Most people go to Biang!, the fancier-than-Xi'an-Famous-Foods-but-still-crazy-affordable restaurant in Flushing from the same team for the deservedly well-known lamb's face salad, excellent spiced skewers of meat, and the just-rustic-enough hand-ripped noodles.
That's what I went there for a few weeks ago.
But when I go back, it'll be for the ridiculously tasty Spicy & Sour Lamb Dumplings ($5). I'm a sucker for any type of dumpling, especially when the skins are homemade and stretchy with a nice bite to them. Luckily, that's the kind they serve at Biang!
The dumplings come six to an order, steaming in a bowl of their signature hot and sour, chili oil and black vinegar-spiked sauce, flavored with cumin and cilantro. It's a flavor profile familiar to anyone who's had Xi'an's food before. Inside, the dumplings are at a near Xiao Long Bao level of juiciness—my dad bit into one that squirted clear across the table—but rather than the sweet and savory pork broth you'd find in a Shanghainese soup dumpling, these pouches are filled with an intensely lamb-y broth that has a distinct sourness.
The lamb itself is tender and moist—almost braised in texture, rather than the ground meatball you've come to expect in a dumpling. It's an interesting surprise, and a pleasant one.
If meat's not your thing, the Bao'Ji Mung Ben Jelly ($3) is another one of my new favorites. I've been seeing mung bean jelly more and more in Chinese restaurants in New York—up until I tired this version, my favorite was the Tears in Eyes from Legend in Chelsea. The jelly has an interesting texture somewhere between tofu and Jell-O Jigglers. They're not porous and don't absorb flavors well, so they've got to be sauced in powerfully flavored stuff. Biang!'s chili oil and Sichuan-style fermented bean sauce fits the bill perfectly.
About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.