February 26, 2009
A surprising highlight of Xian: the food!
Many of our China tours include an overnight stay in Xian, one of the four great ancient capitals of China and the terminus of the ancient Spice Route. While the main draw for travelers to Xian is the incredible Terracotta Warriors, there are other compelling reasons to visit—most notably the food!
Xian is known for its dumpling banquets: copious amounts of small, decorative dumplings served in large, family-style restaurants, some of which offer live entertainment. While the dumplings are creative and delicious, what I like even better is the local Muslim food. Xian is home to a sizable Muslim population, which is reflected in the spices and other ingredients used to prepare the dishes.
On my most recent visit to Xian, my wonderful guide took me to one of her favorite restaurants and ordered her favorite dishes. Out of the ensuing feast, two soups stand out in my memory as being absolutely delicious: a beef soup with thin buckwheat noodles in a spicy broth redolent of cilantro and cumin; and yangrou paomo, a mutton soup with thin rice noodles in a light curried broth, served over paomo—a flat, circular, unleavened bread—that I first broke up into tiny bits, placed in my bowl and handed to the waitress, who then brought it to the kitchen for the soup to be poured over. This was without a doubt one of the best meals I’ve ever had in China.
All of our private tours in Xian include a visit to the city’s Muslim quarter for the opportunity to explore the markets, see the cultural attractions, and, of course, eat!