Flavor bang with biang biang at Xi’An noodles

Spicy tingly beef biang biang with soup. David Kook / The Watchdog

I found true love a few weeks ago. It was like a scene in one of those poorly rated romantic comedies. When we met, there was an instant connection with an overwhelming passion. Our paths crossed in a comfortably sized Chinese restaurant with typical restaurant noises: Loud patrons, the sharp clang as pots and pans crashed onto stove tops and waiters and waitresses harshly conversing with each other in their respective languages. But, everything changed when we met. Once our eyes caught each other’s sultry gazes, the cacophony of abrasive restaurant noises became a world-renowned philharmonic.

It’s unlike me to find love so quickly. However, this was far from the ordinary. That cold night, in the middle of a bustling rush hour, I found true love in a bowl of wide rice noodles.

There’s something about noodles that are extremely satisfying. They’re long, slimy and fun as they dance around in my mouth. Wide rice noodles are simply regular noodles that decided to become body builders. They have the same exciting qualities as regular noodles, but with extra fun and there’s no better place that makes these gorgeous wide rice noodle dishes than Xi’An Noodles.

I don’t know when this heaven on Earth was established, but Xi’An noodles is located a few blocks north of University District, quietly pushed into a neighborhood of other restaurants, bars, shady massage parlors and other quirky businesses. The building itself isn’t fancy and it’s possible for newcomers to unknowingly pass by the restaurant.

However, don’t be fooled by the lackluster exterior. The inside of the restaurant is clean, but the seats are few. Although I haven’t dined during an incredibly busy time, I’ve read that the afternoons and evenings can get quite crowded.

The process inside the restaurant is straightforward. A patron walks up to the cashier, picks up a menu, orders on the spot, picks up a number and finds their own table. It is literally a first come, first serve type of ordeal.
The food, most under $10, comes very quickly. The longest wait time for a dish was probably three minutes. These noodles, also known as biang biang because of the noise they make as they are pulled, are a north Chinese specialty. It’s a tough job preparing the dough for these noodles, which can weigh up to 50 pounds. However, Lily Wu, the genius behind Xi’An, painstakingly spent two years with a teacher learning how to make the noodles and getting the right flavor.

Wu’s dedication to her craft clearly shows in her dishes. I ordered the popular spicy tingly beef noodles with soup my first time there. They have two options for most of their dishes, with soup or without soup. Even without soup, there is still a little residue of liquid goodness to prevent the noodles from drying out. Biang biang are wide and chewy with hand-torn edges. The aesthetics of the noodles show that they were handmade.

The spicy tingly beef was delicious. Topped with cilantro, the soup was lightly seasoned, allowing the shredded tingly beef to provide most of the flavor. The noodles cannot be compared with any type of Asian noodles one might try. They’re wide, which make them a challenge to fit entirely in one’s mouth. Yet, that’s the best part. The wide noodles tease their patrons and test their worthiness.

Once I conquered getting the noodles into bite size pieces, the rest is history. I fell in love. The flavors of the noodles perfectly merged with the beef. The chewiness of the noodles was so satisfying that I found myself lost in its texture and the sweat and blood Wu went through to create the perfect noodles. If I wasn’t so in control of my emotions, I may have wept into my bowl of tingly soup.

My second time there I tried the noodles with lamb and cumin as well as garlic cucumber salad for a side dish. Both were, again, delicious and the crunch of the cucumbers paired well with the noodles.

Xi’An isn’t a place for patrons to resort to their well-known Americanized Chinese dishes. There are a wide variety of dishes that one can try. The biang biang is only the tip of the iceberg at Xi’An. There are burgers, other vegetable dishes and even some common Chinese food for those who like to stay in their comfort zones.

It’s the perfect spot for anyone: Lonely college students, families and couples. It’s a great place to try new things and leave with newfound love.

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