A taste of Xi’an in North London

Biang Biang noodles in Xi'an

Biang Biang noodles in Xi’an

Biang Biang noodles in Xi'an

Biang Biang noodles in Xi’an

Though the Chinese city of Xi’an is best known for its terracotta soldiers, it also has some notable culinary specialities, including ‘soaked flatbread with beef or mutton’ (niu/yang rou pao mo) and sweet persimmon cakes. Since a tiny stall called ‘Xi’an Famous Foods‘ in a mall in Flushing, New York, blossomed into a chain of six casual restaurants, New Yorkers have been able to taste some of these, but until now the only place in London to serve some Xi’an food has been Chang’s Noodle, near the British Museum, which serves mainly food from Henan Province. Anyway, this week an old friend of mine, Chef Wei Guirong, has opened a sweet little neighbourhood snack shop in Holloway devoted to specialities of Xi’an, which is her hometown.

photo 4

Gluten salad and cold wheatstarch noodles

Chef Wei is making all her own noodles, flatbreads and dumpling wrappers, as well as liang pi, which translates (somewhat unappetisingly!) into English as ‘cold skin’, but is actually slippery-fresh noodles made from steamed wheatstarch, served with slivered cucumber and chicken in a chilli-oil dressing (the wheat gluten is served separately in a salad).

The other night I dropped in with some friends for supper, and was

Xi'an 'hamburger' (rou jia mo)

Xi’an ‘hamburger’ (rou jia mo)

delighted to be able to scoff fabulous flatbreads stuffed with the local version of pulled pork (la zhi rou); Xi’an potsticker dumplings with their typical open ends, and, here, a chicken and mushroom stuffing; and, of course, ‘soaked flatbread with beef’, a hearty soup-stew served with sweet pickled garlic, chopped coriander and a chilli relish. When we’d finished, we looked somewhat enviously at the Chinese people at a neighbouring table slurping up hand-pulled noodles – I’ll try them next time.

Soaked flatbread with beef (niu rou pao mo)

Soaked flatbread with beef (niu rou pao mo)

Incidentally, one of the dishes on the menu is Shaanxi biang biang noodles – which are renowned because their name is based on the most complicated of all Chinese characters. Above, you can see this character, in all its splendour, in a photograph I took of a restaurant sign in the old Muslim town of Xi’an.

photo 5

Potstickers – slurp

Chef Wei is yet another alumna of Barshu, the restaurant for which I work as consultant – continuing the tradition of Barshu functioning as a kind of Ivy League of Chinese chefs in the UK (Sichuan Folk in Hanbury Street and My Sichuan in Oxford are among the restaurants run by former Barshu chefs; Xi’an Impression is also run by the Sichuan Folk folk).

Xi’an Impression, 117 Benwell Street, N7 7BW

Tel: 0203 441 0191

xianimpression@gmail.com

 

 

 

10 Responses to “A taste of Xi’an in North London”

  1. Lizzie

    I’ve long lamented that Xian Famous Food’s cold skin noodles are so delicious and why can’t they open in London dammit! But this sounds great, thanks for sharing.

    (Have you tried Murger Han round by Euston? I read about it recently – sounds very promising too.)

  2. Fuchsia

    Lizzie – no I haven’t, will check it out!

  3. Ronald Allen

    I LEARNED ABOUT YOU FROM AN INTERVIEW CLIP AND PIECE BY JULIA MOSKIN IN THE NY TIMES.
    I HAVE BEEN TO CHINA AND SE ASIA FIVE TIMES SINCE 2009. FOUR OF THOSE HAVE BEEN WITH AN ASSOCIATE OF MARTIN YAN, THE CHINESE COOKBOOK AUTHOR AND TV PERSONALITY. I WOULD LIKE TO BE IN YOUR GROUP TOUR IN CHINA IN 2016, IF A PLACE BECOMES AVAILABLE.

    THANK YOU.
    RON ALLEN

  4. Christopher Martin

    I’ve been there twice over the weekend, once for a flat bread to take away and yesterday for the biang Biang noodles. Very impressed and sohappy to have such a great place within walking distance.

  5. Fuchsia

    Hi Ronald
    Thanks for your interest in my tour! I will put you in touch with WildChina, who organise the logistics, and ask them to put you on the waiting list (the tours do tend to sell out fairly quickly). Hope perhaps to see you in China one of these days!
    best wishes
    Fuchsia

  6. Jack

    Spotted this place wandering aimlessly yesterday. Went in for lunch today… Super GOOD! Tried as much as I could afford, will be back.

    Great to have something as authentic as this 5 mins away, as I got into this cuisine on a trip to NYC 5 years ago at Famous Foods.

  7. Duncan Moore

    Great recommendation Fuchsia, I tried both Chinese burgers. A far cry from the match day offerings around the Emirates Stadium. The beef one was spicy and delicious, likewise the pork although more subtle. the homemade bread was nice and crispy on the outside and soft and doughy on the inside to soak up the juices. pot sticker dumplings were also a treat

  8. Sophia Nadur

    Thank you Fiona! My Chinese-born partner and I will be sure to visit this restaurant – maybe for Sunday dinner. We are usually based in Shanghai when we are in China (my partner grew up there) but we took a trip out to Xi’an last year which we really enjoyed. A rich historical & cultural region. The food is quite distinctive too. I quite liked it. Sophia

  9. ShanghaiSupper

    Can’t wait to try! There’s Murger Han on Eversholt that’s been selling Xi’an fares, and is very popular with the Chinese crowd. I’d be interested to know what you think of their food.

Leave a Reply

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS


*