Terracotta Army in Xi’an

Not exactly food, but these photos definitely deserve some server and bandwidth space. This is perhaps, 1 of 2 reasons why I visited Xi’an in the first place!

Terracotta Pit 1 - 1

Terracotta Pit 1 - 1

What you’re seeing here (Pit 1, 2, 3 and 4 – although there’s nothing in Pit 4) took 720,000 people a lifetime to build. Dubbed the “8th Wonder of the World”, this is brought to you by the same dude (Emperor Qin) who brought you and to this world: printing, paper, gunpowder, fireworks, compass, kites and the Great Wall of China. Dayum. He’s good.

Terracotta Pit 1 - 2

Terracotta Pit 1 - 2

Terracotta Pit 1 - 3

Terracotta Pit 1 - 3

You see that warrior on the far right? Isn’t it amazing how the yellow on is collar is still there after all these years? 90% of all the colour fade once these warriors are exposed to the air when dug out.

In the same photo, on the far left this time … you see that empty space between the warriors? My tour guide told me that that’s where Pablo Wendel stood when he snuck in dressed like one of them (I heard about the news when I was still working in Shanghai) … but looking back at the YouTube video, he was standing at the last row! My tour guide is a liar! But I think it was that area anyway … and if she hadn’t mention this German student, I wouldn’t have remembered.

Terracotta Pit 2

Terracotta Pit 2

Pit 2 is very small compared to Pit 1 and 3, but it is (or was) apparently the “Command Centre” that mobilizes Pit 1 and 3 … in the case of war in the afterworld.

Terracotta Army Pit 3 - 1

Terracotta Army Pit 3 - 1

This is Pit 3, which archaeologists are still trying to excavate. Most of the pit is covered and the Terracottas are protected from the elements.

And do you see that hole in the middle? That was one of the wells farmers were drilling into back in 1974 and that was how they found out about the Terracotta Army. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.

Terracotta Army Pit 3 - 2

Terracotta Army Pit 3 - 2

This museum is definitely worth going to!

Oh, and here’s another picture worth putting it. I took this while scrolling through city-center at night near the Drum Tower. Vendors were selling these kites (at RMB 10 each) that go up to what looks like 100 metres in the air? And while the kites are gliding on top of the Drum Tower, the floodlights from the monument creates a really cool effect on the kites itself … if only the air was a little less polluted!

Xian City Night Scene ... with Kites!

Xian City Night Scene ... with Kites!

Note: Photo taken with a Nikon D60

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Xi’an Snack Street (回民小吃一条街)

I would be doing you, my loyal visitors (and fellow food bloggers) a huge disservice if I hadn’t report to you Xi’an’s Snack Street … nicknamed “回民小吃一条街” (Hui Min Xiao Chi Yi Tiao Jie) or “回坊风情街” (Hui Fang Feng Qing Jie) … I was already full from De Fa Chang, but my senses were begging me to explore some real food they have out there, and since this snack street was literally 2 minutes walk from the previous restaurant, I had to make that treacherous hike for YOU. Thank me later.

Restaurant at Xians Snack Street 1

Restaurant at Xians Snack Street 1

And boy did my taste / smell buds go off like a siren here … in retrospect, I wish I had made a pass on De Fa Chang and came straight to this place instead.

回民小吃一条街 in Xian

回民小吃一条街 in Xian

饺子 Restaurant in Xians Snack Street

饺子 Restaurant in Xians Snack Street

As mentioned in my previous Xi’an posts, there’s a huge Xinjiang influence in this city … quite a bit more than Beijing I would say, so you’ll see a lot of Uighur people preparing their goodies. What I love about their food is the spice and herbs used in their marinate … almost like Indian, but not really. The flavour and the smell is not necessarily more poignant compared to Indian … boy, I really don’t know what it is. I’m still trying to learn and figure out how to describe it.

What would you like in your pancake?

What would you like in your pancake?

Here they’re seen preparing something similar to pancake, except that once the skin is half-cooked, they throw in the content of your choice. They have spiced-up … pork? (wait, it can’t be pork! They’re mostly muslim right?) … I don’t know what it is then … oh wait, I see … its beef. The orange stuff is spice mixed with [preserved] veggies?

hmmm ... I dunno what this is ...

hmmm ... I dunno what this is ...

Yeh, I still have no clue what this is …

Welcome to HUI FANG Restaurant. We have an English Menu!

Welcome to HUI FANG Restaurant. We have an English Menu!

At Hui Fang Restaurant, they have an English menu … and if you look closely at the translation on the right of the picture, they actually really make sense. I stood there for about 5 minutes … it wasn’t great, but at least it wasn’t pre-Beijing Olympics Chinese-English menu bad … nothing like “The Cold Cow in West in Special Grade Picks” for 特级西冷牛扒 (or Special Grade Sirloin Steak). Props to them! Really, I think its great they finally got the menu right.

