Xi’an culinary culture has a long history and rich connotations. The city gathers a large number of famous chefs and boasts numerous famous dishes, including over 120 varieties of dishes in the Tang Dynasty style and nearly 100 kinds of newly developed dishes. They are divided into two categories: traditional dishes with the Tang cuisine as the mainstay, and modern dishes with Shaanxi cuisine playing the leading role.
Food served in Xi’an has a strong flavor of Northwest China. Traditional dishes and snacks include Gourd Chicken, Mutton Soup with Pancake Pieces, Pancake Sandwiched with Stewed Meat, Pancake Baked with Hot Stones, and noodles with Sauce made of various ingredients, etc. All these dishes and snacks can be found at Nanshaomen, a night fair on Dongxin Street and Muslim Street near the Drum Tower. The streets there are lined with restaurants of ancient-style architecture.
Xi’an is especially famous for its dumpling banquet, Tang-style banquet and mutton soup with pancake pieces.
Dumpling (Jiaozi in Chinese) is a very popular kind of food in North China. The dumplings served at the banquet are prepared with well-selected materials including a wide variety of ingredients and different kinds of stuffing. They come in beautiful shapes, smell good and are nutritious. Over 200 varieties of dumplings are served at several dozen kinds of banquets such as the Imperial Banquet, the Eight-Treasure Banquet, the Dragon and Phoenix Banquet, the Peony Banquet and the Hundred Flowers Banquet.
Dumplings are cooked by steaming, boiling, frying or roasting. They are salty, spicy, sweet, sweet and sour or fish flavored to suit different tastes. The stuffing is mainly made of fresh vegetable of the season and meat. Some dumplings are stuffed with expensive ingredients such as sea cucumber, hedgehog hydnum, squid and other delicacies from land and the sea. There are also dumplings that contain local products such as peach kernels and persimmons.
The Tang-style Banquet particular to Shaanxi Province enjoys a high reputation throughout China. It is composed of a wide variety of dishes of which “Zhutou Spring” and “Birds Pair off Wing to Wing” are the most famous.
Zhutou Spring is mainly made of fried quail meat cut in the size of chopstick’s head. First, dice quail meat, mushrooms and winter bamboo shoots; mix the diced quail meat with egg white, cooking wine, salt and starch, fry them until they are well done, add milk, spring onion, ginger and pepper to them and stew them over a low fire for half an hour. Then add quick-boiled winter bamboo shoots and mushrooms and keep on stewing them until they are done. This dish features milky white gravy, tender meat, aromatic smell and nice taste.
Mutton Soup with Pancake Pieces, the well-known Muslim snack in Xi’an, is the most representative local food and very popular in Shaanxi Province. It is prepared and eaten in a special way. First, you break a pancake into small pieces, the smaller the better, and put them into a big bowl. The waiter carries the bowl to the kitchen where the cook places mutton slices on the pancake pieces and adds vermicelli made from bean starch, dried bean curd and edible fungus, and boils the mixture in broth. The amount of the broth is decided according to the amount of pancake pieces. After the pancake pieces are reheated, add sweet garlic, hot sauce and corianders to the soup before it is served. You should eat at east and not to stir the soup with the chopsticks. Sea cucumbers, prawns and other seafood may be added if you ask for them.
In Xi’an, you also can taste various kinds of food such as dishes of the eight major cuisine schools of China, Western food popular in Europe and America, Japanese food, barbecue of South Korea, food of Southeast Asia, and so on. All in all, your stomach will love Xi’an.