I was surprised to come across yellow figs at a local market several weeks ago. I was used to having a double-take every time I saw dried Chinese chestnuts (they look quite similar), but alas we really do now have western Chinese figs available in Philly. Now that I’ve seen them at one market, I seem to be seeing them everywhere.
For those of you who haven’t yet tried dried figs of western China (the Chinese name 無花果 means “flowerless fruit”), they are full of flavor. They taste a lot like breaded Fig Newtons (for me this is a positive association).
The figs above are fully dehydrated, and they are about the size of a penny. This is really different than how they are fresh, plump and full of water. Here is a picture of a fig seller on the streets of Kashgar, Xinjiang back in the 90s:
As you might be able to see, fresh figs in Xinjiang are much larger, about the size of a lime or a small lemon. Fresh figs of course have a much more subtle flavor.
By coincidence, I have noticed that most Asian markets around town are now carrying Turkish yellow figs as well. These figs are usually sold in the produce area, tightly packed together in a wheel. These figs are very similar to the Xinjiang variety, but they are larger and slightly less concentrated. They are also delicious, and have a consistency more like a dried apricot–Perhaps they are only partially dehydrated? Below is a size comparison between the Xinjiang fig and the Turkish one now available at markets ranging from H-mart to Whole Foods.