Xi'an Cuisine is a cheap and cheerful Chinese restaurant on Hay Street in Haymarket, Chinatown, just opposite Darling Square. This small restaurant specialises in food from the Xian region of China. The food at this unpretentious eatery is delicious and full of flavour with incredible prices and outdoor seating.
One gloriously and unseasonably sunny Friday afternoon I pick Monica up from Newtown and we cruise towards Haymarket. You really wouldn't know that La Nina had drenched us all just days before on sunny days like this. We park and head straight towards Xi'an Cuisine, a place that Monica had found while dropping something off at Chinatown a few weeks earlier. It was a sweltering day when she sought respite in a bowl of cold noodles and she had loved them so much that we had to try it together. Xi'An Cuisine is run by Oscar Yan and his mother Annie.
Monica and I flip through the stand menu and then grab an outdoor table while a crowd awaits their takeaway order. Xian cuisine is one of my favourite Chinese cuisines as it's packed full of strong flavours with plenty of noodles, lamb and some stuffed breads. This menu also has pages of rice and meat dishes suited to people that are looking for a tasty lunch to go. "OK I'm going in to order. Wish me luck," says Monica trying to remember the six dishes that we have chosen. You order and pay at the counter and payment is done via bank transfer. And the cost for our splash out lunch with 6 dishes and 2 soft drinks is $44.50.
Although the cold handmade noodles look simple there's a lot of flavour packed into them and they are best mixed up because the sauce mostly pools at the bottom. This is the perfect dish for a hot summer's day with cucumber, bean sprouts, a chilli based sauce with flavours of sesame and peanut and cubes of gluten. The gluten has a slightly sour taste like sourdough and a wet, spongey flavour. The sauces in Xian cuisine are complex and highly flavoured and I think this is why I enjoy this cuisine so much.
We try two types of the pita bread or Roujiamo which are thickish, chewy rounds of bread split in half and filled with several types of filling. Pork is a popular traditional filling and this one is saucy and delicious. It's best eaten hot because the bread does tend to get quick thick when it gets cold.
Out of the two pita breads we both loved the spicy beef one with plenty of cumin as well as hot green chilli. While the menu shows three chillis signifying its heat level, it's not alarmingly hot and absolutely moreish with the aromatic cumin and chilli.
I was hoping that they would have biang biang noodles (a specialty of Xian) but they don't have them on the menu. Instead we order some knife sliced noodles with vegetables and a spicy sauce. Like the cold noodles, a bit of tossing ensures that they sauces and flavours are interspersed and the thick ribbon noodles actually improve over a short time as the noodles absorb the spicy sauce.
It can be a bit of a gamble ordering something with "special sauce" because you don't really know what is in it but can I just say that the special sauce is very special indeed and absolutely bursting with flavours with a wonderful depth of flavour and chilli. This is great on its own but I really love it with the noodles above just to add some protein to them.
I absolutely love it when cuisines use flatbread as noodles like in Sri Lankan cuisine you get Kottu Rotti and this noodle dish is made with fried, shredded pancakes with fried eggs and chicken slices. It tastes exactly like my mother's fried noodles and it's a very large serve. The texture of the pancakes is crispier and springier than noodles and I can't stop myself from going back again and again for this.
So tell me Dear Reader, have you tried much food from Xian? Have you ever tried noodles made from flatbread?
This meal was independently paid for.
4/90 Hay St, Haymarket NSW 2000
Open 7 days 11am–9pm
Phone: 0433 810 933