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I bought this book as a big fan of XFF and enthusiastic home cook of regional Chinese food. But unfortunately I found these recipes extremely hard - they feel almost written to stop you bothering rather than to encourage you. The author insists you cook everything in small batches, from scratch, with minimal substitutes, tells you that you will do a bad version, and still says these are simplified versions of the restaurant dishes. If XFF were a Michelin-starred restaurant, I would understand their reluctance to simplify things for the home cook. But as it this, I found this book a pleasant read but totally unusable for cooking.
I read about this long awaited book. I've never been to XFF actually. But the recipes and the book are fun to read and most importantly, delicious to eat. Xi'an dishes, but with an added western twitch. Veeeery nice.
I received my cookbook today and spent a couple hours reading it. The cookbook exceeded my expectations, which includes family history as well as recipes that go beyond the Xi’an Famous Foods restaurants. I discovered Xi’an Famous Foods during my daughter’s Junior year at NYU. I was so upset it took her so long to discover it, it’s that good! I plan on starting with, and perfecting, a basic dish with Biang-Biang noodles. Next I’ll move on to XFF spicy and sour dumplings, a personal fav. Did you know it’s normal to freeze dumplings for future use?! Who knew, now I won’t feel like a shortcut cheat! There’s a recipe for “West Fu “Pretzels” “ They look so pretty and I can’t wait for an opportunity to surprise my young adult children with them! This cookbook will keep me busy for years!
UPDATE 10/28/2020: According to my daughter, the Biang-Biang noodles and Mt. Qi Vegetables tasted just like the restaurant (my first attempt she said I cut the vegetables too small, but my second attempt was just right). Tonight I made dumplings, dumpling skin dough and spinach dumpling filling, without the Sichuan peppercorns, because she doesn’t like spice. She said it was the best dumplings she’s ever had. For myself I made spinach dumpling skin dough with the pork and chives dumpling filling. I used the XFF dumpling sauce XFF chili oil for the dish I remembered at the restaurant.
I mainly picked up this book because I have been a huge fan of the restaurant ever since a friend of mine who lived in Flushing told me about the opening of one of her favorite restaurants in the St Marks area of NYC that I used to frequent often back then. When Xian Famous Foods opened in the LES (Lower East Side for the unfamiliar), I had recently returned from my first trip to the Eastern Hemisphere to visit a friend who worked for the US Embassy in China. I spent a few months traveling to various places there and loved it (including Xi'an, but just briefly to see the Terra Cotta Soldiers). I was initially attracted to XFF in NYC by the very cheap prices for a filling, unique, and delicious meal (I think the lamb burger was only $2? Try finding prices like those in NYC!) but after a while I found myself having cravings and making the trek over to the LES for some good noodles in soup or a quick bite of the burgers.
Due to events of 2020 XFF has been (mostly) closed in NYC at the moment and when I heard about this book I wanted to try to see if I can get my XFF cravings satisfied at home. I was pleasantly surprised by this book! Originally I was expecting more of a cookbook for some of the dishes at one of my more favorite "fast casual" restaurants in NYC (which it is!), but this book is so much more, for me it was also a coming-of-age slash rags-to-riches story, a nice nostalgia trip (I have a lot of Asian friends in NYC, so I have also had some Circle/KTown nights that Jason describes at one point), and an appreciative retrospection for Jason, all while making my mouth water the whole entire time.
One thing I love about this book as a cookbook is the simplified list of ingredients -- most cookbooks require a large array of ingredients to craft the recipes at home on your own, which becomes even more of a problem when the recipes require ingredients that are quickly perishable. I feel like there are a small subset of ingredients required that are constantly used throughout the recipes in this book, if you are fortunate enough to live near an Asian market you can get started on many of the recipes right away in a short amount of time. It also really shows you the versatility of the ingredients, with some creativity you can use some of the sauces and spices to make a "XFF-style" dish of your own.
Do yourself a favor and grab a copy of this book for your shelf and try out some of the recipes! If you are intimidated by some of the steps, like noodle-pulling to be specific, take a look around the internet for some videos to help supplement the book, once you see the process it becomes a lot less intimidating
I cracked the book open as soon as it arrived. The pictures are amazing, as is the story about his family's immigration to the States and the opening of Xian Famous Foods. The recipes are clearly written - I'm excited to try making the essential chili oil and noodles ASAP!
Edit: I've now made three of the recipes from the book, including the biang biang noodles. They all turned out really well. The instructions are easy to follow; just make sure you've made any sauces you need beforehand. So glad I can eat Xi'an famous foods in my own kitchen in California now!
This is a beautiful cookbook! The illustrations and photographs are beautiful, the recipes are super authentic and well written, and includes many of the classic Xian Famous Foods dishes. These include Biang Biang Noodles, Liang Pi Noodles, chili oil, Cumin Lamb, and much more. It also contains lots of cool anecdotes about the story of this restaurant and the author's childhood. It includes recipes for the basic sauces and stocks, soups, noodles, salads, dumplings, hot-pot, skewers, stir-fries, braised dishes, bread, and sweets.
I have enjoyed both reading this memoir:cookbook and cooking from it. It is a great immigrant’s story, the kind we need to hear in these xenophobic times, but it’s also an excellent introduction to regional Chinese cuisine. It’s not exhaustively encyclopedic like Fuchsia Dunlop’s work, but it is accessible, fun, and you can definitely produce some very delicious food by following the recipes provided. There’s a nice range of recipes from beginner to advanced, but most are going contain high levels of capsicum and Sichuan peppercorns. I’m no chili head, so I’ve had to cut the heat level markedly in recipes accordingly.
We moved away from the nyc area recently, and I crave xi’an noodles regularly. So glad I have a way to approximate them at home! The book is well written and contains a wide array of recipes ranging from the restaurant’s regular dishes to more specialized fare.