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Eating in Xi'an
article selected from Travel China weekly

People visiting Xi'an must be surprised by the numerous historical sites and interesting places, as well as being left with a deep impression of the food of the city.

Xi'an's food, generally speaking, is served in large portions, is inexpensive and each dish has its own story.

Large Portions

On a downtown street, everywhere one can see signs, including "Old Sun Family's Paomo (steamed bun soaking in mutton soup), "Old Ma Family's Mutton" and "Old Liu Family's Hulutou (a local snack)". At the food street, food stands one after another stretch several hundreds meters. At night, temporary food stands fully line both sides of the street. Everywhere, there is a smell of delicous snacks.


On the street, small restaurants and temporary food stands serve very cheap snacks. A bowl of hulutou costs only three yuan. Many temporary stands sell Chengdu's hot specialty, 20 cents per cube. With so many rich snacks, a lot of local people do not prepare meals at home and are willing to eat at food stands.

Each Dish with a Story

There are three most famous restaurants--high-class Xi'an, average and lower-class Tongshengxiang and Defachang--among the city's restaurants. A variety of snacks in Xi'an have three restaurants gather many together.

In the front hall of the Xi'an Restaurant, a buxus board is carved with the story of the restaurant. When the attendant serves you a dish, she will tell you briefly a vivid story. For instance, she will tell you that this is a dish of chicken that Empress Dowager Ci Xi liked best, and the other is a dish of fish Chinese singer Wei Wei liked. Almost every dish has its own allusion.

After being rebuilt, old Tongshengxiang and Defachang restaurants stand highly at the most flourishing Zhonggu (bell and drum) Street. One meal costs more than ten yuan. In addition, there are feasts costing several hundreds or even thousands of yuan.

Tongshengxiang is known for its Niuyangroupaomo (steamed bun soaking in beef or mutton soup). It has become very popular as a dish for entertaining foreign state leaders. In 1983, the dish was moved from the restaurant to the national banque, and in 1993, Chinese traditional painting master Huang Zhou wrote an inscription mainly desctibes its appetizing taste. Because of this the dish becomes more and more famous. If you come here to taste it first, you do not eat too much because it is very filling.

Defachang has many special dishes, but the dearest is jiaoze made of Shark's fin. Another kind of jiaoze as big as a small fingertip filled with chicken meat. It is called a pearl jiaoze and is boiled in a hotpot of chrysanthemum soup. About this, there is a vivid story that when Empress Dowager Ci Xi came to the city she asked her cook to provide her with a new taste, and the cook prepared this kind of jiaoze to please her. It was well received. She ate three, six or nine in number, which is regarded in China as meaning good luck. Today, the words are different, for having one jiaoze, means to go off smoothly, two jiaoze for double happiness coming at the same time. When having jiaoze, you can listen to the story and receive a beautiful blessing.

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