12 December 2020

Weekend Cooking: Xi'an Famous Foods by Jason Wang

Review of Xi'an Famous Foods by Jason WangToday I’m talking about my final Abrams Dinner Party cookbook for 2020. If you’re into foods from western China or if you’ve been to Xi’an Famous Foods in New York City, then Jason Wang’s new cookbook, named after his restaurant, is for you.

I have to be honest. The first time I flipped through the cookbook, I was a little intimidated. Would I be able to find the ingredients? Would it take a ton of time to make the sauces before I started on the main dish? The answers are, fortunately, yes and no.

Right off, I want to assure you I could find many of the essentials (like black vinegar) as well as easy substitutions (like some kind of fresh hot pepper) at my local Wegman’s. I’m currently waiting until we get on the other side of COVID to visit our small Asian market, where I’m confident I’ll be able to find the rest of the pantry items (like sweet flour sauce). Vegetarian tip: I found a vegetarian “oyster” sauce made by Wegman’s that tastes very much like the real thing.

I love that Xi'an Famous Foods is a combination recipe compilation and memoir and is filled with tons of great photos of the finished dishes, of the restaurant, of the city, and of culinary techniques. Even if you’re not inclined to cook from Xi’an Famous Foods, I encourage you to read through it. The text is informative and interesting and the photos are inspiring.

Wang offers a wide variety of recipes, such as basic sauces, salads, pot stickers, skewers, soups, noodles, and even a few sweets. Vegetarians, and I think vegans, will find quite a few recipes. Gluten-sensitive eaters can serve most dishes over rice or gluten-free noodles.

Review of Xi'an Famous Foods by Jason Wang I made several of the main dishes from Xi’an Famous Foods, but my two favorites were the Zha Jiang Noodles, with its two homemade sauces. It’s a ground meat dish spooned over noodles and topped with wasabi just before serving. The other recipe was for spicy cumin lamb, which was, according to the recipe introduction, one of Anthony Bourdain’s favorite dishes from the restaurant. I’ve provided the recipe below and included the scan of the finished dish to the right.

Note that the recipes, including the sauces, are easy to make, and even the homemade noodles look doable. In fact, several people in the Abrams Dinner Party group made the hand-pulled noodles (shown on the book cover). I haven’t given them a go yet but will once we get past the holidays.

Jason Wang’s Xi’an Famous Foods is recommended for its recipes and for its narrative text. I suggest you jump in and give the recipes a try. I think you’ll be as pleasantly surprised as I was by how easy it is to follow the recipe instructions and by the delicious results.

Note: Thanks to Abrams and the Abrams Dinner Party for the review copy. The scan and recipe are used with permission; all rights remain with the original copyright holders.

Spicy Cumin Lamb
Serves 2
BFR's note: If you don't like lamb, substitute another meat or use a non-meat alternative. I served this over rice.

  • 10 ounces (280 g) boneless lamb leg (ideally partially frozen)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 green onion, trimmed and chopped
  • 1-inch (2.5 cm) piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and sliced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons red chili powder
  • 1/2 medium red onion, sliced
  • 1 longhorn pepper, diagonally sliced
Carefully slice the lamb into 1/8-inch (3 mm) thick pieces (note: it's easier to cut when partially frozen).

Place the sliced lamb into a large bowl along with the cornstarch and 2 teaspoons of the vegetable oil. Mix together with your hands.

In a large skillet or wok, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons vegetable oil over high heat for 1 minute. Add the green onions, ginger, and garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Add the lamb and stir-fry for about 5 minutes.

When the meat turns an even brown color, turn the heat down to low, add the cumin, salt, and chili powder, and stir to combine. Add the onions and longhorn pepper, stir to combine, and serve.

Shared with Weekend Cooking, hosted by Marg at The Intrepid Reader (and Baker)


gluten Free A_Z Blog 12/12/20, 7:15 AM  

I find that once I purchase and actually use an ingredient that I'm not familiar with , I'm usually glad I tried it. His book sounds wonderful - thanks for sharing your review.

rhapsodyinbooks 12/12/20, 8:22 AM  

The food sounds great! Extra effort is worth it for great dishes, and it's good to have a resource that lets you know how to make them!

Tina 12/12/20, 8:46 AM  

Good cookbook and great meal. Sounds like a comfort food dish I’d like when it’s cold. Cumin always smells so good when it’s added.

Mae Travels 12/12/20, 10:42 AM  

That cookbook has been on several lists of favorites for the year. I tend to avoid cookbooks that are based on restaurant cuisine, but this might be an exception. The recipe sounds delicious!

Be safe... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

Melynda@Scratch Made Food! 12/12/20, 10:44 AM  

That looks like a great book! I love those big noodles!!!

Jackie McGuinness 12/12/20, 11:55 AM  

OMG I HAVE to find this book! We went to a dumpling feast in Xian and they were the most amazing things I ever ate. We had every kind of dumpling and they were shaped to represent to filling, like ittle ducks and chickens. The BEST were the walnut dessert dumplings.

Jackie McGuinness 12/12/20, 11:56 AM  

Just put it on my wish list at the library!!!!

Sue Jackson 12/14/20, 4:44 PM  

Mmmm...I'm not familiar with the chef or the place in NYC, but the food looks and sounds delicious!

Thanks for the tip about oyster sauce!! I'm allergic to mollusks, so oyster sauce is always a tough one. I've been getting by with a mix of Chinese mushroom sauce, Worcestershire sauce, a soy sauce (per a cookbook), but leave it to good old Wegman's to have a substitute! (I grew up in Rochester, NY, where Wegman's started & am very excited we are finally getting one here in DE next year!)

Thanks -


Book By Book

Brona 12/19/20, 2:16 AM  

I've been eyeing this book off at work, but I'm currently on a Persian flavour journey with my cooking :-)

Greg 12/20/20, 7:34 PM  

This would make me so hungry. :)

Claudia 12/21/20, 12:59 AM  

It would be a very inspiring book to have around. I love the food!

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