Urumqi (“oo-rum-chee”) is my Gotham City. Our first look was at night, and it was eerie how the city’s skyscrapers and towers just rise up out of nowhere. Plus it never got dark. The night sky seemed to stay a weird kind of twilight.
The capital of Xinjiang is home to 1.6 million people. The Uyghur make up the largest ethnic group. With their Turkic-language and belief in Islam, the city has an amazing Middle Eastern flavour even though it’s part of China.
We visited the International Grand Bazaar, a busy complex of buildings that included a mosque. Outside, two tightrope walkers entertained the crowds, and vendors sold freshly pressed pomegranate juice.
We had dinner at the bazaar buffet-style and it was here we encountered the infamous opke: soup made from goat heads and intestines.
It was easy to find the opke at the buffet because it had the biggest lineup. That goopy soup is seriously popular in Xinjiang, probably more than the Rolling Stones 1973 album Goats Head Soup. Heh.
Opke doesn’t look that appetizing, especially when the goat’s eye sockets are staring up at you from the pot.
To be honest, it didn’t taste that bad. Kind of a salty broth. But chomping on the intestines that came with it was a bit different. I’m used to eating tripe in other Asian dishes, but when even my Chinese family couldn’t identify the bits in my bowl, I put it aside.