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The Best Xi'an Chinese Restaurants in London


There is a reason we get so excited heading to Xi'an on our China Trips with students.


Xi'an cuisine, rooted in the ancient capital of China's Shaanxi Province, offers a rich and diverse culinary tradition that is renowned for its bold flavors, unique ingredients, and historical significance. There are several reasons why Xi'an cuisine is considered exceptionally delicious:


Historical Influences

Xi'an, as the starting point of the Silk Road and the capital of multiple dynasties, has a culinary heritage that reflects a fusion of various cultures and influences. This historical melting pot has introduced a variety of spices, techniques, and ingredients that have enriched the local cuisine. The result is a complex and layered flavor profile that is both unique and satisfying.


Use of Spices and Seasonings

Xi'an cuisine is known for its liberal use of spices and seasonings, particularly those that add depth and heat. Ingredients like Sichuan peppercorns, cumin, and chili are staples, providing a characteristic boldness to many dishes. These spices not only enhance the flavor but also create a sensory experience that is both aromatic and invigorating.


Diverse Ingredients

The region’s agricultural bounty contributes to the variety of ingredients used in Xi'an cuisine. Local produce, meats, and grains are integral to many dishes. For example, the use of lamb and beef reflects the influence of Muslim culture, while wheat-based products like noodles and breads highlight the region’s staple crops. The freshness and quality of these ingredients are key to the cuisine’s appeal.


Signature Dishes

Xi'an is home to several iconic dishes that have gained widespread acclaim. These include:

  • Biang Biang Noodles: Thick, hand-pulled noodles that are often served with a spicy, tangy sauce.

  • Roujiamo: Often referred to as the Chinese hamburger, this consists of a seasoned meat filling, typically pork or beef, inside a flatbread.

  • Yangrou Paomo: A hearty stew made with crumbled flatbread and tender pieces of lamb or beef, seasoned with an array of spices.

Each of these dishes showcases the unique textures and flavors that define Xi'an cuisine.


Cooking Techniques

The cooking methods in Xi'an cuisine, such as braising, steaming, and stir-frying, play a crucial role in developing the rich flavors and tender textures that are characteristic of the food. The meticulous preparation and attention to detail ensure that each dish is a well-balanced and harmonious creation.


Culinary Tradition and Innovation

While steeped in tradition, Xi'an cuisine also embraces innovation. Chefs often experiment with new combinations and contemporary presentations while staying true to the fundamental principles of the cuisine. This balance between tradition and modernity keeps the cuisine vibrant and exciting.


Cultural Significance

Food in Xi'an is deeply intertwined with the local culture and daily life. Festivals, family gatherings, and religious practices often feature specific dishes that carry cultural and symbolic meanings. This connection adds an extra layer of enjoyment and appreciation for the cuisine, as it is not just about taste but also about cultural identity and heritage.


 

But you don't necessarily have to go to Xi'an to enjoy all the deliciousness. Here are our top 5 favorite Xi'an Chinese restaurants in London:


Xi'an Impression

best xi'an food in london

Location 117 Benwell Rd, London N7 7BW


The first time you go to Xi’an Impression you’ll notice that it’s smack bang opposite Arsenal’s football stadium. Ignore it. Football fan or not, this little Chinese restaurant is one of the most compelling things around Highbury and Holloway. It’s a white-walled, 12-or-so table affair. It doesn’t take bookings, doesn’t pretend to care how your day was, and has the thing that matters most: conversation-cancelling food.


Things like silence, addiction, and obsession are often seen as negative characteristics, but after a bowl of Xi’an Impression’s signature liangpi cold noodles you’ll understand that this is a misrepresentation. There are few better things than having your thoughts dominated by a bowl of chewy noodles and gluggable chilli oil, and much of the Xi’anese menu is full of dishes like this. 


There are serious decisions to make here. The liangpi are in a constant Beyoncé and Solange-like battle for your attention with their biang biang sibling. A bowl of these chewy belt noodles is a meal in itself and is up there with the best single bowls you can get in the city. But then what about the crisp pot-sticker dumplings? Or cucumber in an irresistible sesame and chilli sauce? Even a Cantonese classic like sweet and sour chicken is a cut above the rest here.


