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What Brian Ate In… Xi’an, China

A lot of things surprised me about Xian’s cuisine, which never failed to disappoint throughout my week in China’s Shaanxi Province. I think I went the first few days without having any rice at all! Xian people love their noodles and doughs, and this was very apparent as I tried as much food as possible. The other amazing thing is that great food is cheap. If you ever make a trip to Xi’an, make sure you try some of my favorites:

1. Rou Jia Mo, meat sandwich

For those of you that know me well, you shouldn’t be surprised that one of my favorites was the Chinese equivalent of a hamburger. In fact, you could argue that the American hamburger is the equivalent of Rou Jia Mo considering the fact that it dates back to many years BC. The meat, which I think is usually pork, is stewed for hours in many spices and then shredded. If you find a good one, it will be served in a freshly toasted slice of flatbread and literally melts in your mouth. I had at least one of these a day.

2. Kou Rou, BBQ

Xi’an is filled with just about anything you can imagine roasting on a stick. Meat, animals parts, vegetables, tofu, you can find it all. One evening I was led by some friends down a random alley in the middle of the Muslim Quarter, in fact I don’t think I could find it again if I tried. The ally ended with a small restaurant with a few tables and women walking around with handfuls of things on sticks. We told them how much we wanted and kept the sticks on the table, then at the end we were charged for each stick.

3. Mian Mian Mian, noodles, noodles, noodles

It’s simple, I love noodles. And since noodles are such a staple in Xi’an, there is no shortage of different noodle dishes. From cold noodle dishes sold on the street, to hand pulled noodles by an old auntie, to noodles that are literally many meters long, you can get just about anything. My favorite was a busy place introduced to me by some locals. The noodles came in a big bowl along with many small side dishes that you added to the large bowl also filled with spicy soup. You could even order extra side dishes to refill!

4. Bing Feng, Ice Peak Soda

Bing Feng, directly translated as Ice Peak, is an orange soda made and bottled in Xi’an. In fact, I haven’t seen it anywhere else in my China travels. Think orange Fanta, but really cool because it’s made locally.

5. Yang Rou Pao Mo, Lamb Stew with Breadcrumbs

This is a truly traditional meal that many people told me I must try. Several places in the Muslim Quarter serve it well, so I walked in to a random stall and ordered a bowl. I was first served with a bowl filled with bread, so I slowly started pulling it apart into small pieces (I was also told it was very important to get them as small as you can). I assumed they would bring me the stew when it was ready, but in reality they were waiting for me to finish crumbing the bread! So about 30 minutes later when my perfectionist tendencies were content, they finally served me the lamb stew. I topped it with my finely crumbed bread and dug in.

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