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Friday, January 12, 2018

11 MUST-TRY Xi'an Street Food

Xi'an is the ancient capital of China and the start of the silk road, it happens to be also the hometown of my lovely Lady M. We were recently there in November 2017 where we met her relatives, explore the history with all the terracotta and Emperor Qin, and stuff our faces with all the mouthgasm street food. If you have not been to this beautiful part of China, here's a quick summary of the food - most are both spicy and heavy in taste. Yup, all thanks to the influence of their close neighbour a.k.a. Sichuan.

One of my favourite places in Xi'an is the Muslim Street (回民街) - the bustling food haven for both tourists and locals. Okay, maybe more for the tourists. Also translated as Muslim Quarters, this street is open from day till night, with stalls selling all sorts of Xi'an goodies in this really, really long street. 

If you're heading there, here's what you should not miss out! Oh, as with every other food street, there are plenty of stalls selling the exact same thing. Don't know which stalls to buy from? Here's a general rule - Go with the longest queue.

1. Lamb Skewers (羊肉串)

The Chinese pretty much have skewers on everything - chicken liver, beef, quail eggs, and even scorpions, but lamb skewers top the list with its herby, spicy and gamey taste. Most stalls carve the meat literally next to the stall and grill it upon ordering. 

2. Chinese Burger (肉夹馍)

Literally translated as "meat sandwiched in bread", this is one of the MUST MUST (double musts) eat in Xi'an. Unlike its Western counterpart that is mostly beef patties and veggies, the Chinese Burger is made with chopped meat that has been stewed for hours, and wrapped in a pan-fried bun, perfectly sealing in all the juices. Talking about Nobel prize, this should qualify for one.
After trying from 4-5 different stalls, we concluded that the best is 老白家肉夹馍 (lao bai jia). It's thick, juicy, packed with a huge load of meat, but the setback is 35 RMB (almost four times the price than average) and the snaking long queue. Here's a tip, they have seats inside, order your burger there and you will skip all the queue. Genius.

3. Bread in Meat Soup (肉泡馍)

Probably Lady M's favourite, this dish is made of thin rice noodles in mildly flavoured broth paired with either mutton or beef meat. It will always come with sugar garlic (糖蒜 - and trust me, you wouldn't want to eat this on a first date) and chilli.

Source: seriouseats
4. Biang Biang Noodles (Biangbiang 面)

Here's a cool fact - Biang is arguably the most complexed and hardest Chinese character to write with 57 strokes (seriously the computer can't even write it). I have no idea why they do that, but perhaps, once upon a time, someone said why not incorporate all possible word components into one single letter for the name of a bowl of noodles? Boom, the birth of biang. This noodles - which is usually served with garlic, chilli, vinegar and random vegetables - is one of 陕西八大怪 (eight weird wonders of Shaanxi) because of its thickness and length of the noodles.
5. Buckwheat Noodles (饸饹)

Similar to Japan's soba, the 饸饹 is made with buckwheat noodles. But what's Shaanxi without vinegar, and a huge load of chilli oil? This dish is perfect during winter, as you'll probably be sweating in no time. Oh, did I mention that this is their version of less spicy? Yeah.

6. Steamed Dumplings (灌糖包子)

Xian's equivalent of Xiao Long Bao, its steamed dumplings are filled with minced beef and hot gravy. The difference lies its larger and flatter shape and its slight gamey taste. Since Xian is known as the dumpling capital of China, this is a no-brainer must-try.
7. Eight Treasures Soup (八宝粥)

Although literally translated as porridge, this dish has no rice grains (or oatmeals) but is packed with a variety of "treasures" such as nuts, berries, and dates. In winter, most vendors sell it hot, while in summer, this dish is transformed into a cold dessert.
8. Osmanthus rice cake (桂花年糕)

If you are looking for some desserts for your sweet tooth, don't miss out on my favourite - osmanthus rice cake. Its combination of sweet and sticky, paired with a hint of floral fragrance, will make you beg for seconds! If that it ain't clear, we highly recommend this.
9. Glutinous Rice (镜糕)

Here's another snack for your sweet tooth. Although there are many variations, such as peanuts, jam, rose and others, Lady M recommended this one which is steamed with dates as it brings back (her) childhood memories. Apparently, this popular stall which is located near the start of Muslim Street is featured in a movie as well.
10. Beancurd (豆腐脑)

If you are familiar with Singapore's sweet version of beancurd, you wouldn't expect what's gonna hit your taste buds. Instead of sugar syrup, their version is paired with chilli oil and vinegar. To be honest, I still prefer Singapore's version (please don't hate me), but no harm trying out their speciality when you're there.
11. Persimmon Doughnuts (柿子饼)

Last but not least, if you like doughnuts, you are in for a treat - introducing the never-seen-before persimmon doughnuts! It is deep-fried, leaving it with a crusty exterior, but a soft, chewy center which is made with dried persimmon. You won't regret getting one to munch on!

Here's the end of the 11 must-try street food in Xi'an! Are there any that you would like to see on the list? Let me know!