Ancient Chinese capital's comfort food

The paomo soup of Xian, China, is eaten with crumbled bread.

XIAN, China - Xian, the capital of Shaanxi Province, is home to the Terracotta Army of the Qin dynasty's first emperor, a UNESCO World Heritage landmark. The city is also known for a variety of foods, including local dish paomo. Paomo is a bean-starch vermicelli soup with stewed mutton or beef and crumbled bread. The soup was originally a favourite of the Muslim Hui minority.

The smaller the crumbled bread is, the tastier the dish is believed to be as the soup soaks into the bread. The traditional way to enjoy paomo is to tear bread by hand into tiny pieces several millimeters in size. But more restaurants have begun using machines to chop the bread. At Lao Sun Jia, a time-tested restaurant that first opened in 1898, bread-crumbling is still left in the customer's hands. The soup sells for about 30 yuan (S$6) per cup, and features a special chili miso paste.

Zhong Jingke, 39, a patron of the restaurant, said, "The pleasure of the dish is slowly tearing the bread while I enjoy chatting and drinking." Paomo is a comfort food infused with the city's long history.

Makita is a correspondent in Shenyang.