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An ancient mosque, potato powder, and rambling streets – Xi’an’s Muslim Quarters

June 17, 2009

Xi’an’s Muslim Quarters is where tourists walk around eyes wide in delight; or mouths closed in discomfort. It is active, busy and raw. For many travellers, this place can be seen as a hidden lifeline in the make-up of Xi’an. Stereotype images of Chinese food give way to ethnic dishes rich in spices and freshly baked breads. Home to 50,000 Hui muslims who live, work and socialise there. It’s place where sellers and buyers quietly haggle, workers refuel, people watch, and devotees attend prayers in China’s oldest mosque.

muslim quarters morningbfast

by Cate

One of those perfect discoveries travellers look for when walking around. At least I do. There are streets set aside for tourists with shops packed full of souvenirs; and junk, but there are also streets beyond the tourist zones that exist soley for the locals. Food is sold alongside clothes, meat sit in the open air with women gently moving fly swats backwards and forwards. Modern amenities often don’t exist as many of these tired looking shops are on the verge of falling down:old, derelect but still full of character.

by Cate

by Cate

Ask a tour guide about the food and restaurants in this area and more than likely you will be told about the negative: hygiene, poor seating, heat. Ask a tour guide again in disbelief and the truth emerges. The food cooked here area is delicious and worth trying. Senstive stomachs need to be careful.

by Cate

by Cate

When I first saw this dish being cooked outdoors in a pot, naturally I thought potatos and chilli–yummy! I was half right: potato powder cut into gelantinous cubes and slow cooked with spices, chillies, coriander (cilantro) and scallions. It tastes like potatoes and is really delicious. If you are like me and don’t get into the jelly texture, you can become tired of eating it. All for around fifty cents it doesn’t  really matter if you can’t finish it.

The worst kept secret has to be the old Great Mosque (1360 years old), something I never knew about until I saw it. A secret to no-one but me perhaps. One of the oldest in China and like many religious buildings and relics within Xi’an, it survived Communism. Whether it will survive modern pollutants is another story.

by Cate

by Cate

Xi’an is a must on the travel itinerary even if Terracotta Warriors don’t interest you. Whether you choose to spend one day or several days in this ancient city there are enough things to see and eat to keep you busy. A mix of ethnicity and foods, religion and eras–something will attract.

To find the Muslim Quarters just head to the Drum Tower located in the central city area, next to the Bell Tower. There are signs pointing towards the touristy spots, but keep wandering through the streets and lanes to see some of the more interesting stuff.

Caffeinated Traveller

  1. Bear permalink
    June 18, 2009 2:05 pm

    Powdered potatos? Should they be served with powdered eggs, powdered milk and powdered OJ (Tang) 😉

    But, thanks to spices and sauces a bland food can be tasty.

  2. June 20, 2009 8:58 am

    Would you have any recipes using potato powder from China? They would prove very interesting.

  3. June 21, 2009 12:12 am

    My heritage is Chinese and I haven’t been to China!! Argh! I should plan a trip soon!

  4. June 23, 2009 1:10 am

    Miss Cinnamon – I tried to find some on the web but didn’t have much luck. You could search for food under Hui cuisine. This is the ethnic group’s name.

    Jen – Yes you must. It’s like me my heritage is Irish and I haven’t been there yet. Too many places to see.

  5. June 23, 2009 1:11 am

    Bear – Too much powdered foods on that list. I never got into powdered eggs the texture and colour blah.

  6. June 24, 2009 9:48 am

    I was travelling around China in 1993 for few months and found most part of China interesting as long as you get out of the cities. My partner and I always look for roadside food stall if available. They are cheap, delicious and unique in some way. We do not encounter any problem with our stomach. However, as Cate said, do be careful if you have a senstive stomachs.

  7. Suzanne permalink
    July 14, 2009 7:11 pm

    I just got back from China and Xi’an was my favorite place. The Muslim Quarter needs at least a half day of wandering, of which I did not get. I did get a snapshot and found the area interesting and intriguing. Thinking about the history of the area really blows you away! Think–the Silk Road! Just imagine! You are in touch with such a wild part of history! Don’t miss it. I can’t wait to go back and experience it again.

    • July 15, 2009 9:18 am

      Hi Suzanne, I’m guessing you still have the vibe alive in you. Did you try any of the Xian food like the numerous dumplings?

  8. June 14, 2010 8:38 pm

    Very great read! Honestly..


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