The Good Bits of Xi’an


Which is not to say that there are bad bits of Xi’an, merely that the previous post about the trip wasn’t exactly the highlight reel.  It has, however, been pointed out to us that people are actually looking forward to hearing about the other stuff – not just the aviation radish and endless tarmac jaunts. What is it we do better than most?  Eat. So it only seems fitting that our Good Bits begin with the most delicious street of food we’ve had the pleasure of eating in a while.  Busy, yes.  Touristy, yes.  Meat-filled, yes – no pork, no seafood, lots of beef. A highly recommended part of any itinerary for Xi’an, HELLS yes. Welcome to the Muslim Quarter AKA Beiyuanmen Muslim Street.. 2014-01-31 18.43.26 First up, the affectionately dubbed ‘Chinese Pizza’.  Note, it wasn’t us who dubbed it thus but the first (of a few) vendors who was lucky enough to sell us this treat.  Meat and/or veg smeared inside thin pastry, fried into a greasy, delightful round.  2014-01-31 18.34.43 2014-01-31 18.27.04 2014-01-31 18.26.28 Large pots of food always take our fancy.  This street provided no shortage of army sized tureens with various concoctions residing happily inside, before being transported, just as happily, into the bellies of the many filling this street.2014-01-31 18.34.17 Like many a part of China and surrounding areas, meat on sticks was bountiful and cooked to order.  2014-01-31 18.42.17 2014-01-31 18.42.33 An under-rated highlight for us was these supremely tasty teeny-tiny new potatoes, cooked to moist perfection and smothered in a salty, spicy mix redolent with flavours much closer to the middle east.  2014-01-31 18.44.33 Being in the more northerly reaches of China, there is far less (boring) white rice up these ways, and a noticeable increase of both noodles and bread.  Xi’an has myriad famous noodles dishes and the streets are lined with establishments displaying not only their wares but also the crew putting in the hard work to make them.2014-01-31 18.48.24 2014-01-31 19.15.172014-01-31 18.53.12 A favourite of H-J’s all the way back in Korea was maechurial, or quail’s eggs.  A touch of Korea was present int he form of the little guys being smothered in a kind of batter, cooked on a cool egg-shaped grill thing and then sloshed with gojuchang.  Sweet!  It was an unexpected and well tasty trip down memory lane. 2014-01-31 18.56.05 2014-01-31 18.56.12 2014-01-31 18.56.18 But back to the wheat based goodies – bread!  Humungous circles of the stuff could be seen in various different shapes.  This guy was cutting off chunks to order, weighing them in an old fashioned set of scales and charging customers accordingly.  He was doing a roaring trade and was grumpy/efficient in that way that only the best market traders can be.2014-01-31 18.30.38 2014-01-31 18.57.17 2014-02-02 19.02.51 Always suckers for a queue to food, we spotted this doozy which dangerously intercepted the flow of hungry pedestrians.  Of course, we joined right in and waited…2014-01-31 18.58.19 The end result being a small, round pocket of hot bread stuffed with freshly carved slow-braised beef, then spread with a layer of mouth-numbing, Sichuan peppercorn-laced sauce.  The.  Bomb.2014-01-31 19.12.42 2014-01-31 19.11.25 2014-01-31 19.12.03 2014-01-31 19.11.01 We’d just been snacking up until this point – over the course of a couple of days of course, as we just couldn’t resist the pull to come to this street each day we were in Xi’an.  The time had come, however, to try a couple of Xi’an most famous (and substantial) noodle dishes.  First up was the well named ‘belt noodles’ (biangbiang), named such for the thickness and length of the noodles – you could totally loop ’em through your trouser loops, if you could resist eating them.2014-01-31 19.23.32 They came laced with more chunks of beef, fresh vegies and herbs and a shock of perfectly spiced sauce.  Gooood.2014-02-02 18.20.37 2014-02-02 18.33.13 Next on the to-eat list was what is considered by many to be The Most Famous Dish of the region – yangrou paomo.  It’s basically a steaming bowl of tiny pieces of crumbled, unleavened bread dropped into a rich mutton stew.  It’s not the faint hearted or the slightly peckish.  Even between us, we struggled to eat a whole bowl.  Which of course had NOTHING to do with the breakfast buffets at the hotel, or the snacks previously disclosed or the previous bowl of noodles.  Nope, nope, nope! 2014-02-02 18.48.37More meat still beckoned.  Dan was tempted by walking past stall after stall of some kind of trotter.  While normally we would assume that it would be pig, in this particular area that was not going to be the case.  Sheep?  Goat?  Who knows… 2014-02-02 19.04.19 2014-02-02 19.06.14 With night approaching the place still doesn’t let up but the light takes on a really cool quality.  Colours of both people and food stood out brightly.2014-02-02 19.07.33 2014-02-02 19.13.54 2014-02-02 19.18.56 2014-02-02 19.25.51 2014-02-02 19.25.59 2014-02-02 19.52.18 2014-02-02 19.41.102014-01-31 19.20.26 2014-02-02 19.55.22 With night setting in, it was time for one last round of Chinese pizza, from a different establishment this time.  These guys ran a tight production line of smear, crimp, fry and chop and the end result was a more robust, but still delightfully sinful, product.  2014-02-02 19.43.58 2014-02-02 19.46.26 2014-02-02 19.50.03 All bagged up and ready to go back to the hotel with us for a late night snack.  Sweet!

