Xi’an Food


A bowl of paomo

Paomo (Chinese: 泡馍; pinyin: pàomó; literally: "soaked mó") is a specialty of Shaanxi cuisine and is a typical food eaten in the city of Xi'an. It is a hot stew of chopped-up steamed leavened bread (known regionally as mo or mantou, simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: ; pinyin: or simplified Chinese: 馒头; traditional Chinese: 饅頭; pinyin: mántóu), cooked in lamb broth and served with lamb meat, sometimes substituted with beef.

Yangrou Paomo (flat bread soaked in lamb soup; simplified Chinese: 羊肉泡馍; traditional Chinese: 羊肉泡饃; pinyin: Yángròu pàomó) [1] is made of lamb soup and a great amount of flat bread. When making this dish, the cook breaks the bread into small pieces and adds them to the lamb soup. The beef version is niurou paomo(simplified Chinese: 牛肉泡馍; traditional Chinese: 牛肉泡饃; pinyin: Niúròu pàomó). Paomo is often eaten with pickled garlic and chili sauce.


pita_bread_soaked_in_lamb_soupOne legend about its origin is that in the late five dynasties in China, Zhao Kuangyin who became the emperor of the Song Dynasty nation returned to his hometown after seeing his fiancée off. He had consumed most of his food and money on the journey. He had only two pieces of inedible big hard bread. His party went through a shop selling lamb soup and broke the bread in pieces and added it to the soup.

When he became emperor he returned to the small shop and asked the cook to make it again. After the meal, the emperor could not hide his happiness and named it Flat Bread Soaked in Lamb Soup.

Hui Minority Street (Moslim Food Street) in city center


Muslim Quarter in Xi'an China


shredded pancake in stewed mutton soup 羊肉泡馍


steamed cold gluten noodles 陕西凉皮


marinated meat in baked pancake (Chinese hamburger) 肉夹馍


fried leek dumplings 韭菜盒子


vegetables & minced meat soup noodles (qi shan sao zi mian 岐山臊子面)


Biangbiang noodles

iángbiáng noodles (simplified Chinese: Biang (简体).svgBiang (简体).svg; traditional Chinese: Biáng.svgBiáng.svg; pinyin:


The character for biáng in calligraphic regular script

biángbiángmiàn), also known as (油泼扯面; 油潑扯麵; yóupō chěmiàn), are a type of noodle popular in China's Shaanxi province. The noodles, touted as one of the "ten strange wonders of Shaanxi" (陕西十大怪), are described as being like a belt, owing to their thickness and length.



The noodle is broad and hand-made. It was originally part of a poor man's meal in the countryside, but has recently become popular in fashionable restaurants due to the unique character used in its name.

Use in dishes

Dishes with this noodle are often topped with lots of red hot peppers for the cold winter in Shaanxi.

Chinese character for biáng


Animated GIF showing the stroke order of biáng according to the mnemonic

Made up of 58 strokes in its traditional form (43 in simplified Chinese), the Chinese character for
"biáng" is one of the most complex Chinese characters in contemporary usage, although the character is not found in modern dictionaries or even in the Kangxi dictionary.
The character is composed of (speak; 7 strokes) in the middle flanked by (tiny; 2×3 strokes) on both sides. Below it, (horse; 10 strokes) is similarly flanked by (grow; 2×8 strokes). This central block itself is surrounded by (moon; 4 strokes) to the left, (heart; 4 strokes) below, and (knife; 2 strokes) to the right. These in turn are surrounded by a second layer of characters, namely (cave; 5 strokes) on the top and (walk; 4 strokes) curving around the left and bottom.

Phonetic substitution

The Chinese character for "biáng" cannot be entered into computers. Therefore, phonetic substitutes like 彪彪面 (biāobiāomiàn) or 冰冰面 (bīngbīngmiàn) are often used.

The character is described by the following ideographic description sequence:



The character has not been added to Unicode yet, but the traditional and simplified forms are being considered by the IRG for inclusion in a future CJK Unified Ideographs extension.


There are a number of mnemonics used by Shaanxi residents to aid recall of how the character is written.

One version runs as follows:

Pinyin English translation
一點上了天 一点上了天 Yīdiǎn shàngle tiān Apex rising up to the sky,
黃河兩道彎 黄河两道弯 Huáng Hé liǎng dào wān Over Two bends by Yellow River's side.
八字大張口 八字大张口 Bāzì dà zhāngkǒu Character "Eight"'s () opening wide,
言字往進走 言字往进走 Yán zì wǎng jìn zǒu "Speech" () enters inside.
你一扭 我一扭 你一扭 我一扭 Nǐ yī niǔ, wǒ yī niǔ You twist, I twist too, ('tiny')
你一長 我一長 你一长 我一长 Nǐ yī zhǎng, wǒ yī zhǎng you grow, I grow () with you,
當中加個馬大王 当中加个马大王 Dāngzhōng jiā gè mǎ dàwáng Inside, a horse () king will rule.
心字底 心字底 Xīn zì dǐ "Heart" () down below,
月字旁 月字旁 Yuè zì páng "Moon" () by the side,
留個釣搭掛麻糖 留个钓搭挂麻糖 Liú ge diào dā guà má tang Leave a hook ( 'knife') for Matang (Mahua, Fried Dough Twist) to hang low,
坐著車車逛咸陽 坐着车车逛咸阳 Zuòzhe chēchē guàng Xiányáng On our carriage, to Xianyang we'll ride (radical: 'walk').

Note that the first two lines probably refer to the character (roof), building it up systematically as a point and a line (river) with two bends.

Origin of the character


Restaurant specializing in Biang Biang noodles

The origins of the biang biang noodles and the character biáng are unclear. In one version of the story, the character biáng was invented by the Qin Dynasty Premier Li Si. However, since the character is not found in the Kangxi Dictionary, it may have been created much later than the time of Li Si. Similar characters were found used by Tiandihui.

In the 2007 season of the TVB show The Web (一網打盡), the show's producers tried to find the origin of the character by contacting university professors, but they could not verify the Li Si story or the origin of the character. It was concluded that the character was invented by the noodle store.

One theory is that there was no such character or meaning for this word in the beginning, and the word actually came from the sound people make from chewing such delicious noodles, "biang biang biang".


A Xi'an biang biang mian restaurant.

A legend about a student fabricating a character for the noodle to get out of a biang biang noodle bill also is a commonly believed theory about the origin of the character.

According to an article on China Daily, the word "biang" actually refers to the sound made by the chef when he creates the noodles by pulling the dough and slapping it on the table.




biang biang noodles

Posted in Xi'an.

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