The foodie hot spot in Xi’an is Muslim Street. While the name seems to refer to one road, Muslim street is actually a collection of roads. The largest Muslim community in Xi’an resides here, and the architecture and dining options reflect that. The area is most famous as a ‘snack street’ because the roads and alleys are lined with vendors selling traditional bites to eat. Visitors may see hand-pulled noodles, giant batches of roasting chestnuts, colorful cakes on skewers, and a selection of noodle soup restaurants. Eating your way down this street is the best way to experience it. Since it’s mostly pedestrian, you can keep your eyes on the food as you wander up and down the road.
Interesting Facts About Muslim Street
-The street is lined with ancient buildings from the Tang and Ming dynasties.
-Tourists view the street as an attraction while locals view the street as more of a snack destination, especially in the summer.
-Visitors can spot vendors making candy. This is a typical souvenir to bring back home.
-Roujiamo is a famous dish found on Muslim Street. It consists of a flaky bun that is stuffed with either marinated beef or lamb.
-Yangrou Paomo is a famous dish which consists of pita bread that is soaked in a lamb soup.
-Cold noodle dishes are also famous on Muslim Street.
History of Muslim Street
The Muslim Quarter in Xi’an has a long history. In fact, the street has roots in the Silk Road. Since Xi’an was formerly the capital and the beginning of this famous trading route, many immigrants made their way to the area.
Millions of Chinese Muslims can be linked back to the Arab and Persian traders who traveled the Silk Road in the past.
It has been said that foreign diplomats and merchants once resided in the area. When they married and had children, the population here started to grow. In fact, most of the people living here now are the decedents of these immigrants.
The members of this community are pious and have formed a tight group around their religion. Despite being surrounded by modern society, they manage to hold on to their values in the Muslim Quarter.
The Culture of Muslim Street
This street is a hub of culture. It’s dynamic history brought in cultures from bordering countries, which make this area what it is today.
If you want to experience the culture, start with the food. The selection of stalls and restaurants are filled with traditional treats. Make sure to try:
Hand-pulled Noodles: They are thick, resemble ribbon, and are made on-site. You can’t miss them, as vendors can be seen rolling and stretching the dough all day long.
Persimmon Donuts: Deep fried and crisp on the outside, these sweet treats are both soft and chewy on the inside. It’s a bit of a textural challenge but one that is worth the taste.
Braised Sheep Hooves: It may seem a little strange, but you’ll probably like the taste. If you see them piled high on an oil drum, make sure to give one a try.
Steamed Beef Sandwich: These are a hot item in the food scene. The soft and slightly thin buns are filled with juicy, braised beef or pork and are quite filling.
Mutton Dumplings: Most dumplings in China are filled with pork or beef. However, in Xi’an, they are packed with delicious mutton. Make sure to try them since they are a local favorite.
The ancient buildings that surround the street give it more cultural appeal. When you’re not sampling the snacks, give these works of architecture a visit:
Hanguang Gate: Part of the Xi’an city wall that was built during the Tang Dynasty.
Xicheng Gate: Part of the Xi’an city wall that was built during the Ming Dynasty.
City God Temple: This is one of only two Taoist temples remaining in Xi’an. It has been deemed both a cultural and historic site, going back more than 600 years.
The Grand Mosque: This is the largest mosque in China and also an active place of worship. Most of it was built during the Ming Dynasty, and it now covers 12,000 square meters.
Muslim Street Travel Tips
-If you’re a vegetarian, you may want to avoid Muslim street. If you don’t want to miss out, just browse with an open mind and avoid the meat stalls.
-Have plenty of cash so that you can buy snacks from all of the vendors.
-Visit on an empty stomach so that you can eat as much of the food as possible.
-Dress modestly if possible as the entire area is run by mostly religious vendors and families.
-Learn some numbers in Mandarin so that you can understand the vendors and even do a bit of haggling for souvenirs.
-Wear comfortable shoes because you’ll be doing a lot of walking.
Visting Muslim Street in Xi'an
While visiting Xi’an, you may want to opt for a tour of the city and the sites. Here are some of the top options:
-Legendary Tour of Mt. Huashan From Xi’an: Private tour with private guide and car. No shopping stops. A chance to view the incredible, natural landscape of Mt. Huashan.
-Top 5 City Tour, Do Beijing, Xi’an, Shanghai, and More in 13 Days: If you want to add a little more onto your Xi’an trip, this is a great tour. You’ll see many world heritage sites around China. Visit the Forbidden City, cycle the Xi’an City Wall. Enjoy the Li river and the countryside of Yangshuo. Visit the famous West Lake in Hangzhou. See the ancient town of Wuzhen. Try the Maglev train experience in Shanghai, and enjoy 4 specialty meals.
-Terracotta Museum Tour in Xi’an: Private tour with a private car. No shopping stops. A few hours at the museum with a personal history of the warriors.