2014-02-02 19.50.10

Ps. You may notice (unless you’re reading this via Braille) that we’ve changed our blog theme.  If you love it/hate it/think it needs a tweak toward perfection, please let us know!

Categories: China, Food, TravelTags: , , , , , , , ,

32 comments

  1. Oh my…not a good idea to look at this post when hungry haha. Beautiful pics and lovely new blog look too! You all look like you are having fun. And the food looks amazing! Yums! 🙂

  2. So much good and interesting stuff you’ve got to taste. 🙂

  3. Loved the new format but cant remember any of my names to get into the likes etc. Loved it anyway

    Janie Kilkelly

  4. This photo-heavy post is marvelous! The food looks absolutely fantastic! (And I like the new theme. The black is awesome with your photos. Any hiccups in the switch? I’m toying with the idea of trying something new myself.)

    • Thanks! And welcome back from your awesome adventure 🙂 We’re digging the new look and nope, no problems whatsoever with the switch as we literally just hit the change theme buttons. Our old theme treated us well but this feels a little more ‘grown up’ (probably just because we had to pay for it, haha).

  5. I should never read one of your posts on an empty stomach! So hungry now!

  6. Omigod…..YES!!!!! I LOVE NORTHERN CHINESE FOOD!!!! All the crispy scallion pancakes + the cumin laced meats!!!! YUM! RAWR!!! This post made me feel feral with hunger!!! I haven’t found a northern chinese spot in Vancouver yet, but now I’m going on the hunt!!!! I like the new format, big, pretty pictures – but maybe the header could use some of your previous colorful sass?

    • Cumin – it’s good eh! Loving your description of being ‘feral with hunger’ haha. That sums us up from day to day. We’re still working on the appearance of this new blog but definitely agree re the header. The problem is just finding photos that work with the new colour theme cause with some of the ones we’ve tried the words disappear a bit. But we’ll keep working on it so we can personalise to our true w&c stylez 😉

  7. The food looks amazing, so different from the Cantonese/Mandarin cuisine we are famiiar with in the UK, I’m starvin now and I only just had breakfast!

    New theme look good too

  8. Oh. My. God.!!!! I am so hungry (just back from work) and this all looks amazing. The photos are stunning (new camera?) and I love the new look of the blog – now I need one of those pizzas to go with my glass of wine while I work out what I can conjure up for dinner 🙂

  9. Very nice gastro tour of Xi’an! Looks like some very tasty street foods. I especially like the mystery meat foot…something that I would have tried : ) how was it by the way? Also I like the new blog theme. Clean and easy for me to read. Keep up the good work!

    • The mystery meat foot was good though we thought it would be better in the privacy of the hotel room so we could really get stuck into the meaty crevices. Eating a foot while walking and trying not to make too much of a mess can be a fine art!

      Thanks for the comments on the blog!

  10. Love the new format!! Very chic! 😀
    And all the food….. YUM. Being a veggie, I had a totally different culinary experience. No less delicious though, or less photographed! 😀 Did you ever figure out what the trotter was?

  11. I need that Chinese pizza in my life so bad!

  12. Firstly, I love the new blog design and the way it highlights your vibrant photos. Secondly love that you dedicated an entire post to xian an street food, definitely my kinda thing. So you might have noticed the food as you travel into china is way spicier and oilier! I was super surprised myself, (haven’t been to xian,) but when I was in Hungzhou once, I was served a kinda potato gnocchi type stir fry. Very pasta like with meat Ragu and was like???

    Then my little bro explained that in some areas, they definitely eat more noodles and wheat, (like my sister in law) from the north. They use chilli to preserve the food and oil to bulk it out and keep them warmer in winter. Potatoes were eaten in some of the western parts of china, due to a lack of meat..but then you get things like preserved donkey jerky instead that’s stir fried with veg…true!

    Look forward to the next installment 🙂

    • Donkey jerky?! Wow, sounds interesting…no doubt we’d try it, given the chance. Or maybe we have unknowingly already, hehehe. We were definitely loving the change away from white rice and instead gorging ourselves on the more wheaty varieties of carbs. It wasn’t as spicy as perhaps we would hope but we’re thinking a trip to the Sichuan province might sort that out…mmmmmm…..drooly-mouth-numby-goodness.

      Thanks for the positive comments re the new look!

  13. Guys! I’m loving the new look. When did this happen?!! I missed so much while I was away.
    Xi’an is great for street food, isn’t it? 완전 craving one of those pulled pork hamburgers now…

  14. What a vibrant life you observed there? Love seeing all the great street foods. I think you should submit them to National Geographic magazines.

  15. Truly incredible street food finds! The Chinese pizza looks realllllly amazing!
    And the slow-braised beef cart makes me want to book a ticket to Xi’an right now!!
    Good lord, when’s lunch???
    Your new addition is going to be one heck of a culinary genius! 🙂
    ~ Andrea ❤

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