Our final day in Urumqi was free & easy shopping day. We are leaving to airport in the afternoon so we have a whole morning to shop around in the city.
We started to explore the downtown at around 9 am but most of the shops are still closed. The shops and restaurants usually open at 11.00 am but still it is good to stroll around the city without any congestion.
Get to know Urumqi city
The population in Urumqi is about 3.5 million; 75 % are still Han Chinese and 13% are Uyghurs and 13 other minority ethnic which are Hui, Kazakh, Manchu, Xibo, Mongolian, Kirgiz, Tajik, Tatar, Uzbek, Russia and others. Urumqi is a national garden city, an excellent tourist city and a modern city in China.
The city was rank top seventh for most “happy/幸福感” provincial capital cities in 2015. This mean people who live here are contented with their life and what government has done for them.
In 2017 Urumqi was elected as one of China’s top 10 ice and snow tourist cities. Well, we usually would think of Haerbin/哈尔滨 in Dongbei/东北 but Urumqi too has plenty of snow in the winter and look as pretty.
When you are in Xinjiang, most of the food here shared characteristics with the Turkish and Central Asia food which contain lots of meat. Majority of Xinjiang people are Muslim if they are Uyghurs or Hui ethics but there are big population also Han people who are non muslim. If you feel like having pork cuisine, then go search for restaurant that stated as 汉餐/Chinese Food.
Eight thirty Convenient Store /八点半便利店
In Urumqi city, you get to see several convenient stores all over the city with the name of ‘Eight thirty”/八点半. It is a chain store in Xinjiang. Nothing so special, just an ordinary convenient stores.
Youhao Supermarket seems to be another popular place to shop for groceries. Spotted few in Urumqi, one in Zhongshan Road and one at the underground of Tian Shan Departmental store.
Tian Shan is the largest department store in Urumqi and it is well located in the heart of downtown. Once you stepped into the mall, you will see all the famous luxury brand you can think of. My instinct told me the things here won’t be cheap. I was not interested to shop for any clothes but more to check out what they have in their local supermarket. The Youhao Supermarket is located at the basement.
Before entering to Youhao Supermarket, I saw our Singapore BreadTalk Bakery has a store in the basement of Tian Shan Department Store.
Must Try Drink in Xinjiang
One of the drink you need to try in Xinjiang is pomegranate drinks. Local called the drink “Anar”. Pomegranates is a fruit predominately grown in this region. You will see this drink almost everywhere in Urumqi, also can be found Urumqi International Grand Bazaar, may be the freshly made version. BreadTalk has the ready-made pomegranate drinks at their counter, selling at RMB15 (SGD3.00). I prefer the ready-made as it look more hygiene.
BreadTalk Speciality in Urumqi – Dates Cake
BreadTalk is selling one of their special item – ‘Dates Cake’, similar to banana cakes, except it is dates that are used. The cake texture is the soft and not as sweet as banana cakes. I have bought one for my snacks in the airport.
At the meat section, you got to see all the local delicacies. The most interesting part is to see every part of the pig were sold here, eg ear, brain,snout,tongues, small & big intestines, testicles and even black (black pudding).
All Kind of Bun
Xinjiang is famous for “Ope-hisip” which is mainly made out from sheep lung and intestine. Don’t think Youhao Supermarket has it here as “Ope-hisip” are street food which mostly found in the alley of the Grand Bazaar. You may like to try horse meat sausages since Xinjiang has the world longest horse meat sausages.
Others “Small Eat”/小吃
“Small Eat”/小吃 is local ,traditional and characteristic food such as marinated lotus, tofu skin, seaweed etc.
Other local cooked dishes that are ready to serve and eat, all packed nicely for the customer to pick them up.
Marinated chicken feet, beef and seafood with chili powder & topped with sesame.
All type of bakery & biscuits.
Mahua/麻花, the Chinese dough twist that is being fried in oil. The origin is unclear which part of China but now can be found almost all over China.
Salted Eggs & Century Eggs
Rice Dumpling /龙舟粽
Since it was during the rice dumpling festival, we saw a lot of ready-made rice dumpling packed in the nice packaging.
China Rice Dumpling vs Singapore/Malaysia Rice Dumpling
China rice dumpling looks different from our Singaporean version. China rice dumpling look smaller and also do not have so many ingredients and usually taste sweet. Our usually taste salty and include meat in it.
The fruits sold here are mostly imported fruits such as durian and not cheap too. Cheap local fruits usually sold at the roadside, such as Hami Melon, watermelon and pomegranate.
Youhao Supermarket is a shopping paradise for local & expats. You will find plenty of foreigner staples such as cheese, doughnuts & cereal. There is even a sushi counter where you can by their sashimi & sushi.
Modern 1906 Ice Cream
Modern 1906 Ice cream is originating from Harbin in China. I choose to try the mango flavour and quite milky and creamy taste. I prefer less creamy.
If you look closely, the packaging has China Time-honored Brand/中华老字号 printed on it. This mean the brand has been awarded certificates and has long history of brand in China.
Xinjiang Lunch Review
We have our quick-lunch before going to the Urumqi Airport.
Leek Dumpling / 韭菜盒 (above)
Rice Dumpling with Dates (Above)
See what I mean by China version of rice dumpling? There is only one date in the rice dumpling and no other ingredients. The date is sweet and the whole dumpling taste sweet and smaller too. I quite like it.
Lamian Noodle with beef & binjal
The noodles and meat are separated when served. You will have to pour and mixed well before you eat. Portion is so huge that you can share by 2 to 3 pax.
Final thoughts :
Don’t under-estimate Urumqi city, the living standard & consumption level are high. Food and things sold here aren’t cheap. Similar to Singapore price. It is a great stroll in the local supermarket to find out what is the living standard like in Urumqi and what kind of food locals bring home to cook, eat and use. You have an insight about the local culture and are able to compare the difference through theirs and ours. The best thing is you get to buy souvniers with less inflated prices 🙂