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.