I should make a statement here about how much I love food, but it seems a bit inane since everybody loves food. I’ve never met anyone that said to me: ‘You know what Nick, I really hate food, I hate eating, I’d rather sew my mouth shut and never eat again’. So I’m not going to tell you how much I like food, and I’m not going to tell you that if you love food as much as me, you should go to Xi’an.
The Muslim Quarter
Most people go to Xi’an as a transport hub to visit the Terracotta Army, but Xi’an has so much to offer.
The Muslim Quarter is home to the majority of Chinese Muslims living in China today. It’s full of tiny alleyways, mosques, markets and street vendors. There are so many impressive sights, sounds, smells and flavors in the Muslim Quarter, we spent days and days there to take it all in, but the food was the thing that made us come back every day.
The markets of the Muslim Quarter
The main market most tourists stumble over when they first enter the Muslim Quarter behind Xi’an’s Drum Tower. You can buy everything the Muslim Quarter has to offer right there on the first street, but what would be the fun in that. We love to explore and that’s what we did.
The main market is huge, spanning over dozens of streets. The food you can have there is so amazing, we’re still dreaming about it. One of our favorites was fried tortilla-like pancakes, stuffed with veggies, meat or mushroom. So good, I can’t even describe it to you. I can show you some pictures though.
We arrived in Xi’an during Golden Week, which we have talked about in length before. Traveling during Golden Week is hellish, and it was very busy in Xi’an that week. I’m not sure if that was necessarily a bad thing though. It did help the vendors get rid of their wares, and thus made sure you always got fresh food. It never had a chance to lay there for more than a few minutes, which made all the great food even better.
One of the things that still visits our sweetest dreams is an amazing kind of candy/pastry they sold. I contacted an expat blogger from Xi’an to find out what it’s called and loosely translated the Chinese call it ‘Walnut Flaky Food’ (核桃酥) or ‘Peanut Flaky Food’ (花生酥). It was amazing. I was speechless for over a minute the first time I tried it, and I’ve eaten a lot of the stuff after that first time. I never grew tired of it. It’s best described as a kind of puff pastry, but instead of dough, built up out of layers of crispy caramelized sugar, laced with nuts. We tried to send a box home for my dad’s birthday, as I was sure he’d love it as much as I did, but sadly the Chinese Post wouldn’t let us send food. I have grand plans involving containers full of the stuff shipped home.
We were also amazed by the amount of dried fruit, walnuts, dates, jujubes and other stuff. It all looked and tasted amazing. The beautiful look of all the dried fruits added so much to the experience. The sheer amount of quail eggs being sold is incredible. Those things are a luxury item in the Netherlands, so it was very surprising to see them in such abundance at a Chinese street market. They sold the quail eggs fried, five on a stick, with a peanut sauce. Delicious!
Have you visited Xi’an? How did you like the food?