Highlights that exceeded expectations

Big Plate Chicken at FuShunXiang / 福顺祥 restaurant. I found this place by typing the name of the dish (“dapanji” / 大盘鸡) into Dianping and scrolling through the best rated places.

Big Plate Chicken

Big Plate Chicken at FuShunXiang / 福顺祥

Fulfilled expectations

Xi’an City walls were grand, worth the price of admission.

Walking around the city is great. You never know what kind of interesting shops you’ll pass by, like a fancy looking bakery, or a korean shaved ice dessert joint, or a stall vending some random food that a bunch of people are lining up for. The number of pedestrians everywhere in China generally makes for very interesting street-life.

Beef Flatbread

Beef Flatbread from GongTing / 宫廷, great filling, super crispy on the outside

BreadTalk

BreadTalk. If you see one of these, go in. Everything we tried here was great. There are many bakeries in China but many are mediocre. Their signature bread is the spicy pork floss (left); the bread is ethereal and the pork floss is very flavorful.

Mediocre (but do go if only for once in your life)

  • Huimin Jie, aka Muslim Snack Street, wasn’t terrible but it also didn’t live up to the hype. The travel shows don’t tell you how thoroughly obnoxious the place is. The pedestrians are fine, but the street is packed with vendors ceaselessly yelling in your ear to buy their stuff, and scooters slowly wading through pedestrians while honking their horns. There isn’t a large variety of shops on the street, so as you walk down you just see slightly different versions of the same ten businesses over and over.
    • Nonetheless, we did have some good food there, and it’s probably worth a visit. It’s a large concentration of signature foods in a small area and you’ll do ok if you just stare at the food that comes out of a given stall, and check that it at least LOOKS good.
Fried persimmon cakes

Fried persimmon cakes filled with various things like nuts, date paste, lotus paste, sesame paste

HuiWen RenJia

Sour soup dumplings and grilled enoki, side of pickled garlic (essential!), at HuiWen RenJia / 回文人家 / Muslim Family Restaurant. 

 

Disappointing

  • Famous restaurants DeFaChang and TongShengXiang were both a bust. These restaurants are in a beautiful old building overlooking the clock tower in the center of town. If you are anywhere near the clock tower you will see the large imposing building, hung with many red lanterns on every floor. TongShengXiang’s food all looked extremely depressing, we sampled their liang fen because they didn’t have the sour soup dumplings we wanted, it was abysmal and tasted like soap. We didn’t go to DeFaChang because it also looked depressing.
Super disappointing DeFaChang and TongShengXiang

Super disappointing DeFaChang and TongShengXiang

Other random pleasant thoughts

  • They have a sculpture of a huge bowl of noodles in the center of town.
  • People make great use of their city parks in China, it’s so fun to watch. There are vendors selling these cheap toys that can soap bubbles 12 inches in diameter. Instead of blowing through them to make bubbles you swipe them through the air in great big arcs. Watching kids do this is hilarious. There are people flying kites. There are people noshing on snacks (but of course that happens everywhere).
  • I love seeing busy people hurry to work with a doujiang in one hand and a steaming sack full of baozi in the other.
  • Our hostel cost me 17 USD a night, and had bathrooms equivalent to a 3 star hotel. I got laundry done for 2 USD per kilo.