He issued a regulation to that effect ... [In 1279/1280 under Qubilai] all the Muslims say: “if someone else slaughters [the animal] we do not eat”. Because the poor people are upset by this, from now on, Musuluman [Muslim] Huihui and Zhuhu [Jewish] Huihui, no matter who kills [the animal] will eat [it] and must cease slaughtering sheep themselves, and cease the rite of circumcision.


Traditionally, there is a distinction between northern and southern Chinese Islamic cuisine despite both utilizing mutton and lamb. Northern Chinese Islamic cuisine relies heavily on beef, but rarely ducks, geese, shrimp or seafood, while southern Islamic cuisine is the reverse. The reason for this difference is due to availability of the ingredients. Oxen have been long used for farming and Chinese governments have frequently strictly prohibited the slaughter of oxen for food. However, due to the geographic proximity of the northern part of China to minority-dominated regions that were not subjected to such restrictions, beef could be easily purchased and transported to northern China. At the same time, ducks, geese, and shrimp are rare in comparison to southern China due to the arid climate of northern China.

A Chinese Islamic restaurant (清真菜館 mandarin: qīngzhēn càiguǎn) can be similar to a Mandarin restaurant with the exception that there is no pork on the menu and is primarily noodle/soup based. The Chinese word for halal is "pure truth" (清真, pinyin: qīngzhēn) food (菜, cài), so a Chinese Islamic restaurant is a "qingzhen restaurant" that serves "qingzhen" food.

In most major eastern cities in China, there are very limited Islamic/Halal restaurants, which are typically run by migrants from Western China (e.g., Uyghurs), they primarily offer inexpensive noodle soups only. These restaurants are typically decorated with Islamic motifs such as pictures of Islamic rugs and Arabic writing.

Another difference is that lamb and mutton dishes are more commonly available than in other Chinese restaurants, due to the greater prevalence of these meats in the cuisine of western Chinese regions. (Refer to image 1.)

Many cafeterias (canteens) at Chinese universities have separate sections or dining areas for Muslim students (Hui or western Chinese minorities), typically labeled "qingzhen." Student ID cards sometimes indicate whether a student is Muslim, and will allow access to these dining areas, or will allow access on special occasions such as the Eid feast following Ramadan.

Several Hui restaurants serving Chinese Islamic cuisine exist in Los Angeles.[4][5] San Francisco, despite its huge number of Chinese restaurants, appears to have only one whose cuisine would qualify as Halal.

Many Halal Chinese restaurants exist in New York City, owned by Hui Muslims. However, they do not serve specialized Hui dishes, only Halal versions of ordinary Chinese food.[6] There are also some Halal Chinese food stalls and street vendors in Flushing, Queens that specialize in items such as bing, lamb chuanr, soft tofu, and side dishes typical of Halal eateries in China.

In Central Asia, Dungan people, descendants of Hui who fled to Central Asia, operate restaurants serving Chinese Islamic cuisine. They cater to Chinese businessmen.[7] Chopsticks are used by Dungans.[8] The cuisine of the Dungan resembles northwestern Chinese cuisine.[9][10]

Most Chinese regard Hui Halal food as cleaner than food made by non Muslims so their restaurants are popular in China.[11]

The Thai Department of Export Promotion claims that "China's halal food producers are small-scale entrepreneurs whose products have little value added and lack branding and technology to push their goods to international standards" to encourage Thai private sector Halal producers to market their products in China[12]

Famous dishes


Lamian (Refer to image 2.) (simplified Chinese: 拉面; traditional Chinese: 拉麵; pinyin: lāmiàn) is a Chinese dish of hand-made noodles, usually served in a beef or mutton-flavored soup (湯麵 tāngmiàn), but sometimes stir-fried (炒麵 chǎomiàn) and served with a tomato-based sauce. Literally, 拉 (lā) means to pull or stretch, while 麵 (miàn) means noodle. The hand-making process involves taking a lump of dough and repeatedly stretching it to produce a single very long noodle.


Chuanr (Chinese :串儿, pinyin: chuànr (shortened from "chuan er"); "kebab"), originating in the Xinjiang (新疆) province of China and in recent years has been disseminated throughout the rest of that country, most notably in Beijing. It is a product of the Chinese Islamic cuisine of the Uyghur (维吾尔) people and other Chinese Muslims. Yang rou chuan, or lamb kebabs, is particularly popular.

Beef noodle soup

Beef noodle soup (Refer to image 3.) is a noodle soup dish composed of stewed beef, beef broth, vegetables and wheat noodles. It exists in various forms throughout East Asia and Southeast Asia. The most common Vietnamese version is called Bo kho, but which uses rice noodles instead. It was created by the Hui people during the Tang Dynasty of China.

In the West, this food may be served in a small portion as a soup. In China, a large bowl of it is often taken as a whole meal with or without any side dish.

Suan cai

Suan cai or Chinese Sauerkraut is a traditional Chinese cuisine vegetable dish used in a variety of ways. It consists of pickled Chinese cabbage. Suan cai is a unique form of pao cai due to the material used and the method of production. Although suan cai is not exclusively Chinese Islamic cuisine, it is used in Chinese Islamic cuisine to top off noodle soups, especially beef noodle soup.


Nang 馕 - A type of round unleavened bread, topped with sesame - similar to South and Central Asia naan.

Image gallery

See also


  1. ^ Michael Dillon (1999). China's Muslim Hui community: migration, settlement and sects. Richmond: Curzon Press. p. 24. ISBN 0700710264. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  2. ^ Johan Elverskog (2010). Buddhism and Islam on the Silk Road (illustrated ed.). University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 228. ISBN 0812242378. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  3. ^ Donald Daniel Leslie (1998). "The Integration of Religious Minorities in China: The Case of Chinese Muslims". The Fifty-ninth George Ernest Morrison Lecture in Ethnology. p. 12. Retrieved 30 November 2010. .
  4. ^ Dru C. Gladney (2004). Dislocating China: reflections on Muslims, minorities, and other subaltern subjects. University of Chicago Press. p. 188. ISBN 0226297756. Retrieved 2010-11-28. 
  5. ^ Dru C. Gladney (1996). Muslim Chinese: ethnic nationalism in the People's Republic. Harvard Univ Asia Center. p. 11. ISBN 0674594975. Retrieved 2010-11-28. 
  6. ^ JANE H. LII (September 7, 1997). "Where's the Pork? Not Here.". The New York Times. Retrieved December 12, 2010. 
  7. ^ David Trilling (April 20, 2010). "Kyrgyzstan Eats: A Dungan Feast in Naryn". 
  8. ^ Barbara A. West (1994). An Ethnohistorical dictionary of the Russian and Soviet empiresJames Stuart Olson, Nicholas Charles Pappas. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 204. ISBN 0313274975. Retrieved 2011-01-01. 
  9. ^ Svetlana Rimsky-Korsakoff Dyer (1979). Soviet Dungan kolkhozes in the Kirghiz SSR and the Kazakh SSR. Faculty of Asian Studies, ANU. p. 62. ISBN 0909879117. Retrieved 2011-01-01. 
  10. ^ Ḥevrah ha-Mizraḥit ha-Yiśreʾelit (1983). Asian and African studies, Volume 16. Jerusalem Academic Press.. p. 338. Retrieved 2011-01-01. 
  11. ^ Morris Rossabi (2005). Governing China's Multiethnic Frontiers. University of Washington Press. p. 32. ISBN 0295984120. Retrieved 2011-04-09. 
  12. ^ MCOT online news (May 17, 2011). "Thai private sector urged to penetrate China's halal market". MCOT online news. Retrieved 2010-11-28. 

External links

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