Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Turpan Raisins

In northwestern China, particularly Turpan, in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region, we found a staggering number and variety of raisins. In the markets we would see six or seven varieties, many of them different colors. 
This cart was in the night market in Dunhuang, China. 
At least five of the products on the cart were raisins (bottom row - left and middle, second row - the two middle, and third row - second from the right). 
We ate lunch at a farmer's home in Turpan. This plate contains different types of raisins. 
This is another plate at the same farmer's home. The green items at bottom left and center could possibly be pistachios, but I believe they were raisins. 
This is a large bag of raisins at a museum we visited in Turpan. I grabbed a handful and they were marvelous. 
Turpan produces (as of 2009 and 2010) 75% of the raisins produced in China and China is the largest producer of raisins in the world. In Turpan a chunche is used to make the raisins. The chunche is a building with walls covered with holes to allow the wind to pass through it and assist in the drying process. 
This is a field of grapes with a chunche in the background located outside of Turpan. The Flaming Mountains are in the background. This area is located in the Turpan Depression, the fourth lowest point on earth (after the Dead Sea, the Sea of Galilee and Lake Assal), about 505 feet below sea level. It is one of the hottest and driest areas in China. 
A different chunche.
This photo of grapes drying inside a chunche was taken from Wikipedia. 
The chunches are located in high wind areas. The 19th century Russian traveler, Grigory Grumm-Grzhimaylo, wrote, "Turfan [Turpan] is famous for its raisins, which one can deem to be the best in the world. They are dried in drying houses [chunces] of a completely peculiar type." Wikipedia notes that the raisins in Turpan are primarily produced from seedless white grapes and that the drying process takes about 40 days. Grapes dried in a chunche are usually green or yellow because of the shade, while grapes dried under direct sun appear dark. However, Wikipedia also notes that many raisin producers in Turpan buy grapes elsewhere and bring them to Turpan to dry in the chunches as they produce a superior product. 

My favorites were the yellow raisins. They were sweetest and had no seeds. Many of the dark varieties had seeds which made them gritty and they also seemed less sweet. We bought a mixture of five or six varieties in the night market in Dunhuang and had them on the train with us for snacks. Unlike raisins I've eaten in the U.S., many of the raisins we ate in China still had stems on them. 

Of course, where there are raisins there must be grapes and we saw grapes growing everywhere. However, the vast majority of the grapes had been picked prior to our arrival and I only recall seeing one small bundle of grapes on one vine. 

1 comment:

  1. I was not as impressed with the taste of the Turpan raisins. They were fun to try, but the grittiness dominated for me, and I missed my soft, plump Sun-maid raisins.