This is a shoebox restaurant. So it’s worth knowing that you probably don’t want to come here in a group bigger than four without calling ahead. And, as with everywhere that’s BYOB, there’s the temptation to pitch up when you’re in a group, despite the small charge for corkage. That said, you want to share Xi’an Impression around—with friends, family, and with yourself. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been in London for 10 minutes or 10 years, this is a restaurant for anyone who’s a fan of special food.

What to order


Shredded Xi’an bread in beef or lamb broth (niurou paomo/yangrou paomo 牛肉泡馍/羊肉泡馍): Literally ‘soaked flatbreads with beef/lamb’, this substantial soupy dish is Xi’an’s most famous speciality. Small, firm flatbreads are torn into tiny pieces and reheated in a wokful of broth with slippery sweet potato noodles and slices of either beef or lamb (Xi’an locals tend to prefer lamb in winter and beef in warmer weather). Diners add chopped coriander and pickled chilli sauce to the dish at the table, and eat cloves of sweet-sour pickled garlic on the side.


Xi’an ‘burgers’ (roujiamo肉夹馍): These ‘Chinese hamburgers’ are made from round flatbreads with crisp golden crusts, which are stuffed with meltingly tender pork (lazhirou) or cumin-scented beef. With the pork burgers, always ask for the fattier pork if there’s a choice, because the juices soak magnificently into the bread.



best xi'an chinese food in london
biang biang mian


Biang biang noodles (biang biang mian): These long ribbons of dough are freshly pulled, split and boiled. They can be served in many ways: one of the most delicious is simple ‘oil-splashed noodles’ (youpo mian 油泼面) which are finished with a fizz of hot oil on chopped garlic, spring onions and ground chilli.


Qishan noodles (qishan shaozi mian 岐山哨子面): these finer noodles may be served ‘dry’ or in a refreshingly sour broth, with a sauce of finely-diced meat and vegetable ingredients. They are named after their place of origin in Shaanxi Province.



 best xi'an chinese food in london
凉皮 liàng pí

‘Cold skin’ noodles (liangpi 凉皮): Versions of this dish, served as a snack or an appetiser, are found across northern China. The cool, slippery white noodles are cut from thick sheets of steamed wheat starch batter, and are normally tossed with spongy pieces of boiled gluten (mianjin), slivered cucumber, chilli oil and other seasonings.


Potsticker dumplings (guotie 锅贴): Xi’an offers some of China’s most delicious potsticker dumplings, which are unusual because they are left open at both ends. With their crisp, fragrant bottoms and slightly sticky wrappers, they are irresistible, particularly when dipped in refreshing vinegar.




Master Wei

best Xi'an food in London

Find all the deliciousness on Master Wei's Menu


For a casual meetup, this is one of those rare gems in London that is centrally located and affordable. It has lots of delicious vegan options for groups with mixed dietary requirements and also the capacity for al fresco seating. Most importantly though, everything on the menu is delicious. Specialising in cuisine from the Xian region in North-Central China, they serve huge bowls of thick biang biang noodles (coated in chilli oil) in large, generous portions. Don’t forget to enjoy the refreshing cold starters before your noodle mains: including vinegar wood ear fungus, smacked cucumber salad and chilli poached chicken strips. 


Holborn: 13 Cosmo Pl, London WC1N 3AP


Hammersmith: Hammersmith Rd, 邮政编码: W6 8PW


Manhattan Mandarin Tip For a lighter meal than the biang biang noodles, get the cold liangpi noodles instead, either sesame or chilli. For meat eaters, it’s worth adding the poached chicken strips.




Xi'an Biang Biang

best xi'an chinese food in london

Location: 62 Wentworth St, London, E1 7AL


It would be remiss of me to introduce Xi’an Biang Biang without first talking about its big sis, Holloway’s Xi’an Impression. If you’ve been, you’ll know it as a foodie mecca, a place where the attention-seeking flavours of northern China will be burned into your taste buds and possibly your soul. But then you’ll also know that it’s mercilessly small, leading to an inevitable near-constant queue, and that its address is great if you’re already near N7, but isn’t exactly central.


