I fell in love with Xi’an after only being there for 20 minutes. It was raining, and yet the place felt vibrant and alive. There was an energy that immediately sucked me in. One morning, I woke up early and decided to head out for a random walk around the city (as you do). I had come woefully unprepared for rain, so my first stop was to purchase a baby pink umbrella for just $2. I won’t say it kept me dry, but it made me feel better.
During my meandering, I saw so many beautiful and amazing places, from temples to calligraphy stores. It seemed that on every street corner there was a packed out place to eat, it made choosing a lunch stop difficult. Every now and then I would stop and peer into one of these places, hoping that some magical unknown factor would help me get over my indecision/fear and drag me in. What was I afraid of? Only the usual – ordering in Chinese (I don’t speak it at all), eating alone, not knowing what was good. Everything. So I kept wandering and berating myself. This wasn’t the first time I had been in a country where I didn’t speak the language, I could order food. I had to order food, I was starving.
By early afternoon I had ended up back at my hostel. Feeling a little defeated within myself. We all have these moments, where sometimes travel gets the best of us. To be honest, I had over thought my food dilemma.
I met up with my partner who had stayed at the hostel all morning to do some work and dragged him out into the rain. As soon as I stepped onto the street I realised that I didn’t have the energy to walk any further. So we didn’t. Right opposite our hostel was a restaurant that seemed to have a pretty strong trickle of people coming in and out. Finding courage that I had previously lacked (or maybe enough hunger to motivate me) I walked straight in. Staring blankly up at the board trying to work out what was on the menu. Glancing around at what everyone else was eating (steaming hot bowls of noodles) and I was about to start point and gesturing when the lady behind the register handed me a menu in English. Of course.
$5 Feast – Xi’an: Lanzhou Beef Stretched Noodles
There was nothing overly special about the exterior of this restaurant except for all the people. Most of the tables were full and you could see that inside was just as busy. The furniture was clean and sleek though – somewhat reminiscent of a 1950s diner, but a Chinese one. The kitchen could be glimpsed through a tiny hole behind the counter and there seemed to be a lot of steam coming out of there. The whole place smelt amazing. My stomach rumbled continuously demanding the deliciousness.
Although we didn’t speak the language the staff managed to get our order pretty easily. They were very friendly in showing us what to do. For example, you get your chopsticks and bowls from a steam cupboard where they are kept to keep them clean. You also serve yourself tea and noodle broth (if you have dry noodles). There were no soft drink or water options, so I quickly ran to a 7eleven to grab a bottle of water.
We found a seat easily, although every other table seemed to be full. I liked how many people were clearly there on their lunch break, eating noodles and watching tv on their phones. Though I must say, I find the practice of watching your phone without headphones rather annoying in China. It’s a cultural thing I suppose…?
So what to have at this $5 feast place in Xi’an?
There are effectively four options at this place:
- Dry noodles with meat and vegetables (by dry I mean not in a broth, they are still cooked)
- Dry spinach noodles with meat and vegetables
- Soup noodles with meat and vegetables
- Soup spinach noodles with meat and vegetables
Everyone knows that I can’t resist a good noodle soup, so I went with option number 4. Soup spinach noodles with meat and vegetables. At the time I didn’t know if the meat was lamb or beef… I assumed it was lamb due to the large middle eastern influence on the area. Xi’an used to be the end of the spice route that stretched from Europe to China. It has had a huge impact on the food culture here, creating fusions I had never tasted before.
When my meal came, I was completely blown away by how big the bowl was. At first glance, I couldn’t imagine ever finishing such a large bowl. But don’t worry, I knuckled down and did my absolute best.
I am not sure I can explain the flavours to you, as I have never had anything else similar to it. In a nutshell, it was DELICIOUS. The noodles were perfectly cooked, the meat added texture and a punch of flavour and the vegetables had soaked up all of the broth. The broth itself was a revelation. It was meaty and spicy. It was sweet, sour and salty all at once. It was the perfect balance of amazing flavours that completely baffled and delighted my taste buds.
Cost of soup noodles with meat and vegetables in Xi’an at Lanzhou Beef Stretched Noodles
I will always eat and enjoy a well-made meal. But when that meal only costs me $3.50 AUD then my enjoyment level is doubled. Especially when the portion size was so generous that I basically didn’t need to eat for the rest of the day (of course I did, because I am not crazy… but I probably didn’t need to)
How to find Lanzhou Beef Stretched Noodles
The address is: Nanchang Alley, ZhongLou ShangQuan, Xincheng Qu, Xian Shi, Shaanxi Sheng, China
There was no website that I could find in western google. There is probably a website that you could find if you speak Mandarin and can use Baidu. However, it is quite literally across the road from my hostel, for more information read my review.