5th December 2018
39/1 Dixon St
Haymarket, NSW 2000
About a month before I was due to leave Melbourne for Sydney, I saw the Sydney instagrammers on my feed go a little nutty over the newly opened Biang Biang. Apparently, no one could get enough of their Xi’an-styled wide noodles, and the burger-like pastry of rougamo. Unsurprisingly, Biang Biang has been on my to-eat list since day one, but it’s only now that I’ve finally managed to drop in to see just what the fuss is about.
Designed very much to be a eat-and-run place that’s targeted at students and nearby office workers, Biang Biang is not much more than a shopfront with rickety tables spilling out onto the street. It won’t be very comfortable in the depths of winter, but it sure gives the place a feeling of authenticity.
The menu is reasonably concise, but unless you know what you’re doing, it’s best to bring an expert. The menu is vastly different from what you can expect to see from the more well represented Chinese regions, such as Sichuan or Cantonese. And although the menu items are numbered, don’t count on the staff being able to explain the food on offer; in fact, I had to wade in and help Chris out by ordering in Chinese, as his English wasn’t getting very far.
If you’re in the ‘tofu is bland’ camp, you should give the Silken Tofu with Soy Sauce Dressing ($6) a crack. Wobbly tofu, almost custardy in consistency, sit in a cold broth of black vinegar, soy sauce, and a smidge of chilli oil. The flavour is bold, yet surprisingly refreshing – don’t knock it until you try it!
One of the signature items on the menu on the menu is the Rougamo ($8). It’s been touted by most as a Chinese burger, and whilst that’s not technically wrong, I personally think a pulled pork-stuffed roti would be a better description. The meat has been slow-cooked in a cumin-laden spice mix until it’s falling apart, its fatty juices soaking into the pastry buns that flake away in a flurry with every bite. It’s a mess to eat, but totally worth it.
I’ve had plenty of cold noodles in my time – they are after all a staple of Sichuan cuisine, which is right next to the province that I’m originally from. Yet I’ve never had anything quite like the Original Cold Noodle ($10) at Biang Biang. Instead of the slippery rice noodles I’m used to, these wheat-based noodles are misshapen and knobbly, with an appearance not unlike soggy pork rinds. Yet despite the unwelcoming appearance, this is my pick for the night – yes, even more so than the eponymous Biang Biang noodles!
The texture of these noodles was absolutely unique; an indescribable cross between chewy and glutinous. The doughy strips soaked up all the flavours from the sauce – an addictive mixture of sour, salty, numbing, and just a hint of smokiness from the chilli.
Here we are – the Biang Biang Noodle with Beef ($13). For a noodle with a name that takes 58 strokes to write in Chinese (see here), the dish is a surprisingly simple one. Hand-formed wide – and I mean wide – noodles more akin to lasagne sheets than fettucine, doused in smoky chilli oil, and in this case, braised beef as well.
But that would be selling them short, because this is without a doubt one of the best bowls of noodles I’ve ever eaten. The wide noodles were satisfyingly chewy and hearty, their irregular shape and slightly doughy texture a testament to their being freshly hand-made. It was all doused in an addictively spicy and aromatic chilli oil, and tossed with a tumble of succulent beef cubes shot through with tendon cooked down to a sticky richness.
I’m hard to impress when it comes to Chinese food. Being Chinese and having a mum who is an excellent cook makes me a very tough critic. Yet I will not hesitate to say that Biang Biang is, well, really damned good. It is a dead ringer for the authentic flavours of Xi’an, and although everything was spicy, oily, and quite heavy, the perfectly balanced and utterly addictive flavours kept me eating long after I was full. It may not be fine dining, but then again, who says everything has to be?
Rating: 14/20 – i want to biang biang all night long.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.