So this, its spin-off, is a saviour on many counts. It’s big, meaning you can usually walk straight in, and it’s in Zone 1 (at the lower end of Commercial Street, on what an enthusiastic estate agent might call the south side of Spitalfields). And yes, in spite of the tweaked name, it has an almost identical menu. The only difference? More noodles. Because biang biang are wide, wet, spicy noodles, originally from China’s Shanxi region.


The cooking remains brilliant. There’s the dark, dangerous-looking ‘refreshing black fungus’, which looks like a plate of frilly-edge cloth granny brooches, with a mouth-feel that’s part chew, part crunch. Flavours are delicate: these are deep, brooding canvases for the chilled dressing; light and laced with vinegar and fresh herbs. Honestly, do order it. When all the stodge arrives later, you’ll be glad of its subtle sharpness. Another must-order is a cold starter of moist shredded chicken – its temperature (or lack of) allows the carefully balanced levels of spice and fragrance (from Sichuan peppercorns to tiny strips of celery and scallion) to come through in rippling waves.


But enough about that. You came for noodles. Like the signature hand-pulled biang biang, also known as ‘belt’ noodles. They’re not just wide, they’re long. Like, loooooong. Even if you’re a master chopstick-wielder, I challenge you to pick up a whole one without cutting it first. (Seriously: there’s a reason these tables are wipe-clean.) They’re hand-pulled in the open kitchen, then slathered with any number of sauces and toppings, all delicious. Best of the lot has to be the beef and chilli (veggies: there’s a meat-free version too). Against the satisfyingly thick and chewy noodles, and the tender hunks of beef, you also get flavours that are complex. The heat doesn’t just smack you in the face, it builds slowly, like a piece of music. In the distance, there’s the gentle hum of allium (you’ll find lots of braised scallion), alongside alternating spikes of tang sat over smooth licks of oil, with the occasional punch of dried roasted chilli. It’s intense and intriguing, but hugely satisfying. It’s a triumph.

There are also hand-pulled ‘thin’ noodles, not unlike spaghettoni (spaghetti’s thicker cousin) and cooked to just past al dente. Soft, but not too soft. Again, these are served more ways than Starbucks makes coffee, from soup to classic toppings of minced pork and veg. The ‘special sesame sauce’ version, unique to this branch, is, yes, very special. It manages to somehow be both rich and light, with a milky nuttiness and a fragrance you feel you could inhale.


As it happens, the street food small plates, like pudgy, pork-filled dumplings in a pool of mellow chilli oil, or moreish golden-edged chicken and vegetable pot-stickers (fried dumplings), shine equally bright. Only the service, which varied wildly from friendly and helpful to brusque and indifferent, needs work. And don’t expect sophistication either: this is a drinks-in-the-chiller-TV-screen-overhead kind of a place.



Dream Xi'an

best xi'an chinese food in london

Dream Xi’an Unit 2A, Tower Place, London EC3, 020-8143 3966. Open all week 11am-9pm (8pm Sunday). About £30 a head plus drinks and service.


Dream Xi’an is so close to the Tower of London that Anne Boleyn could feasibly have popped by for her last supper; nearby neighbours to this new restaurant include Traitors Gate pub and a handful of hungry ravens. Opening Dream Xi’an, a culinary paean to the capital of Shaanxi province, so close to one of London’s most hectic tourist attractions is a bold move. Before it set up shop here, this was a Gourmet Burger Kitchen. It’s a great location, with legions of tourist passersby, but maybe not the sort who’d rush, as their first option, to a spot selling chewy tripe, pig ear and beef tendon.


