While I work on the upcoming Xi’an book, I find myself craving some of the unique dishes of Xi’an cuisine. Biang biang mian is a special handmade noodle dish with a simple but delectable ground spice topping. “Biang” is an onomatopoeia for the sound the flat, wide noodle makes as it is stretched by hand and slapped against the counter. This simple sounding word is actually one of the most complex Chinese characters still in use, with 57 strokes. “Biang” is so unique that it cannot even be typed or found in the dictionary. The name of the famous dish can be seen on this restaurant sign in Xi’an (two “biang” characters repeated before 面 miàn, which means noodles).
Top noodles with a bit of Chinese greens, a little soy sauce, Zhenjiang or Chinkiang vinegar, and mushroom or chicken stock, providing just a few ounces of liquid for each serving. Roast some whole sichuan peppercorn, cumin seed, fennel seed, star anise, and ground red chili in a dry pan. Sprinkle the spices over the noodles, and drizzle some hot peanut oil over the top to release the flavors of the spices, and serve with peanuts and chopped green onion. Even if you do not make your own noodles by hand, the flavours of Xi’an can easily be conjured in your own kitchen.