A Taste of the Real Xi’an
What to Eat in the Ancient Capital
Fancy a taste of the real Xi’an? Just bite into some of the special local delicacies available in this classical metropolis. If you want to dine like a native, here are a few dishes bound to tantalise your tastebuds.
The Shaanxi province is well known for its particular style of cooking: making elaborate use of everyday ingredients, meals can encompass tasty hotpots, hearty stews and delectable dumplings. Characterised by strong flavours, nourishing meals and an emphasis on savoury aromas such as salt, garlic, onion, and vinegar, Xi’an has its own particular take on the province’s approach to cuisine.
The people of Xi’an take their food seriously, and the local dishes are fervently promoted and defended by the people who live here. As a result, you’ll find that quality and passion will be at the heart of everything you eat. There are several treats that must be sampled to appreciate Xi’an’s distinctive culinary offerings. Why not impress your travel companions by asking for one of these four local dishes wherever you choose to eat out?
Yang Rou Pao Mo
One of the signature recipes of the area, Yang Rou Pao Mo is a mutton stew served with unleavened bread. It is popular with both locals and visitors as the dish has a very unique custom attached to it.
Before the Stew is Served
You will be asked to break the unleavened bread into a bowl. The trick is to break the bread into the smallest pieces possible before it is taken to the kitchen to be filled with the mutton stew. This task may prove to be hard on your fingers, but once you have prepared your bread, you pass your bowl to the chef who will stir it into a pot of hot mutton soup. After five to ten minutes, he will ladle the soup and bread back into your bowl with a quantity of mutton, adding chilli paste, caraway and a specially salted sweet garlic to enhance the dish.
Said to provide a warming energy boost, this delightful stew is best experienced at Lao Sun Jia and the Tong Sheng Xiang restaurants, where they have been serving it for over a century. For those who aren’t mutton fans, you can instead ask for it ‘niu rou’ – a version served with beef instead of the traditional meat.
A Blend of Noodles and Spices
This remarkable dish is a tasty blend of noodles and spices, but with a strange twist – it is served completely cold.
Tangy, Spicy, Hot, Cool, Crisp
Liangpi is typically made from rice flour that is mixed with water and, depending on the variety, washed until only the gluten remains. The pancakes are steamed, cooled, cut into thin strips and placed into a bowl with julienned cucumber and bean sprouts. The dish is then layered with a variety of different sauces and the final result will depend on where you go, as each outlet has its own special recipe. The additions vary vastly, but typically include vinegar, salt, chilli oil and smashed garlic in water.
The inimitable blend of tangy, spicy, hot, cool, crisp, moist and chewy sensations with every bite means liangpi offers every possible flavour and texture in just one simple, distinctive plate.
Guan Tang Baozi
Deriving from the national dish tangbao – or soup-filled buns – Guan Tang Baozi are Xi’an’s own adaptation of this Chinese indulgence.
Meat Mixed in Savoury Gravy
Not unlike Shanghai xiaolongbao, these dumplings are filled with meat mixed in savoury gravy and eaten with a vinegar dipping sauce spiked with chilli and Sichuan pepper. Many street food sellers will serve their own delectable variation of this treat, but for the widest selection in a relaxed setting you can head to Jia San Guan Tang Baozi. Here, you can give your palate a pleasing journey while having fun watching the waiters carrying stacks of bamboo steamers piled several feet high.
Hu La Tang
Nourishing and Spicy Soup
Though the Henan province just west of Shaanxi is credited with the creation of this nourishing and spicy soup, the true origin of the recipe for Hu La Tang is unknown.
A Popular Element of Breakfast
Its main ingredients are beef broth and capsicum peppers and it’s possible that the latter vegetable came to the country along the Silk Road. Since the recipe gained prominence in the Tang Dynasty and the rulers of the empire were based in Xi’an, it is likely that the residents of the city were amongst some of the earliest adopters of this dish.
However it came to be so popular, it is now a national favourite. Some herbs and flavourings such as ginger, aniseed and fennel can be added to improve the flavour, as well as to make the mixture piquant and hot. The taste is said to give you a comforting glow throughout your body, so it is a traditional winter warmer for the Chinese people, but can be enjoyed any time of year due to its exceptional taste.
In northern China, Hu La Tang is one of the most popular elements of breakfast. A regular part of the typical morning routine is to get up early in order to go out and eat the soup to prepare for the long day ahead.