One of Dream Xi’an’s unmissable dishes, the biang biang noodles, are yet to enter mainstream western consciousness, which is wildly remiss because, once eaten, biang biang become a compulsion. You have my warning. For the uninitiated: imagine fat, slithery udon noodles, but much bigger and flatter – wider than pappardelle pasta, wider than a child’s belt – served in long, unbroken stretches. If anyone in the UK can start your journey into Shaanxi cooking, and especially these wonky, slippery suckers, it is chef/owner Guirong Wei, of Master Wei and Xi’an Impression, in central and north London, respectively. I have yet to leave any of Wei’s places not delightedly flecked with umami, sweet, hot and vinegary sauces. Often the heat comes from chilli flakes, providing a fiery, crunchy glaze to the joyous carb as you chew and slurp. Here at Dream Xi’an, there are at least 12 biang biang and liangpi dishes, with minced pork, lean beef and vegetarian options.


best xi'an chinese food in london

The sauteed spicy Xinjiang-style noodles, which come with chunks of softened potato and plentiful chicken thigh on the bone, are incredible. Fans of Wei’s other restaurants will notice classics such as the spicy cumin beef burger and Xi’an hand-shredded chicken. New dishes here include paomo soup made with soft stewed, leavened flatbread and beef in broth, a recipe dating back to the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period between AD907 and AD979. You’re not getting recipe development like this at nearby Wagamama.Dream Xi’an is really rather elegant: a large room in dark wood with Chinese-style panelling and murals. The staff are kind, happy and helpful, whisking me bowls of wobbly, spicy wood ear mushrooms – the goths of any Shaanxi menu, with their ominous black casing and bathed in a piquant vinegar. Cold shredded chicken in neat moulded ovals arrives doused in a slightly tepid ginger sauce, with bamboo shoots and sesame seeds. The Xi’an special fried beef bao are really not going to aid in your bid for killer abs this summer, but who cares, because these breaded, spicy, pleasingly oily, glorified croquettes of shredded beef are worth every calorie. There’s a short section of steamed dim sum and dumplings. I was less in love with the empress dumplings filled with chicken, prawn and carrots, though, because they were a little dry and unseasoned.


Still, at this point – 5pm on a Tuesday – I was almost the only diner in this vast room, being cared for like a child, with regularly refreshed pots of jasmine tea and offers of glutinous rice cakes with brown sugar dipping sauce. I challenge you to find a nicer way to spend a couple of hours in this postcode; in fact, this is the perfect place to restore sanity after an afternoon at the Tower, learning about the fate of Henry III’s polar bear or which heretic was stretched, burned or beheaded there. I love the Tower of London, but it is not a feel-good day out – unlike time spent eating beef biang biang or slurping a bean thread noodle and seaweed soup.


Dream Xi’an aims to “immerse you in the birthplace of the Silk Road, in ancient Chang’an and envision the grandeur of the Great Tang Dynasty”. I can’t say I felt fully transported to the city of Eternal Peace, but I did see several tourists gaze longingly at the menu before being dragged instead towards Zizzi. I knew I was in a much happier place.



Murger Han

best xi'an chinese food in london

Location 8A Sackville St, London W1S 3EZ, UK


Murger Han, nestled in the sophisticated locale of Sackville Street in Mayfair, stands as a beacon of Chinese culinary excellence, far removed from the typical Chinese eatery. This restaurant has earned acclaim for introducing the rich and diverse flavours of Xi’an cuisine to London. At the heart of Murger Han’s menu is the “murger,” a historical precursor to the modern burger. This dish features a delectable “muo” flatbread filled with succulent slow-cooked pork or, for those who favour a bit of heat, spicy beef. The murger isn’t just a meal; it’s a piece of culinary history, offering a glimpse into the age-old traditions of Northwest China.


A Modern Ambiance with Rustic Touches

Beyond its signature dish, Murger Han captivates diners with an array of enticing options. The hand-ripped “biang biang” noodles, drenched in a vibrant chilli oil, are a must-try for lovers of spice. The menu also boasts claypot-baked dishes and aromatic lamb skewers, each offering a unique exploration of Xi’an’s culinary landscape. The Mayfair branch of Murger Han marries modern aesthetics with rustic elements, creating an inviting atmosphere. Exposed brick walls and emoji cushions add a contemporary flair, while dark wood panelling lends a classic touch. Whether you’re a connoisseur of Chinese cuisine or simply eager to try something new, Murger Han in Mayfair provides a memorable, flavourful journey that will leave a lasting impression.


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