Eating out in Xi’an

Xi’an Muslim market

As many long-term readers of our website may have noticed, we’re not big eaters. The “food” section of our website has languished with only a couple of entries while we pass our days skipping breakfast, eating fruit and bread for lunch, and having the same thing for dinner several days in a row. We’re adventurous eaters, you’ll have to believe us, but aside from a few exceptions (like the entire country of Turkey, which has the best cuisine in the world), food is pretty low on our priority list.

Since we’ve entered China, our friends back in London have inspired us to put a little more effort into what we eat. Truth be told, neither of us really liked Chinese food before we got here. But so far, from the Uyghur polo to Lanzhou’s lamyan, everything has been absolutely amazing. Once we hit Xi’an, we were really going to ramp up the food porn, armed with loads of good recommendations for both things to try in the city’s famous Muslim market and more traditional Chinese fare.

Then, in classic style, on our first night in Xi’an I got an amazing head cold. I barely made it through two beers before it was time to head home. By the next day I’d lost my sense of smell completely, and spent most of the afternoon in a windowless hostel room, in bed, forcing down mandarin oranges and McVities chocolate digestives. Awesome.

So we didn’t eat as much stuff (or see as much stuff) in Xi’an as expected, but here’s some snaps of the city and some fooood.

Xian

A street of flag and banner vendors, selling everything from the stars and stripes to posters of Uncle Mao

Xi'an muslim market

Xi’an’s famous Muslim quarter. It’s chaotic, noisy, touristy and overpriced (though still cheap for a Western tourist). The variety of food is decent but it’s pretty much the same type of food stalls repeated. If you’ve been to Xinjiang already, give it a miss unless you’re desperate for a fix. Even then, stick to the back alleys.

Xian Muslim Market

Vendors in the Muslim Quarter selling sheep feet and (halal) stinky tofu

Xi'an Muslim market

Lamb skewers and the round, flat naan that is ubiquitous from Turkmenistan to China

Xi'an Muslim Market

These fantastic stews are cooked on the street in ceramic or stone bowls and make for hearty, warming and cheap meals. They’ve definitely helped us through some cold days and nights in the West

Xi'an Muslim market

Lovely steaming baozi. Not really Muslim, but everyone’s favourite!

We got some great suggestions for Shaanxi specialties to try, but unfortunately the only one we managed was biang biang mian. What an amazing name for a food—it just springs out of your mouth when you order, like bullets out of a machine gun. Even more amazing than the name is the character for “biang”, a 58-stroke masterpiece that is one of the most complex characters in the Chinese language and actually impossible to type on a computer.

We got our biang biang on at Noodle King, which may be a chain restaurant, but the manager cares so much about his product that he actually came over to tell me I was eating it wrong. Thanks, dude. Our biang biang featured classic thick handmade noodles that were incredibly difficult to pick up with chopsticks, topped with a spicy gravy-like sauce made with pulled pork, egg and tomatoes. I couldn’t taste it at all, but Mook loved it.

Biang Biang Noodle King

Biang Biang Mian

On day three of being sick, we thought we’d see if a big, spicy hotpot could cure the common cold. We headed off to visit Haidiao Hot Pot City, which is renowned (on Trip Advisor, at least) for being a delicious and fun-filled dining experience complete with dancing noodle waiters and whatnot. When we got there, the restaurant was closed. But on the ground floor of the same building, Minle Xinduhui Shopping Center, we found the most amazing food court ever.

Minle Xinduhui Shopping Center Food Court

There was at least 50 restaurants and food carts serving regional specialties as well as national favourites, along with things like lamb shashlik, Korean food, and a huge variety of baozi. In the centre of the corridor were short tables to dine at, and you could effectively mix and match from the different restaurants to build the Chinese food smorgasbord of your dreams.

Minle Xinduhui Shopping Center Food Court

Minle Xinduhui Shopping Center Food Court

Minle Xinduhui Shopping Center Food Court

Minle Xinduhui Shopping Center Food Court

These buns are made by pulling dough very thinly then rolling up onions, minced beef, oil and spices inside

Minle Xinduhui Shopping Center Food Court

Steamed veggie patties and veg rolled up in a thin skin made of tofu. Both are eaten with vinegar and spicy oil

Minle Xinduhui Shopping Center Food Court

Mook got this great mix over a huge bowl of rice for only £1.50

Minle Xinduhui Shopping Center Food Court

I got this awesome spicy soup full of veggies I picked out myself for only £2.30. Didn’t do much for my cold, though…

Minle Xinduhui Shopping Center Food Court

Tsingtao bar

Minle Xinduhui Shopping Center Food Court

Spirits on tap

This place was way more awesome, and arguably more authentic than the Muslim Quarter. Everyone was really nice, and after watching Mook and I wander around indecisively for a good 15 minutes, people even came up and suggested their favourites for us to try. Fantastic eating experience and cheap as chips.

We will eat more, better stuff in the future, we promise.

Xi'an

Xi'an

Xi'an



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