The Muslim Fare Festival recently kicked off in Beijing and will run through Aug 18.
In its eighth year, the annual event will showcase and sell foods from cherished eateries and street vendors of Niu Jie, the oldest Muslim area in Beijing. The prices will be promotional, according to Duan Kaiyun, the secretary-general of Beijing Cuisine Association, a body that organises the festival.
Red Willow Grilled Lamb Spine Restaurant introduced the original nan-pit barbecue from the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region at the festival last year. Baking the flatbread - with possible origins in Asia or the Middle East - has been a tradition in Xinjiang for more than 500 years. In the region, it is also stuffed with lamb and beef.
Among Red Willow's most popular dishes are lamb spine chops grilled in a nan pit, which is quite rare even in Beijing, despite the popularity of lamb spine hotpot in the city and nearby.
The lamb spine chops are marinated with myriad seasonings such as cumin, ginger and pepper, and suspended from hooks over the earthen pit, where the temperature can be more than 300 degrees Celsius.
Another hot dish at the restaurant is the grilled mutton kebab, which is cooked in the same pit, and is skewered with twigs of Tamarix, commonly known as red willow in China.
The restaurant also holds Xinjiang-styled dance and singing performances during the food festival.