West Lake Longjing Tea Monopolized Store

West Lake Longjing Tea Monopolized Store

But just when I thought the English on the menu was pretty good … I came across this store. To be fair though, the point is made. I mean, no matter how bad the name is, as long as they can get the point across … that’s fine. But I still got a good laugh from this … funny how they’re able to monopolize the Hangzhou tea trade  1,400 km away. They’re good.

De Fa Chang (德发长) in Xi’an Not Quite As Legendary As It Claims

On my last day in Xi’an, I was recommended a dumpling restaurant near the Drum Tower called De Fa Chang. “You can’t really miss it … there’s this big sign” says the concierge. And when I got there … she was right.

The signage reads “千古风味饺子香 传奇品质德发长” followed by a line underneath that says “The legendary DeFa Chang Restaurant is renowned for its superior delicious dumplings” … hey, at least they got the English right 🙂 A good sign …

De Fa Chang (德发长) in Xian

De Fa Chang (德发长) in Xian

There are quite a few locals dining there (that to me, is also good sign!), at least on the first floor anyway. While I was eating, I saw a group of foreign tourists led by a Chinese tour guide into a lift heading to the second floor. Anyway, if locals are eating there, that’s good enough for me … but in a land of 1.3 billion, that’s not saying all that much.

Menu at De Fa Chang in Xian

Menu at De Fa Chang in Xian

When it came to ordering, I really had no clue what’s good there so I had to ask the lady by the till what her recommendation was. She suggested the following:

  • 虾脑水饺 or the “Shrimp Brain Dumpings” (the second item on the list below [in green] at RMB 22 for 15 pieces); and
  • 蟹黄蒸饺 or the “Crab Roe Steamed Dumplings” (the third item from the bottom of the list below [in pink] at RMB 16 for 10 pieces)

and just so I can try a little more, I got the 食神牛丸 (“God of Cooking” Beefballs) at RMB 6 for 3 pieces (the last item on the list below)

What Is Good Here?

What Is Good Here?

Somehow these beefballs look both very appetizing and nasty at the same time.

Paying Tribute to 周星驰's 食神! I think so!

Paying Tribute to 周星驰's 食神! I think so!

Here’s the 食神牛丸 … probably a tribute to Stephen Chow’s classic 食神 (God of Cookery, lol) movie. I made the mistake of thinking that the name was just part of a marketing strategy to get people to try them. I didn’t think much of the beefballs itself … until I found out (the hard way) it had soup in them … and so my first bite resulted in spraying beef soup all over myself (see photo below). It turns out, these beefballs are so aptly named.

酱爆 (i.e. Exploing Sauce) 牛丸!

酱爆 (i.e. Exploing Sauce) 牛丸!

There was definitely some beef taste to it, but it is not Chiu Chow Beefballs … I’m sorry.

RMB 22 虾脑水饺 ...

RMB 22 虾脑水饺 ...

These dumplings … I don’t really know where to start. It had a bit of the crab roe (蟹黄) taste to it … so I thought it was the Crab Roe Steamed Dumplings … but it’s the “Shrimp Brain Dumplings” … but I can’t really taste the shrimp. It was just pork inside a dumpling wrap. In retrospect, I wonder if they had given me the wrong dish. Anyway … this is one of those dish which you eat it just to satisfy your hunger. Sorry, it wasn’t all that good … I had to soak them in vinegar to eat them.

Dumpling Soup Trolley

Dumpling Soup Trolley

And while I was waiting for my other set of dumplings, I was given a “dumpling soup” on the house. Basically, this is the water they use to boil the dumplings (there are 2 kinds, one boiled, one steamed) … and like the “soba soup” (boiling water used to cook the Japanese soba noodle, before they’re then cooled), this is also good for your skin. Supposedly.

Dumpling Soup at De Fa Chang, Xian, China

Dumpling Soup at De Fa Chang, Xian, China

Chinese wastes nothing!

Crab Roe Steamed Dumplings

Crab Roe Steamed Dumplings

And after waiting what seemed like 15-20 minutes for these dumplings, I’ve already lost my appetite. But even if I had space to eat them, they were MILES off of Jia Jia Tang Bao in Shanghai. These so-called Crab Roe dumplings tasted exactly the same as the first ones I’ve had … which was either the pork and/or shrimp (brain) dumplings.

Here’s a slogan they can put on their banner: “At De Fa Chang … Everything tastes the same!”

Note: Photos taken with an iPhone.

