Xi’an dining, also known as Shaanxi Cuisine or Qin Cuisine, is popular all around the country featuring food made of flour and halal flavor. Among the local delicacies, Rou Jia Mo, Liang Pi and Ice Peak beverage are reputed as “set meal of Shaanxi”. Therefore, when you come to Xi 'an, you must try Paomo or Liangpi and then drink a bottle of Ice Peak soda, also the Biang Biang Noodles, typical food of Xi’an, is also worth trying, you can enjoy these famous Xi’an food in the Muslim Quarter, a snack street in Xian most popular among locals and tourists.
What to Eat in Xi'an
Crumbled Flatbread in Mutton Stew (Yangrou Paomo)
Paomo is a specialty of Shaanxi cuisine and is a typical food eaten in the city of Xi’an. It is a hot stew of chopped-up steamed leavened bread (known regionally as mo (馍) or mantou (馒头), cooked in lamb broth and served with lamb meat, sometimes substituted with beef. Shaanxi Paomo is made into two types: Crumbled Flatbread in Mutton Stew (Yangrou Paomo) and Hulutou Paomo. Tourists usually try the former one while the native Shaanxi people adore the latter one, however, most tourists are no fan of Hulutou Paomo due to its unique flavor. Yangrou Paomo (羊肉泡馍) is made of lamb soup and a great amount of “mantou”. When making this dish, the cook breaks the bread into small pieces and adds them to the lamb soup, usually this step is done by the customers themselves, and it is also a special way of experiencing Xi’an life. The beef version is Niurou Paomo (牛肉泡馍). Paomo is often eaten with pickled garlic and chili sauce.
Rou Jia Mo and Liangpi
Rou Jia Mo, Liang Pi and Ice Peak beverage are reputed as “set meal of Shaanxi”. When you come to Xi'an, you must try Rou Jia Mo or Liangpi and then drink a bottle of Ice Peak soda, which will relieve the dry taste of Rou Jia Mo and spicy flavour of Liangpi.
Like its neighbor Sichuan, Shaanxi Cuisine is characterized by its intense spiciness. However, unlike other spicy styles of cuisine in China, Shaanxi cuisine makes elaborate use of ordinary materials, and is best known for its noodles and lamb/mutton dishes. Due to its geographical location between the provinces of Shanxi and Sichuan, the flavours of Shaanxi cuisine include both the sour and spicy of Sichuan, and the salty flavours of Shanxi. Shaanxi dishes like Gourd-shaped Chicken /Hu Lu Ji (葫芦鸡), Fish with White Soup /Nai Tang Guo Zi Yu (奶汤锅子鱼) and Pork Joint Stewed with Bone/Dai Ba Zhou Zi(大白肘子), etc are must-try ones.
Staple Food in Xi'an
Food made of flour is the staple food for local people in Xi'an, who also eat rice, but not popular among the natives. The noodles are prepared into various flavors, adding food diversity to Xi'an dishes. When you travel to Xi'an, you can easily find the following staple food in restaurants and roadside food stores.
- Steamed Bun/Mantou (馒头): a type of cloud-like steamed bread
- Baozi (包子): filled bun or bread-like dumpling
- Fried noodles (炒面)
- Minced Noodles/Saozi Noodles (臊子面): the most popular one is Qishan Saozi Noodles. It is a kind of noodles poured with pork soups (Saozi means diced meat) plus tofu, dried lily flowers, agaric, kelp, carrots and Chinese chives or garlic sprouts and tastes sour and hot, leaving people delicious aftertastes. Qishan Saozi Mian is well-known far and near for its “thin, pliable, smooth, sour, spicy, scented, hot, watery and greasy” features.
- Buckwheat Noodles(荞面饸饹): the noodles are served either chilled with a dipping sauce, or in hot broth as a noodle soup.
- Guokui (锅盔): a kind of pancake made from flour originating from Shaanxi cuisine. It is round in shape, about a foot long in diameter, an inch in thickness, and weighs about 2.5 kg.
