Delicacies From 'Beyond The Great Wall' Two authors journey beyond the coastal cities of Beijing and Shanghai to collect stories and recipes from China's "minority peoples," whose tribal cultures may be in danger of vanishing.
NPR logo

Delicacies From 'Beyond The Great Wall'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/93194625/93235301" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Delicacies From 'Beyond The Great Wall'

Delicacies From 'Beyond The Great Wall'

Delicacies From 'Beyond The Great Wall'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/93194625/93235301" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Authors Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid reflect on China's minority communities through a blend of photography, essays and recipes. Courtesy of Artisan Books hide caption

toggle caption
Courtesy of Artisan Books

Authors Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid reflect on China's minority communities through a blend of photography, essays and recipes.

Courtesy of Artisan Books

Get the authors' recipes for Dai Carrot Salad and Cheese Momos.

Deep-fried cheese, crepes and carrot salad don't sound like Chinese food. But they are.

Fried cheese momos are a standard snack in Tibet, two-layer crepes are eaten by the Hui people in Qinghai province, and dai carrot salad is from the southern Yunnan city of Jinghong.

These are some of the foods of the 55 tribal groups called "minority peoples" by the Beijing government. These tribes make up 8 percent of China's population, which amounts to more than 100 million people.

Although these communities are not ethnically Chinese, they have lived on land that is now part of China for centuries. This includes Inner Mongolia, the western Silk Road region of Xinjiang and other lands outside central China's westernized cities like Beijing and Shanghai.

Jeffrey Alford and his wife, Naomi Duguid, first traveled widely in these areas in the 1980s, when China opened its borders to outside visitors. When they returned in 2005, they say, they were startled by the changes.

Alford and Duguid say they are worried that the tribal cultures are in danger of disappearing as China explodes economically and more Han Chinese in coastal cities relocate into these interior regions.

Their new book, Beyond the Great Wall: Recipes and Travels in the Other China, tells the story of China's minorities through a gorgeous blend of photography, travelogues and recipes.

Alford says the recipes featured in the book are easy for North American cooks to prepare because they probably have all the necessary equipment in their kitchens. Mix that with ingredients easily found in local markets, and you're prepared to experience delicacies from the farthest reaches of China.

Excerpt: 'Beyond The Great Wall'

Dai Salad
Courtesy of Artisan Books

  

Dai Carrot Salad

This dish is one of an incredible variety of prepared foods available at the markets in the small city of Jinghong in southern Yunnan province. Makes 4 salad or appetizer servings.

Ingredients:

1 pound large carrots

2 tablespoons pickled chiles, cut into ½-inch slices

3 scallions, smashed and sliced into ½-inch lengths

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 teaspoon roasted sesame oil

½ teaspoon salt, or to taste.

2-3 tablespoons coriander leaves, coarsely chopped

Directions:

Peel the carrots. Slice very thin, 1/8-inch thick if possible, on a 45-degree angle. You should have 3 cups.

In a medium saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Toss in the carrot slices and stir to separate them. Cook just until slightly softened and no longer raw, about 3 minutes. Drain.

Transfer the carrots to a bowl and let cool slightly, then add the chiles and scallion ribbons and toss to mix.

Whisk together the soy sauce, rice vinegar and sesame oil. Pour over the salad while the carrots are still warm. Stir or toss gently to distribute the dressing, then turn the salad out onto a serving plate or into a wide shallow bowl.

Serve the salad warm or at room temperature. Just before serving, sprinkle on the salt and toss gently, then sprinkle on the coriander and toss again.

  

Cheese Momos

Cheese made from yak milk is a staple in many parts of Tibet.

Makes 16 half-moon filled breads

Ingredients:

Dough:

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, preferably unbleached, plus extra for surfaces

½ teaspoon salt

About ½ cup lukewarm water

Filling:

¼ pound dry-textured goat's-milk feta or Pecorino-Romano, crumbled or minced (1 packed cup)

¼ cup minced scallions (white and tender green parts)

Peanut oil for deep-frying (2-4 cups)

Directions:

Place the flour and salt in a food processor and pulse briefly to mix. With the blade running, slowly add the water through the feed tube until a ball forms. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly. The dough should be soft and elastic. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rest for 30 minutes to 2 hours, whatever is most convenient.

Mix together cheese and scallions in medium bowl. Set aside.

Cut the dough in half. Set one half aside, covered. On a lightly floured surface, shape the other half into a cylinder by rolling it under your palms. Cut the cylinder crosswise in half, then in half and half again, to give you 8 equal pieces. Work with one piece at a time, leaving the others loosely covered with plastic wrap.

On the lightly floured surface, roll one piece out to a nearly 5-inch round. Place 1 packed tablespoon of the cheese mixture in the center of the round and fold over to make a half-moon shape. Press down lightly with a floured palm, to get rid of air bubbles, then pleat the edges closed. Start at one end and pinch the edges together between thumb and forefinger, then twist the place over, rolling the edge. Move along about ¼ inch and repeat, then continue until the edge is completely sealed. If the dough is not sticking to itself, brush off excess flour and brush the edge with a very little water. Set aside on a lightly floured surface and repeat with the remaining 7 pieces of dough, and then with the remaining dough and cheese.

Place a large wok or deep heavy pot on stovetop, making sure it's stable. (Or use a deep-fryer.) Pour 2 inches of oil into the wok or pot and heat over high heat. To check temperature of the oil, hold a wooden chopstick vertically in the oil, with the end touching the bottom of the pot. If bubbles bubble up along the chopstick, the oil is the right temperature. The oil should not be smoking.

When the oil is ready, slide one momo into the hot oil. Add another, and repeat until you have 4 frying at once. If pot is small, stop before pot is crowded. Use a slotted spoon or wire skimmer to move the momos around and gently turn them. They will quickly turn golden brown with darker brown bubbled spots.

After 1-2 minutes, when they are a rich golden brown and crisped looking, use the slotted spoon or skimmer to transfer to a rack or plate lined with paper towels. Repeat with the remaining momos.

Serve hot.

Excerpted from Beyond the Great Wall: Recipes and Travels in the Other China by Jeremy Alford and Naomi Duguid. Copyright (c) 2008. Reprinted with permission from Artisan Books. All rights reserved.