Hello from the ancient and also modern city of Xi’an, a fascinating 21st-century metropolis in north-central China’s Shaanxi Province. This center of political power, culture, and commerce for millennia served as China’s original capital city through 13 dynasties, long before Beijing came to power.
Known as Chang An in 202 BCE when its time as China’s major city began, Xi’an was the beginning/end of the Silk Road, and consequently it remains a multicultural wonderland of history, art, religion, agriculture and more to this day.
Four days here flew by, thanks to excellent food-centered tours. Lots to share later, and here’s a snack for now:
Lamb-filled dumplings, noodles, and a sticky rice-date pudding enjoyed as a breakfast or late-night snack.
The classic hand-made flatbread baked on the walls of a tandoor-style oven, stuffed with chopped braised lamb or beef and chili-vinegar sauce.
Comfort food extraordinaire: The flatbread above, torn into tidbits, soaked in spiced lamb broth, served with raw garlic and chili sauce. The cure for the below freezing weather during my visit.
The Muslim Quarter in the heart of the ancient walled city delights and stuns your eyes with sights, sounds, aromas and flavors, such as this mountain of fiery dried red chili powder.
No need to read the signage — the pine cone told me what these were before I could even wonder. Pine nuts, unshelled, two types. On the right, raisins, one of 3 or 4 types/colors.
Flatbreads, baked in tandoor-type ovens until crisp and sturdy. Gorgeous.
Chestnuts roasted on the street, in hot stones.
This vendor had a gigantic pot of rice and six different hearty options for filling your bowl. She served up your favorties, and did a brisk business on a quiet street filled with calligraphy implements from pens and ink to inkstones and peaper. Nearby artists set up shop to sell their creations in a 3 story leafy courtyard.
This water-pear and jujube drink was everywhere on the street, a marvelous defense against the cold. This one is sweetened with lovely rock sugar crystals, while another one I bought used honey. Warms your hands along with providing nourishing deliciousness and quenching thirst.
Nightfall brings a breathtaking display of lights, of which this mighty iconic Bell Tower is the zenith. The city walls are brilliantly lit, as are many older and old-style structures in the center of the city.
I’ll leave you with a persimmon party: What a delight to discover a persimmon tree thriving on the grounds of the Great Mosque, located in the heart of the Muslim Quarter and an essential place to visit during a trip Xi’an.
I bought these persimmons in the bustling razzle-dazzle energetic marketplace surrounding the historic site housing the terra cotta warriors. An incredible experience to see them — for now, just persimmons, sweet and soft, different from the kinds I’ve seen in the USA. These become very soft when ripe, and are so delicious and gorgeous. Sold everywhere during their high season right now.
High joy to find persimmon appreciation as high as mine here in Xi’an and surroundings. These little cakes are made from ripe persimmon puree fortified with flour and stuffed with nuts, dates, raisins and other tasty treats, griddled and served warm in a little paper holder. The cure for cold hands and any kind of hunger.
I’ll leave you in the serene and lovely courtyard of an historic Buddhist temple, near the city walls, where butter-yellow gingko leaves catch in the roof tiles and incense and soft chanting calmed my dazzled, amazed heart. Details on everything-Xi’an to come. Next stop: Taiwan!