Lintong is a suburb of Xi’an, the small (by Chinese standard, 8M people, basically the size of New York) city that for centuries was home to many Dynasties. Lintong is home to a large contingent of Muslim Chinese. Lintong is also home to one of the Wonders of the World, the terracotta army of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperior of China and founder of the Qin Dynasty.
The weather in Xi’an was particularly mediocre; it had been raining for 20 days straight when we got there. So the food at the Lintong outlet of Lao Sun Jia, a small Muslim Chinese chain founded in 1898 (!!!), was particularly well suited to the crisp autumn day.
We started with some pickeled garlic and fresh greens, served with a salty red peper sauce. These were also to be used as a garnish for what was up next, traditional muslim chinese soup (Rou Pao Mo). We had both the beef and vegetarian version, which had egg and tomato. The star of this dish is the bread, which are used like noodles in the stew. Hand formed, the custom is both unique and interesting. Traditionally, when you order the meal you are given a large bowl and a quantity of round, flat unleavened bread (nan bread). You break the bread into small pieces so that it can absorb the flavor of the liquid. The stew is then added to the bowl. The resulting taste is similar to spatzle. And the flavors were layered, robust and delicious.
The Rou Pao Mo was accompagnied by chicken with spicy peppers. Simple ingrediants perfectly sauteed together, this soulful dish is rich in heat and delicate in flavor.