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Xian Food

Xi’an, the starting point of the Silk Road, and China’s first capital, boasts a long history, and a unique culinary background. As a route through which Arab traders would come to and from China, the city’s cuisine combines Middle Eastern and Chinese flavors. Sichuan peppercorns, cumin, chili, and other strong spices make Xi’an food a culinary adventure.

1. Cold Noodles (Liang Pi, 凉皮)

Cold Noodles Cold Noodles, Liang Pi

Springy noodles, often served with slices of gluten, topped with coriander and/or sliced cucumber, and slathered in a tangy, savory, chili sauce make for a great summer snack.

This dish is one of Northern China’s most popular street foods- and for good reason. It’s a nice light snack, akin to a spicy and savory kind of salad. Liang Pi literally translates to “Cold Skin Noodles,” the noodles are usually wide and flat and can be made from both wheat or rice. This dish is typically vegan.

Where to get it

1) Tie Tou Liang Pi 铁头凉皮

  • Address: 56 E. 1st Road, Xincheng District
  • Address in Chinese: 陕西省西安市新城区钟楼商圈东一路56号

2) We Jia Liang Pi 魏家凉皮

  • Address: 3 South St, Zhonglou Shangquan, Beilin
  • Address in Chinese: 陕西省西安市碑林区钟楼商圈南大街3号

2. Chinese Hamburger (Roujiamo, 肉夹馍)

Chinese Hamburger Chinese Hamburger, Roujiamo

Roujiamo, pronounced a little like name of the former James Bond actor Roger Moore, is another famous Xi’an snack. The name, meaning “meat sandwiched in bread,” tells you exactly what it is.

There are various different kinds, but the basics are meat (usually pork) stewed in over 20 different seasonings and spices and then minced or finely chopped, and stuffed in a flatbread. In Muslim areas and Western China, the meat may be mutton or beef. Some recipes use kiln-baked flatbread, while others use fried bread.

Roujiamo is the world’s oldest sandwich, as the bread dates back to the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BCE), and the bread even further, to the Zhou Dynasty (1045-256 BCE).

Where to get it

1) Qin Yu’s Chinese Hamburger 秦豫肉夹馍

  • Address: Dong Mu Tou Shi: 19, Dong Mu Tou Shi, Beilin District, near Kai Yuan Shopping Mall
  • Address in Chinese: 陕西省西安市碑林区钟楼商圈东木头市19号

2) Wang Kui’s Juicy Chinese Burger王魁腊汁肉夹馍

  • Address: Intersection of Changlefang Street and Dongxin Alley
  • Address in Chinese: 碑林区东关长乐坊八仙庵陕西省西安市碑林区东关长乐坊八仙庵

3. Bread and Mutton Soup (Yangrou Paomo, 羊肉泡馍)

Bread and Mutton Soup Bread and Mutton Soup, Yangrou Paomo

Great for cold winter days, Yangrou Paomo is made from chopped steamed bread (the “mo”) and mutton broth, with chunks of mutton (the yangrou), or sometimes beef. Seasoned with cumin, coriander, and sometimes topped with other vegetables or mushrooms, this filling dish is one of the most popular meals in Shaanxi. It is often served with chili sauce and garlic/pickled garlic for flavoring.

Where to get it

1) Lao Baijia Paomo Guan 老白家泡馍

  • Address: Bei Lin District Bei YuanMen 67
  • Address in Chinese: 陕西省西安市莲湖区北院门小吃一条街北院门67号

2) The Muslim Quarter (回民街)- all over this district visitors will find small restaurants selling this staple meal.

4. Peppery Meat Ball Soup (Hulatang, 肉丸胡辣汤)

Peppery Meat Ball Soup Peppery Meat Ball Soup, Hulatang

Hulatong is an intra-Chinese dish. It originally comes from Henan, and as it migrated to Shaanxi and Xi’an, the people there gave it a unique local style.

In Xi’an, it is made primarily from beef, potatoes, and cabbage. Despite its changes throughout China to fit the local palate, it maintains the same basic characteristics: an extremely thick and sticky texture, heavily flavored with pepper. Its spicy, savory flavor makes it a popular breakfast food in Xi’an.

Where to get it

  • Haozailai HulaTang 好再来胡辣汤
  • Address: The intersection of Damaishi Street and Mianhou Street, Lianhu District
  • Address in Chinese: 西安市联湖区大麦市街与绵厚街交叉口

5. Sister-in-Law Noodles (Qishan Saozi Noodles, 岐山臊子面)

Sister-in-Law Noodles Sister-in-Law Noodles

Saozi noodles are noodles cooked in spicy sauce with pieces of meat and vegetables for flavoring. This hearty soup stems from a legend in which a young man who was so devout in his studies would often forget to eat, and was supported by his sister-in-law (the “Saozi”), who gave him this life-rejuvenating soup.

