Xi'an has some popular snacks you can try that differ from those in other cities. Maybe it is Xian's history of being a Silk Road terminus or the presence of Muslims, but the snacks and dishes seem more familiar and appealing to Westerners than those found further south.
Popular snacks/dishes are roujiamo ("Chinese hamburgers"), Xi'an kabobs, lamb and pita bread soup, guantangbao (juicy stuffed buns), quick noodle dishes, Muslim fruitcakes, honey cakes, and dried fruit. See the must-taste Xi'an foods below.
Also read: Gluten Free Travel in China
1. Cold Noodles (凉皮)
Called liangpi in Chinese, it is a Chinese noodle dish originating from Shaanxi Province. It is now mainly popular northern China. For flavors, you can choose spicy or sweet and sour.
Commonly used ingredients are flour (wheat flour or rice flour), salt, gourmet powder (MSG), sugar, pepper, vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, cucumber, and bean sprouts. Eating cold noodles in hot weather can help reduce fatigue and it is a good dish to relieve summer heat.
Liangpi has a long history — from the Qin Dynasty (221–206 BC) to now. When traveling in Xi'an, you can find it in nearly every food street.
Also Read: China's Top Food Cities
2. Pita Bread Pork Sandwich (肉夹馍)
Pork sandwiched in pita bread, or roujiamo, is mainly divided into two types in two regions. One is bacon stuffed in pita bread, which is popular in the Shaanxi region, and the other has a mutton stuffing and is common in the Ningxia region.
Bacon and the thin bread combine well to form the celebrated roujiamo of Xi'an with its wonderful flavor. Fluffy bacon plus the fragrant baked flatbread, with its long and pleasant aftertaste, will satisfy your stomach and eyes. It was awarded the "Golden Tripod Prize" (an award promoted by the Ministry of Commerce to select high-quality foods) in 1989 as an excellent dish.
Due to the complexity and specialization of the ingredients (over 30) and the cooking method, the bacon has red color, fragrant smell, and a unique flavor. Earning the name "Chinese hamburger ", roujiamo is deeply loved by Chinese food fans both in China and overseas.
3. Dumplings in Sour Soup (酸汤水饺)
With a history of over 1,000 years, dumplings in sour soup properly deserves the reputation of being a medieval-flavor snack. Mutton dumplings are placed in a special sour soup before being served, hence the name. The name reflects its distinctive feature: its sour taste.
The sour soup boasts a wide range of ingredients — over 13 kinds. The most comment ones are sweet vinegar, dried shrimps, cooked sesame, chicken oil, and butter, just to name a few.
Mixing vinegar and 30% water with star anise, fennel, and cloves is part of the process to cook the special "sweet vinegar", which is actually sour. When the ingredients are boiled, the "sweet vinegar" (only one part in 50 is sugar) is mixed with the soup for 30 minutes.
Dengjia Restaurant, a ten-year-old restaurant located in Fen Lane, is a good place to eat dumplings in sour soup.
4. Pita Bread and Lamb Soup (羊肉泡馍)
Pita bread and lamb soup is a unique local snack founded in Xi'an, with a history dating back to the 11th century BC. It well cooked with filling ingredients so as to form a pleasant-flavored thick soup overflowing with fragrance. Moreover, it offers a long and strong aftertaste and rich nutrition.
"Hunger-resistant" and stomach-comforting, pita bread and lamb soup has been deeply loved by Xi'an's local people and its visitors for a very long time.
After adding high-quality beef and mutton and other ingredients into the pan, the soup is cooked for a long time. The pita bread is split into small pieces and then added to the soup.
Just a small bowl of the soup will make your mouth fill with its exceptional fragrance. After eating it, the pleasant aftertaste will make you feel refreshed, and you will definitely want another one!
5. Lao Tong Home-Cured Mutton (老童家腊羊肉)
Lao Tong ('Old Tong', i.e. named after a senior surnamed Tong) home-cured mutton has been popular for over one hundred years in China, featuring a nice fragrance, crisp quality meat and bright white and red colors. Made with six complex progresses, the smell and the greasy element of the mutton are cleared up, leaving the essence of the mutton.
Lao Tong home-cured mutton was even praised by Empress Cixi, the "empress behind the curtain" at the end of the Qing Dynasty (1644–1912). In traditional Chinese medicine theory, eating mutton is believed to whet the appetite and have enhanced nutrition. Moreover, Lao Tong cured mutton's unique flavor is certainly worth a taste.
Packaged Lao Tong cured mutton is available in Xi'an. Visitors can buy these products and bring them home to relish with family members.
6. Xi'an Kabobs (烤串儿)
Xi'an kabobs are much like Western kabobs. Various kinds of meat are skewered and cooked over a charcoal fire, and spices and sauce are added. They often come with the familiar vegetables like bell pepper placed in between.
7. Soup Dumplings (灌汤包)
Soup dumplings are small soft buns filled with meat, vegetables, and spices that are placed on flat tortilla-like pieces of bread and cooked. Baozis (stuffed steamed buns) are a favorite all over China.
8. Biang Biang Mian
If you want to try a bowl of noodles, biang biang noodles are a local specialty that are made with wide noodles and served with toppings of eggs, tomatoes, and beef.
"Biang" is a made-up Chinese word mimicking the sound made when the noodles are drawn out and slapped on a table. Biang has the unofficial reputation of being the most complicated Chinese character.
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9. Persimmon Cakes (柿子饼)
These are cakes that are made from persimmons. Persimmons are a common and very tasty fruit that is eaten in China. If you haven't had a persimmon, the fruit itself might be a new favorite snack for you. Shizibing ('persimmon cakes') are dried persimmons stuffed with fillings such as bean paste or sesame paste and then fried. They are sticky and sweet. In the Muslim Quarter, each one costs about 1 RMB.
10. Zongzi with Honey (蜂蜜粽子)
If you love honey, fengmi (honey) zongzi (sticky rice wrapped in leaves) is a regional snack for you. Honey is mixed with the glutinous rice, which may have a filling of nuts or meat, etc. They are popular in summer because they are sweet and often served cold.
We Can Help You Plan Your Trip to Xi'an
If you want to eat at local restaurants and try real Xi'an food, please see our popular Xi'an tours below for inspiration. We will ensure you sample the best Xi'an food on offer at authentic local restaurants, and ensure your individual dietary requirements and preferences are catered to.
If you're not interested in the tours below, just tell us your interests and requirements, and we are more than happy to create a tour for you.