Biang2 biang2 noodles

Northern Chinese food uses many wheat-based items, particularly bread and noodles. Probably close to half of my meals here have involved noodles in one way or another.

The most interesting noodle dish I’ve eaten here so far is something called “biang2 biang2” noodles. This dish comes from Shaanxi Province, which is where Xi’an, the ancient capital city and site of the terra cotta army, is. The dish uses a special kind of hand-pulled noodle known as a biangbiang noodle. The biangbiang noodle is like a common Chinese hand-pulled or knife-cut noodle, but is much wider and perhaps somewhat thicker.

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The above photos show different versions of the dish from two Shaanxi restaurants that I’ve been to in Beijing. The one on the left is from a restaurant near my office, and the one on the right is from a restaurant in Wangfujing (of New Practical Chinese Reader fame). The Wangfujing version was better.

A fun thing about the dish is the character “biang2.” The character is written as follows:

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As can be seen above, the character is very complex. It’s not very common — in fact, it’s not in the standard computer/keyboard dictionary, so it’s hard to type — and has no meaning other than as a name for the noodle. I actually first ordered the dish because I thought the character was great fun. But, fortunately for me, it turns out that it’s really a great dish. I like the chewiness of the noodles.

The catchphrase of the Shaanxi restaurant near my office is “Xi’an famous snacks,” which is very close to the name of a prominent New York City restaurant chain, “Xi’an famous foods,” which was started by a Xi’an native. The terms differ by only one character (“snack” is “small food”). Below is a dish receipt number sign for the Shaanxi restaurant near my office that shows the catchphrase:

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Notice that the cartoon character on the sign is eating biangbiang noodles.

The next time I’m in New York City, I’ll try to try the biangbiang noodles from Xi’an Famous Foods. The New York restaurant’s menu is pretty similar to that of the restaurant near my office, and I’d be interested to see if the food is similarly similar.

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