The capital of 13 Chinese dynasties, Xi’an is the cradle of ancient civilization. Among the city’s many historic relics, the Muslim Quarter is food heaven for tourists and locals alike. Sample crumbled flatbread soaked in mutton broth and other delectable street food dishes like Roujiamo, Liangpi and Glutinous Rice with Jujube.
1. Terracotta Army
It’s hard to overstate the awe-inspiring scale of this archaeological wonder. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Terracotta Army depicts an army that China’s first emperor planned to guard his tomb and rule another empire in the afterlife.
Each soldier, chariot, and horse has a distinctive look. The artists even carved a variety of facial expressions into the faces, and the soldiers are wearing uniforms that reflect their rank and function.
Pit number one is the largest of the four Army Pits. It has 11 corridors that house more than 3,000 terracotta warrior figures, lined up in military formation.
2. Muslim Quarter
The Muslim Quarter is a fascinating area to explore. It is one of the oldest parts of Xi’an, dating back to when the Islam religion came into China through the Silk Road. This neighborhood looks a lot like the Middle East and is full of exotic food. Some of the highlights are roujiamo (Chinese hamburger), yangrou paomo, biangbiang noodles and persimmon cakes. This is an absolute must-see on any Xi’an tour.
The best way to get around is by bus, especially in the city center area. The main long-distance buses are all located here.
3. Biang Biang Noodles
Named after the sound they make when slapped to get stretched, these hand-pulled noodles are vegan and made with wheat flour. They’re seasoned with Chinese black vinegar and garlic chili oil.
The sauce is a perfect balance of spicy, savory, and numbing. And the fresh noodles are bouncy and chewy.
To make them yourself, brush the dough with vegetable oil and rest it without stacking it on top of each other, for about 1 hour or more. When ready to cook, bring a large pot of water to the boil and then add the noodles. Drain and serve.
This Xi’an specialty comes in many different fillings and is best eaten with a liangfen (cold rice porridge). Depending on the season you can even try pumpkin baozi.
It’s commonly made with pork but can also be beef or lamb. The meat is stewed for hours in a rich broth flavored with spices. The result is a hearty dish that will warm you from the inside out.
A meal of Roujiamo is a must for any traveler in Xi’an. It is known as the first Chinese hamburger and is deeply loved by people both in China and abroad.
Liangpi (cold skin noodles) are a traditional Chinese food and one of the must-try snacks in Xi’an. They are made from wheat or rice flour and have a translucent appearance, thin shape, smooth surface, pliable texture and tender and savory flavor.
A bowl of liangpi, dressed with vinegar and chili oil, is refreshing, filling and full of flavour. It pairs well with a plate of roujiamo, the steamed pork dumplings that Xi’an is famous for. This dish is popular in the Huiminjie area. For the best roujiamo, go to Xinliang Kaorou.
6. Glutinous Rice
A Xi’an street snack, the deep-fried persimmon pastry is stuffed with rose jam or osmanthus and covered with ground nuts. It’s really delicious and a must-try if you visit Xi’an.
Glutinous rice with jujube is one of the special traditional snacks in Xi’an. The name of the snack is derived from its shape and steamer. It is soft, sweet, sticky and mellow in taste.
Xi’an has many varieties of traditional cakes and is famous for its wheat flour cake, bean cake, fruit cake and glutinous rice cake. The sweet and thick rice-wine in Xi’an is very famous and it does well in stopping cough and activating stomach function.
7. Blood Dumplings
The Terracotta Army may be Xi’an’s best-known attraction, but the city’s many noodles, breads and dumplings offer another delicious way to travel back in time. Known for its heavy-handed cumin and chilli seasoning, Shaanxi cuisine is a feast for the senses.
Unlike their Southern China cousins that are usually savoury, Xi’an zong zi tend to be sweet with fillings like red bean and mung bean. Yangrou paomo is a typical example and is one of the most popular Xi’an street foods.
A must-try for any Xi’an visitors is the crumbled flatbread in mutton stew which is served at a reasonable price.