By Xinhua writers Lu Qiuping, Zou Xinyuan and Ai Fumei
YINCHUAN, Sept.15 (Xinhua) -- Sheep offal soups, whole roasted lambs and braised snacks are just some of the foods making tourists drool at a halal food street festival in a northwest China city.
Wuzhong, known as "the hometown of China's Hui ethnic group," is located in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, home to 10 percent of China's 20 million Muslims. Over 170 kinds of Muslim foods and snacks from nearly 100 restaurants are on offer at the China (Ningxia) Halal Food Cultural Festival held in the city from Sept. 10 to 16.
Sheep offal soup restaurants can be found every few steps. Aromas emanate from the soupy mixture of red chili oil, white broth, green Chinese onion and pink mutton, drawing people in from the hustle and bustle of the street.
Ma Yan and her mother-in-law have run a small sheep offal restaurant for three years. She said the most important part of making the delicious soup is using fresh ingredients and dressings in the proper proportions.
Ma said that besides basic ingredients like sheep heart, liver, lung, head meat and tripe, the soup also needs chili, chopped green onion, smashed garlic and bruised ginger.
"We can achieve the look, the aroma and the taste only after throwing the boiled offal into the pot with the chili soup, boiling it again and putting it into a bowl before sprinkling some coriander on top," she said.
The recipe sounds simple, but it involves skills that have been passed down by the Hui people for generations.
"Hui women inherit the skills from elder generations, and tastes differ among families and restaurants," said Ma, adding that her restaurant receives more than 100 guests every day, most of whom come early in the morning and in the afternoon.
Pastries are also a popular food among the Hui people, and, as the old saying goes, "Hui people have two knives: one is to cut mutton, and the other to cut pastry."
Muslim pastries include youxiang, a cake made of flour with salt and fried in sesame oil, huahua, flower-shaped steamed bread, and sanzi, a crispy, noodle-like fried dough twist.
Muslims enjoy the pastries during fast-breaking festivals, Eid al-Adha and in everyday life.
The most eye-catching food along the street is the whole roasted lamb. A whole lamb the size of a dinner table is roasted to a golden hue -- a sight often seen at big family gatherings and banquets.
"We need to marinate the lamb for eight hours with dressings, then coat it with flour paste before roasting it for two to three hours," said Ma Shaobin, the owner of the Little Xinjiang restaurant in Wuzhong.
"The smell fills the room while we roast it, and guests can enjoy the sliced lamb with seasonings, such as chili sauce, spiced salt or cumin," he said.
Ningxia is the only-provincial level autonomous region for the Hui people, the largest Muslim ethnic group in China. About 30 percent of the region's population is Hui and halal foods are very important in the region.
As Muslims, Hui people should strictly follow Islamic dietary guidelines gathered from the Quran. Apart from its own cooking methods, such as frying and braising, halal foods in Ningxia also combine Uygur roasting skills and Kazakh stewing methods, making it a unique food category for not only the Hui people, but also people of other ethnic groups.
The halal festival was arranged as part of the 3rd China-Arab States Economic and Trade Forum held in the regional capital Yinchuan from Sept. 12 to 16.
The region has more than 120 companies engaged the halal industry, with a production volume of more than 8 billion yuan (1.27 billion U.S. dollars) last year. Halal beef, mutton and dehydrated vegetables are also exported to the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Jordan and other countries.
Ahmed Hafez, counselor of the Beijing mission of the League of Arab States, said halal food is an important industry for cooperation between China and Arab states.
The forum has been serving as a platform for Ningxia's halal advertising, and the region should take the opportunity to offer its halal foods to the world, he added.