I haven’t been this excited about cold skin noodles—aka liáng pi—since I first tried them at Xi’an Famous Foods, back when family patriarch David Shi went by the moniker Liáng Pí and his sales pitch was a hawker’s chant, “My name is Liáng Pí, try my famous cold skin noodles, you want to try a Chinese hamburger.” These days the mini-chain deserves the appellation “famous” and has even spawned imposters, notably Elmhurst’s Chinger, a pormanteau of Chinese Burger, that sounds like a racial epithet.
Thankfully Lǎo Luòyáng is no imposter but rather a practitioner of the liang pi art that brings some color and history to the game. On a first visit I tried the purple sweet potato cold noodle ($6.50), zǐshǔ liáng pí. The sweet potato lent a slight tinge to the slippery wheat noodles and squidgy blocks of gluten, but added little flavor. No matter though as the sauce was astonishing, hitting many points of the flavor matrix, chili, garlic, vinegar, but above all a beguiling blend of tahini and aromatics like cloves. It was so good I slurped some up with a straw. (more…)
Cold skin noodles at Xi’an Famous Foods are as spicy and refreshing as ever.
Way back in 2005, Xi’an Famous Foods had but one location, in what I like to call the 36th Chamber of the Golden Shopping Mall. It was presided over by an affable gent who went by the nom de cuisine Liang Pi, after his signature dish liang pi, cold skin noodles. Today it’s become a mini empire with five locations, upscale sister restaurant Biang, and a Brooklyn commissary.
Back in the day the most notable design elements were rickety folding stools and 100-pound bags of wheat flour arrayed like sandbags along the back wall. “My name is Liang Pi,” he would proudly say as he ladled out the dish. Many of his customers came from the same region and seemed absolutely thrilled to find a dish from back home in Queens. Legions of hungry regional Chinese cuisine fiends were pretty thrilled too. I’d never tasted anything like cold skin noodles before: squidgy, porous blocks of wheat gluten and chewy ribbons of wheat starch, tossed with bean sprouts, cilantro, slivers of cucumber and a “secret sauce” made from sesame paste, vinegar, and chili oil, among other things. “I have it for breakfast at least three times a week,” one fan told me. (more…)