Chinese Islamic Cuisine - History

History

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.

Among all the alien peoples only the Hui-hui say “we do not eat Mongol food”. “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 ... all the Muslims say: “if someone else slaughters we do not eat”. Because the poor people are upset by this, from now on, Musuluman Huihui and Zhuhu Huihui, no matter who kills will eat 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.

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. 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. 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. Chopsticks are used by Dungans. The cuisine of the Dungan resembles northwestern Chinese cuisine.

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

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

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