Oh, the possibilities! [Photographs: Chichi Wang]

All About Xian

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When immigrant meets hipster, the concept of repurposing gets taken to a whole new level. If you've ever eaten at Xi'an Famous Foods, chances are you've had leftover sauce or broth at the end of the meal. I'd go so far as to claim that it's impossible not to find many spoonfuls of their sauce pooled at the bottom of the containers—and if you're ordering your meal to go, they put even more sauce than you need in those flimsy plastic bags that somehow never break.

We don't think we have to tell you that the sauce, a deadly combination of broth, oil, and spices, is one of the main reasons why Xi'an is addictively delicious. And their soup stocks are particularly thick and gelatinous, with plenty of lamb-y flavor.

Sauces and stocks are gold in the kitchen: they drastically cut down on prep time and add incredible depth of flavor. As such, think of Xi'an as your prep cook—a prep cook, that is, who spent years perfecting just one sauce to be used at your discretion. And think of their soups as stocks (which is really what they are anyway) that you can use in place of meat stock.

Use up those leftovers! Ideas after the jump.

So get creative—there's nothing that couldn't use some of that spicy, oily, sour goodness, or a boost of real meat stock. Not only can you save yourself a lot of time in the kitchen, you can also make everything you cook for the rest of the week taste like Xi'an Famous Foods (and who wouldn't want that?).

Here are a couple of suggestions to get you going. And, as always, we want to know, what do you do with your leftover Xi'an sauce and broth?

The No-Brainer

Sure, you're not likely to recreate their famed liang pi noodles in your own kitchen, but that oily sauce does a fantastic job of dressing any type of rice or glutinous flour-based noodle. Stay away from fresh pasta, which will grow too rigid from the chili oil, and stick to the kinds of dry Asian noodles available at most supermarkets these days. Toss in some parboiled bean sprouts, cucumber slices, and some firm tofu, and you've got a really decent approximation of Xi'an's signature liang pi noodles.

What To Do with the Spicy Sauce


1. Dressing for raw or parboiled vegetables: this is by far the healthiest thing to do with the sauce, since it requires no additional oil. I've parboiled daikon, bean sprouts, asparagus, potatoes, etc, and tossed the vegetables with the sauce before serving. Or, take the salad route and toss assertive-tasting and hardy greens, like arugula, with the sauce.

2. Sauce for your stir-fried vegetable dishes: Same idea as the first suggestion, except use the sauce as a moistening/saucing agent in lieu of fish sauce, oyster sauce, or soy sauce when you're stir-frying your vegetables. Leafy Asian vegetables, such as amaranth greens, watercress, water spinach, etc., are especially adept at absorbing the sauce.

3. Drizzle the sauce over pan-fried fish. Use it as you would a pesto, as a finishing garnish for a piece of protein that's already been salted.

What To Do with the Meat Broth



1. Make Polenta: This is hands-down my favorite thing do with Xi'an broth. I order their soup, which isn't really my favorite thing at the shop (liang pi noodles are, of course) just so that I can take home the soup. Risotto cooked in Xi'an broth is so chock full of meat and fat flavor, no butter and parmesan are needed. Top off your Asian-style polenta with leftover meat from the original Xi'an meal; garnish with fresh cilantro.

2. Make Risotto: Continue to channel your inner Italian and use the meat broth for risotto. Like risotto milanese, which employs the veal marrow broth, using the intensely lamb-y, bordering on mutton-y soup from Xi'an will enrich your arborio far more than using chicken stock.

3. Chawan Mushi (Egg custard)
Instead of dashi or chicken broth, use the Xi'an broth to make your egg custard. The usual ratio of 1 egg to approximately 1/2 cup broth applies, depending on the size of your egg.

Final Thoughts


Pan-fried bread chunks.

Though I've separated the use of the sauce and the broth, it goes without saying that a finishing drizzle of the sauce works well on any dish that's been made with the broth, such as the polenta and the risotto.

The sky's the limit, folks. Even the chunks of bread from the lamb pao mo soup were repurposed—I drained the chunks and pan-fried them in my cast iron. Since the bread had been sitting in the soup overnight, it was plenty fatty and meaty. Over time, the liquid in the bread cooked out and the surface of the chunks got crispy and browned: a lamb pao mo hash, you could say.


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