Xī’ān is where many weary traders from Turkey, Iran and Egypt finished their long caravan journeys along the ancient Silk Road, bringing their must-have dishes and recipes with them. Today walk the streets of Xī’ān’s old Muslim Quarter, dotted with mosques, and you’ll still find their descendants, pounding out sesame and peanut brittle (huāshēng gāo), roasting lamb skewers (yángròu chuànr) or whole eggplants over hot coals, and stirring pots of lamb stew with steam rising to the heavens. Perfect winter warmers.
But perhaps Chinese and Chinese Muslim (Hui) tastes meet best in yángròu pào mó, a stew of fine vermicelli noodles clinging to soft mutton. It’s an everyday dish with the straight-up flavours sitting obviously in your bowl – streaks of chili paste and dollops of pickled garlic. Grab a stool at the Muslim Family Restaurant, take a toasted disc of pita-like bread and break off pieces into the broth as you eat. For another interesting combo, try a ‘Chinese Burger’ (ròu jiā mó), which takes the flatbread and stuffs it full of mutton stewed with chili and cumin (the very taste of the Middle East).
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