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Xi'an, China: What to Eat During Your Trip to Xi'an

I still have such vivid memories of wandering the Xi’an streets once the sun had gone down and the 114°F weather had cooled to a nice 90°F. Bright market lights, bikes rushing by, hundreds still out and spending time together. It is one of my favorite places I have visited and the perfect spot for any lover of food. Rich, flavorful, spicy; there is a reason Chinese food is one of the most universally loved types of cuisine. While living abroad and getting to know other international residents, I quickly learned from my Chinese friends that, as a foodie, there are some must-visit spots around China. Xi’an may be known most widely for the location of the Terracotta Warriors, but it is also known amongst those in China to be a spot full of some of the most delicious food that China has to offer. While it isn't necessarily the easiest city to get to or navigate, believe me when I say it is worth it. I may even suggest paying for a private food tour while visiting. If that isn’t your cup of tea, below are some must-try foods while you explore the city of Xi’an...

Muslim Quarter Market Street Food

Like what? Fried potatoes, persimmon donuts, fried liangfen (green bean jelly), sweet flatbreads, sweet osmanthus cakes

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This is the most important food location in the city, and where you will likely find every item on the list. It is the spot to go to fulfill all of your foodie dreams. The streets are crowded, bustling, and full of different food stalls and restaurants ready for you to taste test. It is a hot spot for locals and tourists alike, so I wouldn’t think twice about the safety of this street food. It is all fresh, shockingly cheap, and delicious. I spent hours (yes, hours) each day walking through the Muslim Quarter Market trying new stalls and foods. I would tour around the city, and then head back again at night to wander the market streets again. This market weaves and circles, but don’t worry about getting lost, it’s pretty easy to navigate the surrounding area due to the central Mosque and famous drum towers that border the area.

Biang Biang Noodles

What is it? Spicy noodles that are traditionally wide, long, and thick

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Said to be called 'biang biang' in reference to the noise made when making the noodles, these greasy, spicy noodles can be found all over Xi’an. They are so long that I sometimes felt as though the whole dish was just one continual noodle. One of my Chinese friends shared a theory that Asian food gets greasier the farther west and south you go. So, Japan being the least oily, then moving to Korea with slightly more, then moving into China. The freshness of the noodles mixed with the oil that is common in Xi’an cuisine made me keep coming back for more. Expect a spicy dish and probable food coma!

Rou Jia Mo

What is it? Steamed bread sandwiches, typically filled with pork or beef (more commonly filled with beef in Xi’an)

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This is a great meal to grab on the go. If you are touring around the city and need a quick pick-me-up, Rou Jia Mo can easily be found. It is simply beef in a pita-like wrap, similar to a gyro you might find in the Mediterranean or an arepa in South America. Although less spices are typically used, expect the meat to be flavorful and delicious. Because of the Muslim influence in this region, most Rou Jia Mo will be full of delicious beef, but in other parts of China, pork is an extremely common meat used in this dish.


What is it? Chinese dumplings -- a soft wrap steamed or fried and filled with variations of meats and vegetables, depending on your taste

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Traveling to Xi’an, I was maybe a little too excited to devour some Chinese dumplings. Luckily, yes, they are as delicious as you might imagine. I love dumplings because they can be filled with practically anything, depending on what you feel like eating. They can be steamed or fried, and full of veggies, seafood, and/or meats. If you are a dumpling fan like me, make sure you eat every variation you can get your hands on!

Meat Skewers & Dishes

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Like its greasy and delicious noodles, Xi’an is known for the delicious meats sold along its streets. Yes, I was in heaven. You can watch them being cut fresh in the food-filled area of the city, and can easily walk up and grab a skewer or two. It is safe and delicious, a great snack for mid-afternoon if you need a little protein to get you through the long walking days.

Hammered Candy

What is it? Stretched and hammered sugary candy with nuts and other assortments

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Walking down the streets of Xi’an, you might see someone throwing long strands of what looks like dough over a hook, pulling it long, and throwing it again. It is actually long strands of sugary candy that is famous in Xi’an, pulled and then transferred over to a big table where it is covered in different nuts and hammered into portions for people to purchase. If you see someone throwing or hammering, I suggest stopping to watch them work! Every time, you swear the pulled and twisted candy is going to hit the ground, until they pull and throw again just in time. Make sure to try a few varieties while in town.

Tangy Homemade Yogurt

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Every morning I would wake up and wander over to the Muslim Quarter Market to grab some fresh yogurt served along the street. These ceramic yogurt containers (that I still admittedly use in my home in the US to store things) are full of fresh Chinese yogurt that is sweet and unbelievably refreshing on summer mornings in Xi’an. While visiting, it hit about 116 degrees Fahrenheit everyday, making my cool morning walks with some yogurt one of my favorite routines during my visit.


What is it? Cold noodle dish

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This dish is perfect for the summer. It is commonly made with a sauce of chili oil, pepper powder, vinegar and diced garlic -- definitely a common combination in Xi’an. It is often topped with bean sprouts, meats and even fruits! If you are feeling overheated and want to take a break from the heavy, hot biang biang noodles and dumplings, this is the perfect way to go.

Yangrou Paomo

What is it? Lamb bread stew

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Definitely a specialty of Xi’an, Yangrou Paomo is essentially leavened bread that has been chopped up and cooked in lamb broth and meat. Just like the other famous dishes mentioned, expect chili sauce, seasoning, etc. and some garlic.

Fresh Tea

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Tea is important to cultures all around the world, but the phrase “all the tea in China,” was not created in a vacuum. China is full of fresh, flavorful tea. Go ahead and drink it before, during, or even after your meals to settle your stomach. Green tea is the perfect mid-afternoon pick-me-up you may need to keep you touring throughout the hot day. Make sure while you are there that you drink all varieties throughout the day to relax and rest your feet.

Any other suggestions? Let us know!

Written by Emi Lungmus

Editing by Anna McCarthy

Photography by Emi Lungmus & Hanbyeol Nam


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