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Delicacies From 'Beyond The Great Wall'

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.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bonny Wolf
NPR commentator Bonny Wolf grew up in Minnesota and has worked as a reporter and editor at newspapers in New Jersey and Texas. She taught journalism at Texas A&M University where she encouraged her student, Lyle Lovett, to give up music and get a real job. Wolf gives better advice about cooking and eating, and contributes her monthly food essay to NPR's award-winning Weekend Edition Sunday. She is also a contributing editor to "Kitchen Window," NPR's Web-only, weekly food column.