- Rice (米饭)
- Stir-fried Rice(炒饭)
Local Snacks in Xi'an
The most representative delicacies in Xi'an are local snacks, with hundreds of varieties, mainly made of flour in halal flavor, with salty and spicy tastes, as well as typical cakes of various forms, lingering aftertaste. These snacks have been improved over time. Some of them have been innovated and accepted by more and more visitors from all over the world. They have also appeared on food programs such as "A Bite of China". Although it is snack, it is not "small" in fact. Many snacks are full in quantity. Besides the ones mentioned in the Must-eat Food in Xi’an, you shouldn’t miss the best street food in Xi’an.
Where to Eat in Xi'an
Popular Snack Streets among Tourists
Muslim Quarter: The Xi'an Muslim Quarter, is a relatively large Muslim enclave located inside the city wall of Xi'an. The Muslim Quarter is a paved road with blue-gray flagstones and shaded by trees, along which the archaized stores of the Ming (1368-1644) and the Qing (1644-1911) dynasties are in line, and they're all operated by the Hui ethnic people. In the past two decades, Xi'an Muslim Quarter has become a well-known tourism site which is famous for its culture and food. It is a must-visit place for tourist traveling to Xi’an for the first time.
Yongxingfang (永兴坊): Though the Muslim Quarter is still the most popular snack street for tourists, more and more locals and tourists are becoming the fan of Yongxingfang, a new arising food street with the development of the Muslim Quarter. The specialty here is every kind of Shaanxi food you can imagine, and due to some government regulation you won’t find any duplicates and you can enjoy the most authentic ones of its kind.
Sajinqiao (洒金桥): It is not a famous tourist attraction, and there are few tour guides, but there are authentic Xi 'an delicacies known only to the native Shaanxi people. Sajinqiao, an old alley that can only accommodate two cars to pass through is dotted with time-honored brand on both sides, you can enjoy the most authentic Shaanxi flavours here. What makes it most popular is the night market. Life has just begun at midnight. Even at two or three o'clock in the morning, it is still a busy street, and is the only place where Xi 'an would get stuck in traffic late at night.
Time-honored Restaurants in Xi'an
Apart from the profound history of Xi’an, the far-reaching food culture here also contributes to charm of the city. Those century-old food shops that have gone through wind and rain have changed in the vicissitudes of time. The only thing that remains unchanged from generation to generation may be the taste of old Xi 'an flavor on the tip of the tongue.
- Chun Fa Sheng (Nanyuanmen Branch) 春发生(南院门店)
Address: No. 20, Nanyuanmen, Beilin District (碑林区南院门20号)
- De Fa Chang (Bell Tower Branch) 德发长(钟楼店)
Address: No. 3, West Street, Bell and Drum Square, Lianhu District (莲湖区钟鼓楼广场西大街3号)
- Tong Sheng Xiang (Bell Tower Branch) 同盛祥(钟楼店)
Address: No. 3, West Street, Lianhu District (莲湖区西大街5号)
- Lao Tong Jia (Nianzhipo) 西安老童家 （辇止坡老童家)
Address: No. 3, West Street, Lianhu District (莲湖区回坊北广济街166号)
- De Mao Gong (Daxue Xi Alley Branch) 德懋恭(大学习巷)
Address: 50 meters Northeast, Intersection of Liuli Street and West Street, Lianhu District (莲湖区琉璃街与西大街交叉口东北50米)
- Xi'an Roast Duck (Xihe Garden Branch) 西安烤鸭店(西荷花园店)
Address: No. 1, Middle Section, Laowei Road, Beilin District (碑林区劳卫路中段1号)
Best Local Restaurants
The ancient city of Xi’an, former imperial capital of China and home of the Terracotta Army, is famous for its distinctive cuisine. Food lovers are spoiled for choice in Xi’an, with its dizzying array of local restaurants and street food. For tourists who would like to eat authentic Shaanxi dishes, there are plenty of restaurants popular among both locals and visitor.
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