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Review: Xi’an Sizzling Woks


Spicy, flavor-packed wonton in chili oil

On the corner of 9th and Arch is another in a long row of Asian restaurant storefronts, most unassuming and maybe even a little intimidating to unknowing passers-by.  Any follower of Craig LaBan, however, will have heard of Xi’an Sizzling Woks, either from his two-bell review or his phenomenal guide to Chinatown.

Unfortunately, our trip to the sparse restaurant (two rows of tables is all you get) was on an off day, and we got cloying special attention from our server—pointing out LaBan’s article, describing each dish in minute detail, even cutting our noodles for us and teaching us chopsticks (which we already knew) when the food came.  The only upside was an offer to watch the chef make noodles—one we would’ve quickly taken up had we not been pressed for time.

Aside from the overbearing service, though, the food is excellent and one of my current go-tos for delivery, as they have no problem making it to Fishtown.  The Xi’an cuisine occasionally wanders into Sichuan, but if you’re looking for the heat of Han Dynasty, you’re going to be disappointed here (their Dan Dan noodles also fall a bit short).  But as far as flavor goes, you can’t go wrong.  You’ll realize that when you walk by at lunch time and see every table full.


Song Sao soup. Don't judge a book by its cover.

Song Sao soup. Don’t judge a book by its cover.

SONG SAO FISH FILET SOUP – I will order this soup every time. The broth has the semi-thick feel of egg drop soup, but the ingredients are so much better.  Chunks of white fish and chewy mushrooms with bits of crunchy celery punctuate the somewhat sour, savory-umami soup. One of my favorite bowls of soup in the city.

BIANG BIANG NOODLES WITH GARLIC SAUCE – According to some stories, the name of these thick, handmade noodles comes from the sound they make when the chef bangs them against his table.  We think it’s from the noodles and the sweet-tangy garlic sauce punching you right in the tastebuds.  The noodles are also accompanied by bok choy (one of our favorites) and if you order delivery, the sauce comes on the side so it doesn’t get weird on its way to your house.

WONTON IN CHILI OIL – Another classic, but a little different than what Han is doing. Xi’an gives you bigger, fluffier wontons and less oil, opting more for a dry rub kind of feel rather than little beef packets swimming in oil.  The result is that the wontons are packed with flavor from the spices and you don’t have to worry so much about dripping oil all over yourself.

SHANGHAI BOK CHOY WITH GREEN SOY BEANS – This is pretty much what it sounds like—sautéed bok choy and edamame tossed together in some sesame oil.  It’s not impressive to describe, but if you want a vegetable side and enjoy the crunchy bok choy and nutty sesame oil, this is one that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Xi’an Sizzling Woks | 902 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107 | 215.925.1688

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This entry was posted on June 3, 2015 by in Asian food, Review and tagged , , , , , .
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