SiuYeh Rating: 3/10

De Fa Chang (德发长)
Near the Drum Tower
Xi’an, China

P.C. Lee California Beef Noodle King in Xi’an, China

This is really funny and I’m having quite a bit of fun just writing about this.

So a friend and I decided to visit the Terracotta Warriors (that’s probably why I visited city!) and when we got to the Xi’an Train Station, we needed to fill up before we head off on the 40-minute bus ride. There was a McDonald’s and a KFC and it would’ve been a “safe” bet … but I didn’t travel all the way here just to have McDies and fried chicken.

P.C. Lee California Beef Noodle King in Xi'an, China

P.C. Lee California Beef Noodle King in Xi'an, China

What caught my eyes was this fastfood restaurant called “P.C. Lee California Beef Noodle King” and the restaurant trumped McDonald’s with the best location: Ground Floor. What held me back was:

  1. There are a lot of Mr. Lee’s in California, but I’m pretty sure this Mr. Lee isn’t
  2. California is known for a lot of things, but definitely not beef noodles! Not the last time I checked …

Subconsciously though, I knew I had to try Mr. Lee’s joint because:

  1. I really wasn’t going to settle for McDies or KFC, not here in Xi’an
  2. According to Wikipedia, 8% of China (104 million people) has that surname, and globally, 108 million. Arguably, that is the single most popular surname in the world and this Mr. Lee had the audacity to beat 54 million other Mr. Lee’s to it. “Nah-huh. I’m Mr. Lee”, he says … “You’re not”. He either is really full of himself of his food is actually not bad. And I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt.
  3. People are going in and out of the restaurant in droves
  4. Mr. Lee claims to have over 380 restaurants in China … he’s gotta be doing something right.
  5. I was really hungry
Menu at P.C. Lee California Beef Noodle King in Xi'an, China

Menu at P.C. Lee California Beef Noodle King in Xi'an, China

And for RMB 36, you’ll get this (please see below) …

My RMB 36 (!) Meal at P.C. Lee California Beef Noodle King in Xi'an, China

My RMB 36 (!) Meal at P.C. Lee California Beef Noodle King in Xi'an, China

… A fairly big bowl of beef noodle (from “California”), a side dish which includes beef tripe and braised beef shrank (牛展) a Fanta and a bottle of water (the water wasn’t part of the meal, but I needed it for the bus ride).

The verdict? It was no Kau Kee, but it was pretty decent. Mind you, RMB 31 (RMB 36 minus RMB 5 for the water) is considered expensive in a city where you can get a bowl of very good noodle for RMB 10 at a local restaurants … the herb / spice in the soup was a little overpowering and there wasn’t a lot of beef taste in the soup. The actual beef cubes helped a lot though, as did the sides dish of tripe and shrank, which was really good. The tripe was drenched in hot sauce, but it wasn’t that spicy and the shrank, well it was a little dry … but just throw them into the soup and it’s not bad.

You might’ve noticed I lowered my expectation significantly here in Xi’an … I did. I think everything is relative and you just have to put everything in perspective, otherwise I’d be very miserable.

He's not just any Mr. Lee ... He's THE Mr. Lee

He's not just any Mr. Lee ... He's THE Mr. Lee

Not since Yonghe Dawang (永和大王) have I seen any fastfood chain copy Colonel Sanders’ face-as-logo branding … not until I came across Mr. Lee!

Staff Asking for Customer Review

Staff Asking for Customer Review

Here, a staff was asking a patron to fill a customer review form … hmm, maybe that’s why they’re doing so well?

Mr. Lee vs. Ronald McDonald's in Xi'an!

Mr. Lee vs. Ronald McDonald's in Xi'an!

This picture can go into a TIME or an ECONOMIST with the title “Local Fastfood Chain Making a Comeback at Foreign Competitors” … or something along those lines … see you’ve got Mr. Lee and McD’s logo and you’ve got Xi’an City’s Northern Gate in the background … how “artistic”.

And last, but definitely not least (I saved this for last) … literally, on the opposite of P.C. Lee’s restaurant … there’s a “California Beef Noodle Restaurant U.S.A.” … how crazy is that right? And that restaurant got the better of KFC too, which is situated right above! Can you believe this? I understand Chinese copying Western businesses, but man, when you’ve got Chinese copying Chinese, this is a completely new playing field. A new era of patent, copyright and trademark infringement 🙂 I’d like to see how that pans out … although I don’t think Mr. Lee, with 380+ restaurants really cares at the moment. He’s living the American Chinese dream.

California Beef Noodle King U.S.A.!

California Beef Noodle King U.S.A.!

… Mr. Lee … what a joke.

P.C. Lee California Beef Noodle King
Xi’an Train Station, Xi’an
Shaanxi, China