COOKING & FOOD

Xi’an Famous Foods: The Cuisine of Western China, from New York’s Favorite Noodle Shop

Abrams. Oct. 2020. 304p. ISBN 9781419747526. $35. COOKING
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Wang’s father, David Shi, started Xi’an Famous Foods as a tiny stall selling the street food of his native western Chinese city, Xi’an. Many years later, as word spread and lines grew, Xi’an Famous Foods expanded to ten stores in New York. Xi’an cuisine is full of gutsy flavors with Szechuan peppercorns and chiles, but as befits a city on the Silk Road, it also includes spices more traditionally associated with Middle Eastern and Indian cooking, such as cumin and cardamom. Interwoven throughout recipes, such as Liang Pi “Cold Skin Noodles” and the signature Spicy Cumin Lamb, is an affecting immigrant story that traces the family’s journey from provincial China to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to the urban core of the Northeast. Although we don’t necessarily know what the future of restaurants will be, there are lessons here for surviving upheaval.
VERDICT While challenging for beginning cooks, this enjoyable and readable offering features clear instructions and inspiring recipes that are well within the reach of the home kitchen. Wang’s DIY ethos makes the hard work fun.

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