The Beiyuanmen Street is also called the Muslim Street in Xi’an, China, a historic quarter, where one is treated to food and souvenirs in a lively and colourful ambience. Located north of the Drum Tower, the street is not more than 500 meters long and paved with dark coloured stones. The architecture of the ancient buildings on both sides of the street, are modelled on the styles of both the Ming (1368-1644) and the Qing Dynasties (1644-1911). There are restaurants, stores and stalls on either side all of them owned by Muslims, hence its name.
The street has a long history. It has its origin from the time of the ancient Silk Road, dating back to 1000 years, when merchants and students from Arab countries and Persia used to come to Xi’an for business and studies. Some of these Arab merchants settled down in this area and married local women. The locals called them Hui and many of them are descendants of these Silk Road travellers.
It is an aromatic walk down the historical street with the smells of kebabs and other cooking delicacies. These include Rou Jia Mo (marinated beef or lamb in wheat bun), Yangrou Paomo (unleavened bread in mutton stew), fried rice with pickled Chinese cabbage and little capsicum, dumplings in hot and sour soup, lamb skewers, roast beef, biang biang noodles and steamed mutton or beef stuffed bun of Jiasan. There are stalls selling plenty of dried fruits and local sweets and candy, especially persimmon fruit pies and peanut sweets.
It is an educative stroll down the streets as live counters prepare and serve food right in front of you. Young men with large wooden mallets pound peanuts into a paste to make the famous peanut sweets and candy. Then there are men pulling and twisting dough so long to make noodles. Nearby a jackfruit is being deconstructed!
I watch the making of flavourful broth in huge vats with cuts of various meats and other mystery ingredients. And of course the grilling of meat and squid barbecues. A ‘must’ visit in Xi’an if you want to sample local cuisine.