Foreign Flavors

Foreign Flavors: Xi’an Muslim Quarter

Inside the ancient city walls of Xi’an, China lay wonderful and completely unexpected surprises, which is why they’re surprises; you get it. A short walk on West Street from the large Bell tower, or Bird tower as I like to call it.  A gateway just past the tower opens to a glowing and lively section of town. Within a four-street rectangle countless stands buzz with activity. On the main two streets before you hit the trinket sellers and the Great Mosque, you’ll find some of the most magical tastes and spices I’ve had in China.

Having lived in Thailand for the past two years, I love spicy. I love spicy everything. So when we came to China and were met with much milder flavors in Beijing, the spices here ignited a familiar and welcomed flavor. Grilled squid on a stick, fresh off-the-bone lamb…on a stick. The smells alone were totally tantalizing. It was a rainy spring morning (Easter Sunday to be exact, thus the excitement about the lamb) when we entered the quarter, nonetheless bustling as ever. Everyone had their umbrellas erect, creating yet another obstacle in the maze of tourists, locals, and their hungry bellies.

Brilliant, neon LED lights lined the buildings shouting Chinese at us just like the people beneath them. Eat here! Lamb! Sandwiches! Bread! Buns! Ice cream! Anything and everything was appetizing and hard to resist. With something to inspire every taste palette, the Muslim quarter is a spectacle.

The area was recommended to us on word that they served this famous BBQ sandwich. They did, in fact, serve the sandwich, almost everyone sold it. They sold it for ten times the price we paid for such sandwich at a local Chinese fast food joint. Obviously, these freshly made, enchantingly spiced sandwiches would have tasted ten times better than the sandwich we had. Don’t get me wrong, the one we ate was decent and well worth the five Yen. But like seriously? You trying to scam me?? You can’t scam a scammer, don’t be silly. Also, I should have taken a picture of this sandwich but basically it looks like pulled pork on an English Muffin. Here’s a picture of Street meat instead. Enjoy.

Now I find this with many markets in Asia, whether it is food, or clothing, or what have you. Everyone is selling the same thing. Everyone is selling the same thing right next to each other. How do they make money at all? More importantly, how does the consumer decide which squid on a stick to get? A fortune teller? Mainly I go off the line length for food, but that tends to be the more expensive options which my wallet is just not about.

Much of the Muslim quarter sold the same five things:

 1. Squid and lamb, as mentioned previously

2. Some strange rum cake on a, you guessed it, stick

3. The BBQ English muffin sandwich 

4. Flat breads and buns

5. Ice cream goodness

What else could you want honestly? Vegetables? No, not here. But if you’re a carnivore with a taste for spice or a sugar addict, this is the place for you! Please note bountiful amounts of carbs:

Final note: I suggest going earlier than later in the day, they only have so much lamb. I mean, maybe they slaughter another if they run out? I’m making assumptions. The point is, if you’re in Xi’an, the Muslim quarter is the spot to be. Go hungry.


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