After attending my 30th Reunion get-together weekend with my fellow alumni at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York (with a shout-out to the Poughkeepsie Grand Hotel), my wife and I spent an extra day traipsing about New York City. We had time for just one lunch and wisely decided to go with Xi’an Famous Foods, a favorite noodle shop of ours for many years.
The original location opened in Queens in 2005. Now there are two in Queens, two in Brooklyn, and half a dozen in Manhattan. We usually eat in the Village locale, but we were close to midtown during as lunch approached and so ate at the Xi’an on 45th Street.
The signature “hand-ripped” noodles here are unique on a number of levels, starting with the unevenness of the pasta. The spices, too, are distinctive: This is Western Chinese food from the city of Xi’an, located at the starting point of the Silk Road and boasting cuisine that combines Chinese and Middle Eastern flavors.
The menu is posted on the wall, with photos, and from there it’s order, wait to pick up the food, and grab seats at a table or stools along counters that run the around the perimeter of the cramped space.
The two main categories are noodle dishes and noodle soups. Either way, many of the offerings are ablaze with chili, cumin, Sichuan peppercorns, Chinese 5-Spice and all manner of potent flavorings. Pork and lamb dominate the selections, although you can also go for beef, oxtail, and poultry.
Specialties include liangpi “cold skin” noodles, lamb pao mo soup, and wide hand-pulled “biang biang” noodles. My favorites are the N3 and N9. The former is “Mount Qi Pork Hand-Ripped Noodles”, which has that aforementioned cumin-hot pepper thing going on. N9 translates to “Pork ‘Zha Jiang’ Hand-Ripped Noodles; it boasts a more exotic 5-Spice taste.
The Ns1 is another winner: “Spicy Cumin Lamb with Hand-Ripped Noodles In Soup.” Also the Chang-An Spicy Tofu (F1), which features extremely silky tofu on fire (figuratively speaking). The tofu dish is around $3. The noodle plates and noodle soups generally range from $7 to $11.
If you live in or near the city and didn’t know about this place, now you do. For my fellow South Floridian foodies: Next time you’re in New York you might want to check Xi’an out -- even if you’ve only got one meal to nab in that amazing food mecca.