XiAn Food Tour
Located at the terminus of the Silk Road and at one time the cultural and political capital of China, the city of Xi’an in Shaanxi province has one of the more interesting culinary histories in China, in no small part due to the influence of its large Muslim population. more info
- The old Drum Tower acts as the de facto entryway to the Muslim Quarter, located in the Northwest quadrant of the ancient walled city. At first glance, you get a sort of Epcot Center, Disney-esque impression, what with the loud hawking and bright signs everywhere, but it’s a location steeped in history: the neighborhood has housed a largely Muslim population since the 7th Century AD. Many of the dishes served have changed little since that time.
- You’ll find sights familiar to both Chinese and Middle Eastern culture. Chefs stir-fry lamb and spices in hot woks set over blazing hot coal ovens. Nearby, hawkers roast walnuts or sell prunes of varying prices and degrees of quality.
- Pork leg cooked with rock candy – A common household dish of the Chongqing people, the finished dish, known as red in colour and tender in taste, has been described as having strong and sweet aftertaste.
- Stacks of bamboo baskets filled with mutton and beef dumplings steam away next to fresh fruit vendors and old ladies stir-frying potatoes.
- <And of course, there are tourists. Tons and tons and tons of them, though mostly Chinese.
I stopped by the Muslim Quarter three times over the course of a few days to get a gauge of the best times to go and the best things to eat. If you want to see crowds and hawkers and get jostled before your meal, head there in the late evening, after 7:30 or so. Go there in the afternoon or earlier in the evening and you'll get treated better with a little more space to walk around—and food that's prepared with a bit more time and attention.
- No matter how hungry you enter, you can expect to leave fully stuffed without spending more than around 40 Yuan (about $6.50) per person. Not a bad price for a night out.
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