An unassuming place on the Ave is painstakingly hand-making some of the greatest noodles in Seattle and beyond.
In January, Eater critic Bill Addison named the biang biang noodles at Miah’s Kitchen in Redmond to his annual list of Best of the Best dishes nationwide, under the hyperbolic-sounding heading “MOST PROFOUND NOODLE REVELATION.” The handmade Northern China specialty — pronounced “BEE-ahng BEE-ahng,” for the noise the noodles make as they’re being painstakingly slap-stretched out — then were found hereabout only at Miah’s and its sibling, Qin in Edmonds.
Now they have competition: Lily Wu’s making biang biang noodles in her unassuming new U-District place, Xi’an (“SHE-ann”) Noodles. Originally from China, she moved to the U.S. after college, then followed what she calls her “dream” to Xi’an, the capital of China’s Shaanxi province, spending two full years studying how to make the noodles exactly right. She took months finding a teacher making the flavor she wanted; then came the training.
“You need to be very powerful to make the dough,” Wu says. “It’s very hard for a girl to do it. But I did it. Every morning you have to do 50 pounds. I gained muscles!”
5259 University Way N.E., Seattle (University District); 206-522-8888; facebook.com/XIANNOODLES
At Xi’an, she starts noodle-making at 6:30 or 7 a.m. daily, then works about 15 hours with her husband, chef Peter Lin. “I still love it,” she says.
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Wu’s been to Qin a couple times. “I believe mine are better,” she declares. She’s got her own, plain-spoken noodle revelation: “I tried their noodle — their noodle is not chewy enough.” As for customers who’ve been to both, she says, “They like my place better.”
The noodles: Ten kinds of biang biang noodles are available, with hot oil, meat or vegetables, some lightly sauced, some in soup. The popular Spicy Tingly Beef version gets its tingle from green Sichuan peppercorns. Wide and flat, with irregular, hand-torn edges, the noodles have a marvelous, bouncy, slightly al dente bite; they’re extremely difficult to stop eating. Luckily, each mammoth bowlful is less than $10.
Also excellent: the simply named Cold Noodles (aka rangpi). They’re also handmade, in a complicated process that involves soaking the dough, then served with a combination of 15 spices and squishy bits of main jin (or seitan).
What to skip: This is not the place to be unadventurous. Wu says there’s no time to make wontons in-house — they’re fine, but why would you order them when there’s salted soybean salad to explore?
The “burger” we tried — tasty bits of smoky, cumin-seasoned lamb — had a dry, unfluffy bun, though Wu says she’s working on that.
Prices: Spicy tingly beef biang biang noodles ($9.95), small cold noodles ($5.99), wontons ($5.99), a lamb burger ($5.50) and rice noodles with lamb in soup ($7.99) was $46.75 including tax and tip, providing an enormous lunch for three, plus leftovers.