In addition to noodles and pork, this dish can also contain tofu, dried lilies, agaric, kelp, carrots, and chives. The hot and sour flavor of Qishan Saozi paired with vegetables and chewy, doughy noodles makes for a complex, healthy and fulfilling culinary experience.

Where to get it

  • First Noodle Under the Sun 天下第一面
  • Address: Yanta, Hanguang Rd South Section
  • Address in Chinese: 陕西省西安市雁塔区含光路南段吉祥村十字北20米

6. Soup Dumplings (TangBao, 灌汤包)

Soup Dumplings Soup Dumplings

Anyone who has even the tiniest bit of experience with Chinese food knows about dumplings. But not all dumplings are created equal, and some of the most-loved dumplings in China are soup dumplings-not dumplings in soup, but dumplings filled with soup. The soup is created as the beef or mutton stuffing inside is cooked, releasing its own juices and making a savory broth.

Where to get it

1) 3rd Sister Dumplings 三姐妹饺子

  • Address: Qinfei Mansion, 192 E Mutoushi, Zhonglou Shangquan, Beilin District
  • Address in Chinese: 陕西省西安市碑林区钟楼商圈东木头市192号

2) Xiaoliu Soup Dumplings 小六汤包

  • Address: East St, Zhonglou Shangquan, Beilin District
  • Address in Chinese: 陕西省西安市碑林区钟楼商圈东大街

7. Gourd-Shaped Chicken (Hulu Ji, 葫芦鸡)

Gourd-Shaped Chicken Gourd-Shaped Chicken

Dating back to the Tang Dynasty (618-690 CE), Gourd-Shaped Chicken contains no gourds, but is named for the chicken, which is made to be the shape of a gourd.

The whole chicken is boiled, steamed, and finally fried, then served-in some restaurants- in a gourd-shaped container. The chicken gets a unique texture from the cooking which makes the meat extremely tender inside and crispy outside. It is usually served with a sauce made from chilies, salt, pepper, and fennel.

Where to get it

  • Xi’an Restaurant 西安饭庄
  • Address: 110 South Street, Beilin District (near the Bell Tower)
  • Address in Chinese: 陕西省西安市碑林区南大街110号钟楼饭店内

8. Biangbiang Noodles (Youpo Chemian, 油泼扯面)

Biangbiang Noodles Eating Biangbiang Noodles

Also called flat hand-pulled noodles in English, Biangbiang noodles are one of Xi’an’s most popular dishes. Often topped with red peppers to suit the cold Xi’an winters, these noodles are also called “belt noodles” for their flatness, thickness, and length. Biang is one of the most complex characters in Chinese, with about 15 variants, so they are also known as Youpo Chemian.

Where to get it

1) Lou BeiLou FanZhuang 楼北楼饭庄

  • Address: Building Tower North Restaurant, 131 Beiyuanmen, Lianhu District
  • Address in Chinese: 陕西省西安市莲湖区钟楼商圈北院门131号

2) Numerous restaurants in the Muslim Quarter (回民街)- try taking a walk off of the main streets.

9. Sticky Rice and Date Cake (Zenggao, 甑糕)

Sticky Rice and Date Sticky Rice and Date

Zenggao, prepared with glutinous rice and red jujube (dates), this sweet dish is more like a desert than a full meal. The dish is prepared by steaming the ingredients in a container (the “zeng”) until it becomes a sort of cake (the “gao”). It can also be flavored with kidney beans, azuki beans, and sweet honeyed dates.

Where to get it

1) Dongnanya Zengao 东南甑糕

  • Address: N Guangji St, Beiyuanmen Snacks Street, Lianhu
  • Address in Chinese: 陕西省西安市莲湖区北院门小吃一条街北广济街

2) Many small vendors in the Muslim Quarter (回民街) in Xi’an serve this dish.

10. Persimmon Cake (Shi Zi Bing, 柿子饼)

Persimmon Cake Persimmon Cake

The skin of Persimmon Cake is a crispy golden brown, while the inside is sweet and sticky. It is a popular desert between the months of October and January, as that is when the persimmons used to make it have been harvested. The exterior is made from persimmon flour while the interior is a red bean paste, all of which is cooked by frying.

Where to get it

  • Liu Ming Hu Ta 刘明糊塌is a mobile food cart selling persimmons. It is famous for its 80 years of service.
  • Address: The cart can usually be found on the West side of Sa Jin Qiao street, nearby Sa Jin Qiao Metro Station (洒金桥站) on line 1.

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