Xi'an Cuisine a regional take on hand-pulled noodles

CHICAGO (WLS) -- There are restaurants in Chicago making hand-pulled noodles, but nothing quite like the rugged, free-form variety at Xi'an Cuisine, tucked in among the busy shops on Cermak just west of Wentworth.

Those wheat noodles are rapidly formed by hand, then tossed into a wok filled with boiling water, as well as some earthy mushrooms and tofu skin. Meanwhile, a creamy white broth made from lamb bones is ladled out into a wide bowl.

"Since the restaurant open in the morning, and fire always running until the last minute we close the door. That's why it's white and creamy color," said Artemis Li, whose family runs the business.

The cooked noodles are strained and tossed into the broth, which is crowned with some fresh cilantro and a squirt of sesame oil.

A slightly different noodle begins with a rice flour batter spread evenly across a circular pan, steamed until set. A few minutes later, the large circle is peeled off, then stacked and sliced with a cleaver into thin noodles that are wok-fried with vegetables and chili oil.

But the most fascinating and unique item on the menu is the lamb bun.

"Outside is crispy, inside is soft. You eat it freshly. You have choice of beef, pork or lamb," Li said.

Often seen in one hand while the other slurps a soup, it begins with homemade dough, pressed like a panini. Meanwhile, a filling of ground lamb, jalapenos and scallions is cooked in the wok with cumin. The bun is slit to make a pocket, filled with the mixture of lamb and chilies, then summarily devoured. Li's parents initially debated whether or not to even open a Chinese restaurant with such a regional focus.

"My dad still like doing a Japanese restaurant, but my mom finally win and we decided to run this small restaurant," Li said.

Now obviously there are a lot of eating options near the corner of Cermak and Wentworth, but when it comes to noodles of this caliber and lamb and cumin buns this good, Xi'an is one-of-a-kind.

Xi'an Cuisine
225 W Cermak Rd.

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