Review: meat and noodles on the Silk Road

I was here once when there was an earthquake. Everyone was relaxed about it.

Review: meat and noodles on the Silk Road
Stir-fried sliced lamb with scallions

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One time when I was at Noodle Art there was an earthquake. Everyone was relaxed about it.

The menus are adorned with advertisements and the water is self-serve, from a jug next to the beverage cooler. Some of the menu items are in a case next to the register, and I’ve never been sure if I should pay there or at the table. It probably doesn’t matter: the servers are easygoing and personable.

Noodle Art serves Shaanxi-style food, which means a lot of noodles and other wheat products, and a lot of meat, especially lamb, and a depth of spices and aromatics. Shaanxi is in northern China; its capital is Xi’an, the eastern endpoint of the Silk Road, which makes the religious history of the city quite interesting. (Nestorian Christians in the 600s! Two hundred years after the Council of Ephesus called them heretical!)

Highlighting the green beans might seem like a sort of mockery, but I swear it’s not. Noodle Art serves the best dry-sauteed green beans I’ve ever had. This is not a dish I’d ever contemplated much before, besides liking it.

The stir-fried cabbage and the “homemade bean curd tofu” are excellent as well.

When I went to Xi’an in my 20s, I didn’t know anything, and I only agreed to go because my China traveling buddy wanted to see the Terra Cotta Army, which is a short tour bus ride outside the city - I thought that was the only thing to do in Xi’an. I had it all wrong, as the city’s old town blew my mind: halal food, signs in Arabic, a huge mosque always full of activity. We ended up staying in Xi’an the longest of any city on that trip, learning about Hui Muslim culture and eating Hui Muslim food.

Uyghurs and Hui Muslims share a religion, but they see themselves as different groups, and so does China’s government. Hui Muslims have, since the 1980s at least, been granted much more freedom than Uyghurs. Apparently the Hui were largely spared from the concentration camps, at least until around 2018, when it seems as though the Chinese government got a little more panicky and started rounding up Muslims of any ethnicity (though still mostly Uyghurs). I’ve read that the Arabic signs have been taken down in Xi’an - this article is helpful in explaining how different Muslim groups in China are reacting to the Uyghur genocide.

Xi’an-style food isn’t exclusively Muslim, of course; it’s a city of at least nine million people. Noodle Art’s owner has said that he does not serve Muslim food per se - after all, he has pork on the menu.

Roujiamo is one of the planet’s great street snacks, and Noodle Art has it in pork, beef, and lamb. It’s often called “Chinese hamburger” (on this menu too), though of course that’s a misnomer: roujiamo’s meat is heavily spiced, stewed, and chopped; the bread is crispy. Order it for the appetizer course along with some cold vegetables.

This caption has good vibes:

Since handmade noodles are a specialty of the house, you’ll have to order at least one plate of them, and get some cumin lamb, too - maybe in the same dish, if you’re feeling economical. If you want them separate, get the stir-fried lamb with scallions (and onions) to dive right into the basics of Xi’an cuisine. Try the classic pita bread soup, too: it’s bits of pita bread in a broth with vermicelli and your protein of choice. I’ve ordered it with lamb and received it with tofu and mushrooms, and it didn’t make me mad. I’ll order it vegetarian going forward. (In Xi’an one tears up one’s own pita bread; here it comes pre-chopped. Or … mine did, anyway.) The soup is a hearty carb bomb, and I actually loved it the next day after it turned into a sort of porridge in the fridge. You know how it is, flavors are often bolder the next day.

Noodle Art is going into my regular rotation. Shaanxi food is getting more common in the SGV, but this menu intrigues me the most, and is going to take the longest to get through. The best kind of L.A. adventure.

-117 N. Lincoln Ave, Monterey Park, CA 91755. (626) 999-3099.

Thank you for reading How to Eat L.A. Going forward, restaurant reviews will be behind a paywall, so please subscribe!