Image credits to Wikipedia
Ladies and gentlemen, meet the most complicated Chinese character, Biáng. With 57 strokes, it is used in the name of a dish from Shaanxi, the Biang Biang Noodle (面). Note how even copy-pasting the character from Wikipedia results in the character’s inability to be displayed normally alongside the noodle character. Also, this word is not standard Chinese, so typing it into Google translate will not yield anything, nor can the online keyboard from Google yield this character. Speculations of the origins of the word include that it is the sound people make when munching on the noodles, or that it is the sound the dough makes when the chef pulls the dough and slaps it against the table. Some concluded that it was merely made up by a noodle store.
For anyone wondering “Where do I even begin to write this character??” here’s a nifty video (below) to help you out.
However, I’m not just here to talk about the “biang” character. I’m here to talk about Biang making its ways onto the shores of New York. There has been a Xi’an Chinese food chain, called “Xi’an Famous Foods,” that’s been popping around New York. They’re known for being cheap, with good portions, and offering the rarely-seen Xi’an cuisine, which often includes meat skewers, cumin lamb buns, and of course, biang biang noodles.
Most Xi’an Famous Foods chains are hole-in-the-wall kind of establishments, with nothing to write home about for its decor, ambience, or any of the other bourgeois things people talk about when assessing eateries; Xi’an Famous Foods is a no-nonsense, eat-yer-food-and-get-out kind of place.
So when that chain introduced Biang!, their upscale version of their chain restaurants (replete with a spiffy website!), serving the exact same menu, one wonders what is the point. Even more important, one wonders if they would jack up the prices, given that Biang! features mood lighting, air-conditioning, nice brick walls and made itself the kind of place you would potentially bring your date to. Well it seems that Biang! does have some slight variation in their menu, offering some food items not usually available from the laminated pictures of the food stuck onto the walls of its lesser chains, so were one so moved to go all the way to Flushing (about 40 minutes from Manhattan), one should go just for a taste of Xi’an, if not to just take a picture of the signboard with the most complicated Chinese character in existence.