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Uighur Ice Cream

A little about the ice cream that is virtually everywhere in the Uighur parts of Xinjiang.

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The alleyways and streets of Urumqi’s Grand Bazaar were full of people buying, selling, conversing, and eating ice cream. It was a hot day and the ice cream makers were continuously ringed by small groups of of people looking to cool down with a cup of their sugary ware. The people who make it call it maruxna, everyone else just calls it Uighur ice cream — 维吾尔冰淇淋.

The ice cream was made right in the market stalls. Cream was poured into a large bowl along with shaved ice, sugar, and flavorings, and then a big block of ice was plopped down in the center. The creamy mixture was then stirred and poured over the block of ice, making it cold. When it was all mixed together and was at the proper temperature it was poured into a hand cranked machine, which was then churned to produce the ice cream.

The finished ice cream was then displayed for sale as a massive mound on a platter. These platters were set upon large bowls. At the edges of the platters were little holes so that melted ice cream could drip down into bowl below, mess free. There did not seem to be any attempt at preserving the rapidly melting piles of ice cream as they sat out in the hot sun — and I wouldn’t be surprised if the unused portions that dripped below were reconstituted into the next batch.

As far as the taste goes, I found it surprising similar to the the type of highly processed ice cream that I’m familiar with — although I had to calibrate for the fact that this stuff is as raw as it gets and is therefore not made with the excess of flavorings that I would usually expect.

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Filed under: China, Food, Xinjiang

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3679 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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