Article by Francis Miller
The weather is getting warmer, the trees are starting to turn the city green again, and the cherry blossoms will be blooming soon. After a long lockdown, there is no better time to get out of the city and smell the flowers. Or, better yet, eat some fresh noodles!.
But if you are like me and became “well-rounded” during lockdown (and I’m not talking about upskilling), ingesting a carb bomb might not be your first choice. However, physical activity will cancel out any carbs. As such, I recommend an easy beginner-level bike ride for those looking for something different.
Qinzhen offers the perfect escape from the city: about 25-30km (depending on your route) of flat, paved roads from the city center and mostly with bike lanes. At your destination awaits rice noodles. But don’t let this humble dish fool you – this is no ordinary fare even by Xi’an standards – these rice noodles have a history as long as the city of Xi’an itself!
Legend says that when Qin Shihuang was emperor, there was a severe drought in the Guanzhong area that caused the Feng River to run dry and the rice crop to be ruined. The rice quality was so poor that it could not be offered as tribute to the imperial court.
A local named Li Shi’er ground up what rice he could find, milled it into flour, steamed it into noodles, and presented it to the emperor. Qin Shihuang was so pleased that he orded from that year forward the town of Qinzhen to only make a single annual tribute of rice noodles, known as “mipi” (米皮).
The recipes have been handed down from generation to generation through war and famine from the Qin Dynasty all the way to the present day. Rice is still grown along the Feng River, and is still used in the rice noodles you can find and eat in Qinzhen today.
So what are you waiting for? Get on your bike and eat some noodles! Don’t forget to order a roujiamo (肉夹馍) and ice-cold Ice Peak (冰峰 bingfeng) to wash it all down. This will set you back a modest 20 yuan. See the pictures of our group ride for inspiration. The specific restaurant we visited was the storied Xuede Quanmi Mianpi Zongdian (薛德全米面皮总店) which opened in 1963, but there are many excellent restaurants serving up delicious mipi.
If you have allergies, make sure you inform the restaurant staff. Mipi is most definitely not compatible with your keto diet. Please remember to wear a helmet, follow the rules of the road, and to bicycle responsibly!
Francis is a college counselor in Xi’an. He loves bicycling because he can eat more. Questions? Comments?
Email him at email@example.com.