Xi'an Famous Foods (Cookbook by Jason Wang)
If you've spent any time in New York City, you may have a lingering love for Xi'an Famous Foods, a Flushing, Queens, food stall first made famous by Anthony Bourdain and later expanded to outlets across the city.
This is the go-to place for biang biang hand-ripped noodles with spicy cumin lamb, liang pi cold skin noodles and rou jia mo (meat-stuffed "burgers"). But in the rest of America, the foods of Shaanxi province are rare to nonexistent, making this new cookbook from Jason Wang, the restaurant chain's owner, a very welcome contribution to the Chinese cookbook canon.
Xi'an is almost as famous for its heavily Muslim-influenced, sour-spicy food as it is for the Terracotta Warriors. Featuring beef and lamb vs. pork, it frequently uses vinegar, cumin and Sichuan pepper to tame and accentuate those flavors.
Shaanxi, along with Gansu province, occupies the northern reaches of what we have termed the Sichuan Pepper Belt, which stretches down through Sichuan and Chongqing to Yunnan and Guizhou in the south. Chilies and chili oil are also a way of life in these Western China cuisines.
Jason's family immigrated from Xi'an to America when he was eight, and a few years later his father opened a Flushing food stall featuring his own take on the hometown foods they all missed. The cookbook (written with Jessica K. Chou) moves roughly chronologically through Jason's life, covering the traditional Xi'an dishes of his youth (including a whole section on BBQ skewers); Xi'an Famous Foods' slightly altered versions of the classics and the son's story of growing the father's business from that humble stall to a NYC empire; and today's food in Xi'an, which has evolved with the rest of China to include national favorites like mala hot pot.
You will find just about everything you need to cook from Xi'an Famous Foods: The Cuisine of Western China, from New York's Favorite Noodle Shop, at The Mala Market. Get ready to pull some noodles! Or, at the least, make some cumin lamb to put on your store-bought noodles.
The following are ingredients used throughout the book.
- Red da hong pao Sichuan pepper
- Fragrant-hot ground chilies
- Zi dan tou chilies (a Western China chili similar to the Eastern tianjin chili the book references)
- Shao kao spice (a cumin-forward Chinese BBQ blend readymade for yang rou chuan and other skewers)
Publisher: Abrams, 2020
Format: Hardback, 303 pages
Price: $35 MSRP; $30 when purchased with Mala Market ingredients