The central Chinese city of Xian, famous for its massive Terracotta Army, also enjoys one of the world's longest and richest culinary histories. Once the departure point for the Silk Road, Xian has hosted myriad religions and cultures, each influencing the city’s gastronomic traditions. Here are a few dishes and activities you won't want to miss.
Xian's most iconic dish would have to be yangrou paomo, an unleavened flatbread, similar to pita, soaked in a rich, spicy bowl of mutton soup. The same bread makes an appearance in the dish rou jia mo, a popular street food made by stuffing stewed pork into the bread. Xianbing, another popular snack, can be described as a savory pancake stuffed with beef and green onions.
Noodles are ubiquitous throughout China, but Xian's biangbiang noodles are unique. These thick, wide noodles are hand-pulled and often served with lots of hot peppers, garlic and Chinese vinegar. And while Shanghai is better known for dumplings, Xian gives the city a run for its money with guantang baozi—soup dumplings stuffed with lamb or beef and served with a vinegar and chili dipping sauce. For a late-night meal, nothing beats chuan'er, or skewered beef and lamb kabobs; they're cheap, tasty and the perfect accompaniment to a cold beer.
- Head to Xian's Muslim Quarter, considered by foodies to be the best place to find a tasty meal, for a food-centric tour of the neighborhood on foot or by tuk tuk.
- Set aside an evening to attend one of Xian's famous dumpling banquets, where you can feast on local flavors while watching a Tang Dynasty dinner show.
- Try your hand at a cooking class for a great introduction to the foods of Xian. Take a hands-on approach and learn how to make regional dumplings.