Street Food + One Last Lesson

Many years ago I briefly taught a group of ten-to-eleven-year-old German kids everyday English. We met one hour a week for basic vocabulary. We did puzzles and played games.

When the classes stopped, I invited all of them over for a meal at our apartment and together we prepared soft and hard shell tacos. It’s a build it as you go meal, and it’s messy. The dish involves lots of items to add or leave out. Perfect for kids, right?

The eight kids were enthusiastic about the messiness and leery of the optional chilies and salsa. One of the boys took a bite of a soft shell taco and made a face. But – he tried it.

After the meal I made a small speech: I praised them for trying the food. You don’t have to like it, and you don’t have to eat it if you don’t want to, I said. But if you stay willing to try new things, you will have full and interesting lives. I am really proud of all of you.

Those kids were silent; I could tell they were truly listening to what I was saying. Somehow, in the uncanny way of children, they knew I was trying to tell them something important. In their honor I am reprinting the post I wrote after visiting the food streets in Xi’an’s Muslim quarter. – Jadi

In Xi’an’s historic Muslim quarter, vendors were baking, frying, steaming and cooking all sorts of delicious treats. These ranged from food that was deep fried in woks to marinated meats on skewers.

Care for a kebab?

I couldn’t resist the piles of beautifully plaited and stamped breads,

as well as the stacks of sesame and bean paste desserts…

Wherever we travel, we always try local foods. We drew the line at river rat, hundred-year-old eggs, or chicken beaks. But in China we ate very well indeed.

NOTES: Xi’an was ’s the first city in China to be introduced to the religion of Islam and the religion has been allowed here since 651. About 50,000 Hui Muslims reside in Xi’an. ©Jadi Campbell 2018. Previously published as Tastes of Xi’an. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s photos and pics from our trips go to

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was honored as 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network, and American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts, and named a Finalist for Greece’s international 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories).

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.


13 thoughts on “Street Food + One Last Lesson”

  1. Fun and interesting blog! The taquería across the street serves tacos de tripa – I haven’t gotten the nerve to try those yet. I’ll stick with costilla y chorizo!

  2. First, I had no idea here was a strong Muslim presence in China. Second, how could anyone not love tacos?? Haven’t you seen that line? You can’t make everyone happy—you’re not a taco.

    1. Thanks for your great comments Emilie. The unrest in the far western regions of China where there are big ethnic populations is partly religiously fueled. I was surprised how far back the Muslim presence in Xi’an extends in time. And no, I had not ever heard that line about tacos! It’s true though – tacos are such a happy food!

    1. Yes! The quarter was so lively! And we were on top of Xi’an’s walls while a huge history pageant was going on. Lots of people dressed as soldiers and courtiers, drums banging, synchronised marching…. just a fantastic spectacle!

  3. Your experience with children is really interesting and they leave a lesson in life. They are not predictable, they are children, but their behavior left a magnificent impression on you. Street food is the best tasting in any country. The photos show that in China there is a much greater variety than one imagines. Mis saludos Jadi.

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