Looking for a new burger adventure? Head down to Xi'an Biang Biang in Chinatown for a chance to try the world's oldest hamburger, a 2000-year-old ancient meat sandwich. You'll also discover an entire menu of Chinese dishes you've (probably, maybe) never seen, tried or heard of before.
Xi'an Biang Biang is located at the Town Hall-end of Dixon Street, just a few doors down from the well-known compass point of N2 Gelato. It's a cheap and cheerful kind of place, packed out with students and plastic chairs at a ratio of 2:1. While most of us are well-acquainted with Cantonese or Sichuan cuisine, Xi'an Biang Biang specialises in native fare from the Shaanxi province of China. The region is known for its handmade noodles and hot, sour flavours - let me introduce you to a few of the gang.
The most famous Shaanxi dish is the biang biang noodles ($9). This simple country bowl is made from hand-pulled noodles, thick as a belt and chewy in texture. At Xi'an Biang Biang, they're served swimming in bright red oil which has been liberally seasoned with cumin and chilli. Here's a suggestion for you, don't wear white.
Another popular Shaanxi dish is the cold noodles in garlic sauce ($10). This time around the noodles are thin and coarse, accompanied with torn up pieces of solidified gluten, which, for all intents and purpose, could actually be a kitchen sponge. Both noodles and sponge are coated in a sour garlic sauce with heady notes of black vinegar. Those who like their noodles hot and comforting might find this dish a little confronting.
Naturally, we've saved the best for last. The surprise hit of the menu is the rougamo or 'burger' ($8), as they called it on the menu. This Shaanxi street food is made from a disc of pastry stuffed with pulled pork which has been stewed in soup for hours on end. The result is crunchy, crispy goodness paired with meltingly tender meat. Expect warm, fatty juices to drip down your arm. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner.
And perhaps what makes this experience even more magical is that rougamo back to 221BC making it the first ever hamburger or sandwich, or pie, or whatever else you think this exciting dish resembles. So if you consider yourself a fan of Mary's, Burger Project or Five Points, then take a trip down to Dixon Street to find out where the madness all began.
Images: Letícia Almeida.