[dropcap size=big]B[/dropcap]iang-biang is the distinct sound you’re bound to hear when cruising the bustling streets of Xi’an in Central China. It’s the slappity-slap of fresh noodles being beaten and stretched from a blob of wheat dough on a stainless steel kitchen surface. After a couple of very loud biang-biangs! The noodles are gently cooked for your slurping pleasure.
Biangbiang is also the Chinese onomatopoeic word describing the hand-crafted production of Shaanxi province’s famous, crazy wide, long noodles that you could probably double as a cummerbund–in fact, sometimes it’s called belt noodles.
Straight from Xi’an, China, comes Noodle Art, a new restaurant in Monterey Park specializing in biangbiang noodles and other regional must-eats. Noodle Art’s chef/owner Xibao Wen has been cooking for the people of his province of Shaanxi since 1985 while working in his two other restaurants based in Xi’an. This is Wen’s first venture into the U.S., and he did it during a lingering pandemic, replacing a defunct Sichuan restaurant in a Monterey Park strip mall.
Noodle Art brings its original Xi’an menu to the SGV while deleting a few of the lesser-known (to Americans) Shaanxi choices and doubles down on the noodle options: the famous biangbiang noodles varnished with chili oil and fortified with braised pork and mixed vegetables, soups brimming of biangbiang noodles customized by braised mutton, spicy beef, or shredded pork, and also a satisfying stir-fry of hand-rolled noodles that are extra long, smooth, sleek, and perfect for slurping.
Monterey Park’s latest noodles are considered one of the “eight strange wonders of Shaanxi,” which is a lot to live up to when you consider that the mighty Terracotta Army also claims the area. The noodle’s impressive width–with some variations of biangbiang being as wide as St. Nick’s belt–is what brings all the noodle fans to the yard. The noodles are commonly closer to pappardelle in dimension, as they are at Noodle Art.
You’ll know immediately if it’s fresh-made from its bouncy bite to the sky-high noodle pulls you can achieve without snapping a single strand.
After a quick boil, the ribbon-like noods are doused with searing oil, effectively transforming the noodle’s toppings of tomato with egg, diced veggies, meat bits, and chili pepper flake and powder into a chunky sauce. (Biangbiang is also known as You Po Che Mien or “oil splashed pulled-noodles.”) Next, give the pile a good stir to blend all the toppings, fusing everything for the ideal slurp. This mouthwatering style is essentially the most popular version of biangbiang noodles.
There’s also a basic version that’s simply noodles and chili oil. But, L.A. TACO’s legion of hardcore eaters knows every hometown dish has multiple interpretations and favorite styles (cumin lamb is hard to beat). Biangbiang can be simple or complicated (much like its Chinese character, which requires 56 brush strokes to complete), but the one thing it absolutely must be is freshly pulled and torn. Biangbiang isn’t made a day in advance and never ever comes from a package. You’ll know immediately if it’s fresh-made from its bouncy bite to the sky-high noodle pulls you can achieve without snapping a single strand.
Although Noodle Art certainly isn’t a Chinese Halal or Hui cuisine restaurant, manager Steven Zhang explained, “Some of our food is influenced by the Muslim Quarter.” This popular Xi’an food destination is known to attract seekers of such delights as Chinese cumin lamb hamburger (a saucy stuffing of sliced lamb sandwiched between a flatbread bun), yangruo paomo, aka flatbread soaked in lamb soup, and lamb kebab–all of which are available at Noodle Art. Lamb and mutton are well-represented on the menu because of the strong culinary and cultural impact of Northwestern China’s sizeable Muslim population. Xi’an was the eastern terminus on the legendary Silk Road, making it a base for cuisine that melds flavors, ingredients, and foods from places outside of China, particularly the Middle East.
For Noodle Art’s chef Wen, food is an art form on the level of the great impressionist painters like Van Gogh. Paraphrasing a passage from the book A Feast of Floyd, Wen said, “Once you do the shopping and have good ingredients, the love of cooking, love for those you invite to your table, once you have this combination of things, you can be an artist. I am a noodle artist.”
Noodle Art is at 117 N Lincoln Ave Monterey Park, CA 91755
Eddie Lin is an OG L.A. food writer who encourages everyone to eat chicken feet at least once. He has appeared on many shows, but his favorite appearance is when he and his girlfriend ate Chinese Viagra soup made of boa constrictor. Yum and POW!
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