Biang! Makes a Bang with Spicy Xi'an Noodles Near Seattle
Biang! (that's their exclamation point) in Edmonds, north of Seattle, is a newish Chinese restaurant making a bang with their Xi'an-style noodles. (Yes, there's a similarly-styled restaurant with the same name in New York; the two aren't related). Biang is the sound produced when a chef pulls dough and thwacks it against a table to make fresh noodles, making the hand-ripped Biang Biang noodles a must-order at Biang! restaurant.
My server recommended the Hot Oil Seared Biang Biang Noodles ($6.99) for a first-timer, explaining that it's a typical preparation in the northern Shaanxi Province (of which Xi'an is the capital), where a simple red pepper topping provides comfort during cold winter days. As it turns out, this style actually showcases the wide, chewy, and tender flour noodles best, with no distractions apart from the welcome heat of the red chili powder seared with hot vegetable oil. You can get the noodles topped with spicy cumin beef, chopped pork sauce, pulled stewed pork, or tomato and egg, but if you're like me, you'll ultimately return to alluring simplicity of the hot oil.
There are other noodle dishes available, including the thinner Lan Zhou Hand-Pulled Noodles with Sliced Beef ($7.99), and the ribbon-like Liangpi "Cold Rice" Noodles ($3.99) with wheat gluten slices and bean sprouts, but for me, the perfect protein-packed accompaniment to biang biang noodles is a Minced Stewed Pork Sandwich ($4.99). The minced pork is just as it sounds, with a slightly tangy, sweet, and spicy flavor, but the flatbread is really what's most fascinating here. It's about the size of an English muffin, and the dough is flat, smooth, and what some describe as dry—in other words, a good vehicle for the saucy meat. The spicy cumin beef sandwich with garlic, onions, and scallions is also worth trying.
For those wanting something in between soup and a sandwich, Biang! serves a typical northern Chinese dish called Beef and Lamb Pao Mo Soup ($9.99). This dish features ripped-up pieces of the same flatbread (I've previously eaten it in an "interactive" Xi'an restaurant that had the customers do the ripping), dunked into a lamb and beef bone broth fortified with sliced lamb meat, along with pickled garlic and red chili sauce on the side.
The restaurant also has spicy and sour Pork or Lamb Dumplings ($4.99 pork, $5.49 lamb) in soup; the kind server allowed me to mix the two types in one bowl, and now I can report that pork is the better of the two. In fact, Biang! might be the friendliest Chinese restaurant in the Seattle area. If you go, ask about namesake Chinese character, apparently comprised of 58 strokes and too complex to replicate on a computer.
About the author: Jay Friedman is a Seattle-based freelance food writer who happens to travel extensively as a sex educator. An avid fan of noodles (some call him "The Mein Man"), he sees sensuality in all foods, and blogs about it at his Gastrolust website. You can follow him on Twitter @jayfriedman.