liang pi (凉皮)

posted in: china, food | 0

Liang pi literally means ‘cold skin’ in Chinese, and is a lovely cold snack served in the summer. This dish comes originally from Shaanxi province but you can pretty much find it everywhere in northern China, and in Beijing it is common to find liang pi stands on the street, like so:

good advertising

It’s basically a cold noodle dish, but the noodles are cut from a large sheet or ‘skin’ (hence the name). According to Cultural China’s website:

First, wheat or rice flour is turned into a soft dough by adding water and a little bit of salt. Then, the dough is put in a bowl, water is added and the dough has to be ‘rinsed’ until the water is saturated with starch from the dough, turning into a muddy white color. The remainder of the dough is now removed and the bowl is left to rest overnight at a cool place to allow the dissolved starch to precipitate. The following day, there will be a kind of starch-paste on the bottom of the bowl with a more or less clear liquid on top which has to be discarded. Once the liquid has been removed, a small amount the paste can then be poured into a flat plate or tray, and spread evenly in a thin layer. The whole plate is placed into a large pot full of boiling water, where it is steamed for a couple of minutes and the resulting ‘pancake’ cut into long pieces vaguely resembling noodles.

Ok, starch paste doesn’t sound so appetizing, but it’s the sauce that makes this dish! Variations abound, but the main ingredients include garlic, vinegar, chili oil and sesame sauce. As Julia Moskin of the nytimes describes it, the sauce “hits every possible flavor category (sweet, tangy, savory, herbal, nutty and dozens of others).” (Coincidentally, she is describing my fav place to eat in NY, Xi’an Famous Foods–whose version of liang pi actually inspired us to go to Xian this summer! Yes, it’s that good.)

liang pi sauces at an indoor food court

Finally, the noodles and sauce are tossed together with chunks of wheat gluten, cucumber slivers, sometimes beansprouts… a savoury yet refreshing dish when you’re sweltering from the summer heat. Prices range from 3-10 yuan in Beijing, with the more expensive ones coming from fancy shopping mall food courts (gotta pay for the aircon, I suppose).

more from 西安名吃 (Xi An Famous Foods)

posted in: food, new york | 0

I was supposed to take my parents somewhere to eat during their layover at JFK yesterday, but they didn’t make it out of the airport due to ticketing problems. Not to waste an opportunity to eat away from Manhattan, G and I headed to Flushing anyway.

I wanted to try this new Qingdao restaurant called M&T, but it was closed–and being too cold a day to go exploring, we went back to our old standby: the jumble of basement food stalls known collectively as Golden Shopping Mall.

liangpi, tiger salad, and beef noodle soup
liangpi, tiger salad, and beef noodle soup

G went straight to “Xi An Famous Foods” (西安名吃)–which by the way now has swanky new signs, a video camera (?!), and wall photos of Anthony Bourdain enjoying their liangpi–and ordered a dish of cold skin noodles (“liang pi,” 凉皮) and tiger salad (“lao hu cai,” 老虎菜). I went to a sichuanese stall by the entrance to the mall and ordered a spicy beef noodle stew (“niu nan mian,” 牛腩面). All three dishes were delicious, humble, and beat the pants off anything in Manhattan’s Chinatown.

I must admit that the tiger salad defeated me: consisting of raw jalapeno peppers, scallions and cilantro in a vinegar sauce, one of the peppers was just too much… so I ran to the counter and asked for a plum drink (“suan mei tang,” 酸梅湯), which is a typical drink to have with spicy hotpot.

IMG_0583

Total damage: liangpi $4, tiger salad $4.50, beef noodle $4.50, plum drink $1.50. And full + happy stomachs.

Golden Shopping Mall
41-28 Main St
New York, NY 11355

(map)

xi’an in flushing

posted in: food, new york | 1

the best food I’ve had in NYC was in a Flushing food court.

actually, the term ‘food court’ is misleading. it’s more like a collection of half a dozen Chinese food stalls in the basement of a place called Golden Mall (also a misnomer because the ‘mall’ appears to consist entirely of this basement).

golden-mall

after hmm-ing and haw-ing awhile between the different Read More