Don’t be afraid, dirtier is better. In this day and age, many are fanatically obsessed about hygiene and cleanliness. It is a darn shame as these individuals will never get to truly experience great food. The best dining and eating experiences don’t necessary sit in Michelin starred establishments with their exorbitant waitstaff, plush seating, hip clientele, and the whitest of white table cloths. And certainly the best ethnic foods are not found in these environments.
In my opinion, the best ethnic eats are always found in the hole-in-the-wall type of places. Enter Xi’an Famous Foods.
Xi’an Famous Foods is highly regarded in foodie circles
For our half day out in Flushing, I had a list of possible places to eat and activities to partake. I have to write everything down sadly or else I’d be running around like a chicken without its head. There was only one place, however, that I was adamant about eating at that day – Xi’an Famous Foods.
Xi’an Famous Foods is an establishment that is heralded in the foodie world. Bloggers and food sites continually write in raving enthusiasm about the awesomeness and transcending magical foods that are prepared at Xi’an. These opinions are further validated by celebrity figures like Anthony Bourdain and Kelly Choi providing Xi’an national exposure. So the cat’s out of the bag, but that is not always a bad thing. After reading and viewing online the types of dishes this restaurant serves and is known for (lamb, noodles, faces, spines, etc), I just had to do it. It had me written all over it, like a destiny of some sort.
Xi’an Famous Foods serves unique Chinese cuisine
Xi’an Famous Foods is not one’s typical Chinese food. There’s no General Tso’s or Kung Pao, both of which aren’t Chinese anyways. Gross, get that outta here. There is neither the more traditional Chinese like whole fishes, sauteed greens, rice, dim sum, and chickens’ feet. Rather, the menu reflects the uniqueness of the Xi’an city itself. Xi’an is found in the western region of China and it is one of the four ancient capitals. Its history is incredibly deep and over 3,000 years. Xi’an was once the starting point of the Silk Road and became a melting pot of cultures and tastes. Different spices and cuisines were introduced to the city during these trading days. The city celebrated its diversity and its cuisine reflects the spices and foods of its trading partners – those from the Middle East and the other regions of China. At its bare and core, Xi’an Famous Foods is an intelligent and flavorful fusion of Middle Eastern, Sichuan, and other Chinese foods.
Xi’an Famous Foods is located in the Golden Shopping Mall in Flushing, Queens
Finding Xi’an Famous Foods was an adventure in itself. It is located at 41-28 Main Street, at stall #36 in the basement. This is the Golden Shopping Mall, a older shopping center with many mom & pop stores all located within an enclosed space. This isn’t one’s typical suburban shopping destination. The basement food court area was tightly enclosed and fragrant smells mixing of fish to noodles to braised meats wafted in the air. It felt as if this basement had not once ever received fresh air. Decoration was sparse and the tables/chairs had all seen better days and were probably older than me. There were no waiters or hosts. There was not even any music or plates/utensils (just Styrofoam & chopsticks). Just stall after stall of delicious smelling foods and people fighting for table space while yelling their orders to cooks busily behind the stoves pulling noodles and sauteing meats.
To my incredible dismay, there were no lamb spines available the Sunday we were there. It was terrible, although just another excuse as to why I’ll be up at Xi’an Famous Foods again very soon. Ma, where’s my lamb spine?! After getting our table in the corner of the stall, I was at the counter yelling our order out. The heat of the kitchen permeated the small room, making it feel 100 degrees. I really felt like I was back in China for this dining experience. To feel that way was absolutely amazing.
Xi’an is renown for many things but especially lamb and noodles
We started off with the two dishes that the stall is highly famous for: Savory Cumin Lamb Burger and Savory Cumin Lamb Hand-Pulled Noodles. The burger was amazing. The lamb is heavily flavored with the cumin and cooked also with japalenos, onions and scallions. While it is called a lamb burger, it is not ground lamb formed into a patty and are chunks of flavorful sauteed meat. Unlike most Chinese buns, this was not a soft, steamed bun. Rather, it was more like a pita and crispy. It is really the perfect snack and if I could, I would carry one of these lamb burgers with me at all times. As far as the savory cumin lamb noodles, Bourdain sums up my perspective perfectly, “it is like a drug”. The hand-pulled noodles are wide and tender and pair wonderfully with the tasty cumin lamb pieces. The dish is finished with a spicy chili oil. The heat of the oil brings this noodle plate to another height of intoxication. I could not stop eating it.
Excellent and divine spicy and tingly lamb face salad and spicy pig blood pudding salad
The next two dishes I ordered were substitutes for the missing lamb spine. I was also in my a-hole spirits and wanted to see how some of my friends would react to these types of food: the Spicy Pig Pudding Salad with Garlic and the Spicy and Tingly Lamb Face Salad. Get those cameras out! Since True Blood is in such high demand and everyone seems to talk about it all the time, I’m surprised that blood has not found its way into more restaurants and home dining tables across America. Suckas. The blood for the pig salad is coagulated into a tofu form and boiled. The salad is served with bean sprouts, spicy sauces, and garlic. It is all about the texture play with the coagulated blood. For me, there is a subtle aftertaste but for the most part the jello like coagulated blood has little taste but plenty of fun mouth feel. It is also good for one’s skin and blood flow. The lamb face salad was surreal. The lamb face consisted of muscles and soft tendons from the cheeks and other parts of the face that married together into a succulent medley of textures and flavors. These pieces of lamb face were dressed in a spicy sauce with tingly chinese pepper – similar to a Sichuan peppercorn. Needless to say, this dish not only induced sweat but caused one’s lips and mouths to go partially numb and tingly. Absolutely magnificent and again “like a drug”.
To round out the experience, we ordered the Liang Pi Cold Skin Noodles. This was the most mild and clean flavored of the dishes we tried. It was a great ending note to the crazy fun symphony of a meal. At first, we thought the cold skin was tofu, but was really pieces of gluten, served in a juicy cold mess.
Xi’an Famous Foods in Flushing is a highly recommended culinary and cultural place to eat
There is nothing more satisfying than enjoying an Indiana Jones like adventure of an awesome meal that’s unique, tasty, and evokes the memories of being somewhere else in the world. In less than 30 mins, one can be transported to an area that really is out of this world. I’ll definitely be back up in Flushing to try out more delectable eats and to also pig out at Xi’an Famous Foods.