I wasn't really looking forward to our stay in Xi'An because at other parts of our trip I found all the historical and cultural sites to be the most boring. Generally when I'm traveling I'm most enamored with natural sites. My attention span is too finicky for learning new things.
Having said that, Xi'An ended up being tonnes of fun. I enjoyed our trip to the terracotta warrior excavation site and later on, to the Shaanxi History Museum. Our guide let us explore at out own pace which meant we didn't have to wait around and could skip parts we were less interested in.
Xi'An cuisine is well known for noodles and dumplings. We had heard about a dumpling banquet and thought that would be a good way to try out a lot of dumplings. The Dumpling Banquet and Tang Dynasty show was ok as a packaged entertainment activity but disappointing as a culinary event. We could tell this was very much a gimmick for tourists and the dumplings we had were pumped out quickly, not explained to us (I didn't know what I was eating most of the time) and generally dry and unexciting. Service was appalling and we literally asked 3-4 separate waitresses about 6 times for more beer. Later at the show, Marc and I ordered a bottle of red wine and the night improved dramatically.
We had some more authentic and tasty food experiences elsewhere in Xi'An. As the start of the silk road there are lots of Middle Eastern influences in Xi'An cuisine. We visited the Muslim quarters and tried some soup dumplings and a beef "burger".
I loved the dumplings (so much that I forgot to take photos of them). They were like Shanghainese xiao long bao but instead of pork meat, contained beef and lamb. We even tried an ox tail filled bun. So juicy and delicious! They were way better than the dumplings we had at the show.
Braised beef burger
The line for the burger was huge and once we tried it we could see why the filling is slow braised and tender and soaks right up into the bun. I'll also include lamb skewers here because although they are available throughout China, Chinese locals more highly regard Muslim lamb skewer vendors as 'authentic' versions of this popular street food.