Nang, the bread that comes in wheel-sized loaves

China Daily (Canada) - - XINJIANG - By CUI JIA in Kuqa

Its color is golden yel­low; its shape flat; its taste crispy. And there’s even a mu­seum for it.

It’s nang, the sta­ple wheat bread of the Uyghur au­ton­o­mous re­gion.

Yim­in­jan Memet in Kuqa county, south of the Xin­jiang Uygur au­ton­o­mous re­gion, used a long hook to take a nang from a hand­made clay pit to cool it.

What he baked wasn’t an or­di­nary nang. His nang has one dis­tin­guish­ing char­ac­ter­is­tic: it’s big. At about 50 cen­time­ters (19.68 inches) in di­am­e­ter, it is more than twice the size of a nor­mal nang

Kuqa, which means cross­roads in Uygur lan­guage, was known as Qi­uci, an im­por­tant king­dom on the an­cient Silk Road. That his­tory has given Kuqa many things, in­clud­ing its tra­di­tion of bak­ing big nang.

Some say mak­ing the big­gest nang is a way to show how pow­er­ful the Qi­uci king­dom was.

Busi­ness­men trav­el­ing on camels stop at Kuqa and re­plen­ish their food sup­ply be­fore re­sum­ing their trips. Nang is es­pe­cially popular be­cause it can be kept for a long time, ac­cord­ing to dis­plays in Kuqa’s nang mu­seum.

“Nang in Kuqa be­comes big­ger than any­where else in Xin­jiang be­cause the next city the busi­ness­man’s camel car­a­van could reach after leav­ing Kuqa on the an­cient Silk Road is rel­a­tively far away, so they have to pack more food. Nang as big as wheels was in­vented to ac­com­mo­date such needs and has lasted un­til now,” Yim­in­jan said.

Yim­in­jan, 50, learned the his­tory of nang and how to make it from his grand­fa­ther, also a nang baker.

Like his grand­fa­ther, he uses apri­cot tree branches as fire­wood to bake the nang to give it a spe­cial apri­cot fla­vor. He also mixes milk, eggs, onions, car­rots and sesame seeds in the dough to make the nang nu­tri­tious and more de­li­cious.

Yim­in­jan said he could sell 2,000 and 3,000 big nangs a day, but what con­cerns him now is the lo­cal ban on cut­ting apri­cot trees to pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment

“I don’t want to switch the nang pit to us­ing nat­u­ral gas as the gov­ern­ment has pro­moted. The nang won’t taste the same. I re­ally want to keep the tra­di­tion as it was passed on to me,” he said.

Be­sides bak­ing nangs, Uygurs also will build a nang pit to roast whole an­i­mals — such as a lamb or camel — in­stead of cut­ting them into pieces. Xin­jiang peo­ple of­ten say if they were given a nang pit as big as the Earth, they could roast the whole planet eas­ily.

A camel weigh­ing 400 kg (882 pounds) was roasted in Bachu county in south­ern Xin­jiang’s Kash­gar pre­fec­ture in Oc­to­ber.

HAN LIANG / FOR CHINA DAILY

A vender at Er­dao­qiao, Urumqi puts freshly baked small oil nangs on dis­play to at­tract cus­tomers.

HAN LIANG / FOR CHINA DAILY

Boiled sheep’s hoof is also a popular Uygur cui­sine.

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