FRESHLY HAND-PULLED NOODLES. CHILLI OIL. DONE. Frankly, I didn’t need to know anything about Xi’an cuisine to know, “Hellllll yes, I want that. Get in mah belly. NOW!”
A lot of caps. Only cos this is how excited I get when it comes to NOODLES and CHILLI! My heaven. Yes, yes, and always, yes.
As foodies, Jess and I naturally follow a lot of social media accounts that post about food as well. For a good while now, I’ve been seeing titillating pictures of ‘biang biang’ noodles drenched in chilli oil — oh for the love of chilli oil — and I’ve mentally stored a compilation of those images in my ‘to-eat-list’ disc file. Those images have been seared into my brain whilst telling my stomach, “One day, oh, one day.”
Finallllllly, one day came sooner than later! I made sure to cram as many Asian restaurants into my food itinerary during my trip in London. Realllllly? Asian food in London? Oh hell yes cos this Asian has been craving for some good Asian cuisine! Good Asian restaurants are pretty rare or non-existent in the south-west of France. French food and pintxos are without a doubt amazing but there comes a time (a LOT of the time) when this lil Asian needs a taste of her roots.
Xi’an is located in the province of Shaanxi and famously home to the legendary Terracotta Warriors in China. Hailed as one of the oldest cities in China, Xi’an was also the eastern departure point of the Silk Road. Subsequently, Xi’an (then known as Chang’an) flourished into a major maritime trading hub for people across China, Central Asia and the Middle East. This gave way to the city becoming a melting pot of different ethnic and religious backgrounds which shaped Xi’an’s rich and diverse culinary history. Muslim traders and settlers heavily influenced Xi’an cuisine by way of their Middle Eastern spices such as cumin, their lamb and mutton dishes, flatbreads, etc. Admittedly, I had no clue about Xi’an and its fascinating history before this but now, I’ll definitely be planning a trip there sometime in the future to E-A-T!
As soon as my flights were booked, Xi’an Impression had solidly made its way on my to-eat-list. And very happily so, I made it to Xi’an Impression. Situated directly opposite the Arsenal football stadium, it wasn’t hard to miss this little Chinese food joint. It’s glaring telltale: pictures of Asian dishes plastered all over their front window. Cha ching! Mama’s hereeeeee 🙋🏻
Given how excited I was to eat here, I had already been on their website numerous times to check out the menu heh heh. My friend and I decided to go for 4 dishes to share (if I had my way, we would have ordered almost everything 😏).
First up, we were served the sweet potato noodles in hot and sour soup. My god-grandmother comes from Sichuan, China and whenever I visit her in Toronto, she always remembers to make a similar version of this dish for me. Grandma knows best! Since Xi’an was centrally located in China, their cuisine took influence from all the regions in China, one being: Sichuan. Although the hot and sour soup wasn’t extremely spicy, it tasted really similar to my grandma’s dish. These sweet potato noodles were almost like glass noodles made from mung bean but thicker. The soup was delightfully tangy and had just the right amount of kick to it. Both my friend and I really enjoyed this dish, I could have this all day erryday!
In quick succession, we were served the pork and vegetable dumplings in chicken broth and the Xi’an beef burger. The chicken broth was light and soothing, and the dumplings were perfect with a good amount of chilli oil! We had to ask the server for some chilli oil since there wasn’t any on the table. Don’t hesitate to ask for it cos it makes a helluva difference!
The Xi’an burger or rou jia mo has been a long-standing staple in Xi’an that dates back to the Qin dynasty (221 – 206 BC); dare I say it’s the “world’s oldest hamburger”?? Did the Chinese really invent pizza too?? Did the chicken or egg come first? Life mysteries… I digress! Although rou jia mou originated from the Shaanxi province, it was such a hit with the nation, the entire country ended up adopting it as their own. Alright, down to foodie business. We ordered the ‘Xi’an beef burger’ and since there were only the two of us, the server kindly brought our burger halved. The beef was marinated in a special sauce but we could make out that the main seasoning used was cumin. Unfortunately, both my friend and I weren’t fans of the burger. Somehow the bun had an almost cardboard-like texture? It was also pretty tasteless. And the meat tasted as if it was solely marinated in cumin. I love me some cumin but this didn’t taste like anything else but.
Luckily, we still had our ‘biang biang’ noodles to come! Oh man, Mama’s been waiting for ya 😛 ‘Biang biang’ noodles have been all the rage for a while now. And I wanted to see if these noods were really anything to rave about… ‘Biang biang’ noodles are hand-pulled wheat noodles that come to shape by being stretched and slammed on to a flat surface; it’s Chinese character ‘biang’ is said to mimic the sound the dough makes when it’s smashed on the table. How practical is that hah! Imagine wine could of been named squish from all the grape stomping… A fine bottle of red squish, svp! Okay, okay, back to the noods… The ‘Biang biang’ noodles at Xi’an Impression are thick, soft, slippery, super long (we had to use our spoons to cut them) and wonderfully chewy! The best part is that the noodles are drenched in a chilli oil sauce that comes with a few strands of kailan (only my FAVE vegetable in ze world). FYI, there’s also an option to order the noodles with chunks of beef as well. Gosh, I enjoyed the noodles so much, I had to add even more chilli oil! The spicier, the better 😎
3 of out of 4 good dishes is not too shabby at all! If there was more than just the two of us, I would have loved to order the Yikouxiang in traditional spicy sauce, cucumber with garlic sauce, Xi’an cold noodles, and their hand-pulled noodles with minced pork and vegetables as well. Just gonna have to pin it in for my next trip!
With drinks, our bill came to a lil over 30 pounds. No complaints! Especially when I’d never get this quality of Asian food in Biarritz 😝
I’d highly recommend making a reservation for dinner as it’s a tiny place that can probably seat 20 at most inside. Keep in mind of the nights when there’s a football game on, you’d most definitely want to make reservations on those nights!
Thank you, Xi’an Impression. You’ve opened my eyes and dear stomach. Xi’an, I’m coming for you one day!
Location: 117 Benwell Road, London, N7 7Bw
Monday – Sunday: 11:30 am – 10:00 pm
Would be wise to book dinner reservations. Especially if a football game is going on that night!