Cheng’s Xi’an Traditional Foods, Burwood

Howard Chen
3rd Oct 2023

Now that I no longer travel as much as I used to, one of my pleasures in life is going to a restaurant I've never been to before that caters to the local community, and very much like if I were doing this abroad, trying to work out what to order in a language everyone else knows, pointing at the menu and hoping for the best. Sydney, also known as the city of villages, is a wonderful place to do this as it has several living and breathing ethnic enclaves that also dynamically change over time.

My latest visit is to Burwood, which is a predominantly Chinese suburb and lately known for its flashy new Chinatown precinct. However, this visit was to Cheng's Xi'an Traditional Foods, just off Burwood Road and a couple hundred metres from the Chinatown precinct. Xi'an as you may not know, was the start of the northern route of the Silk Road in China and the first city in China to be introduced to Islam. Because of this historical context, it's very much well reflected in its cuisine. 

Northerners in China have a preference for wheat noodles over rice due to poor rice cultivation from lack of water, and there's also more of a preference for lamb/mutton, as it's seen as a warming meat for the cold winters and the region has a deep history of sheep husbandry. Along with the spices from the Silk Road and close proximity to Sichuan, it makes for a very interesting and bold cuisine. Having previously been to Xi'an Eatery, Biang Biang Noodles, and Xi'an Famous Foods, I have some familiarity with the most famous dishes from the region: biang biang noodles and roujiamo, also known as Chinese hamburger, but not much else.

When you enter Cheng's Xi'an Traditional Foods, please be aware that at this family run mom and pop shop they do not speak any English. While they do have English on their menu, there are no photos. I guess that's part of the adventure. My Mandarin is barely conversational so there was a lot of pointing and hoping the friendly owner could understand which one I was pointing to and just nodding to whatever he recited back in Mandarin. Coming with 5 other people and a small list of recommendations from Kevin Cheng, the order was sent off.

$9 - Xi'an Liang-Pi Cold Noodles

$8 - Xi'an Stewed Pork Burger (roujiamo)

$15.90 - Special Pan Fried Pork Dumplings

$15.80 - Prawn and Pork Fried Dumplings

$13.80 - Pork Dumplings in Special Chili Oil

$14.80 - Oil Splash Noodles

$15.80 - Xi'an Home-Style Pork Noodles

$17.80 - Lamb Pao-Mo Soup

$11.80 - Shredded Potato Salad

The Liang-Pi noodles are great. They're chewy and bouncy, though not as elastic as normal noodles since they actually have the gluten removed during the process of making the dish. It's kind of like a cross between udon and a rice noodle roll, and great for a hot day. The roujiamo is one of the best ones I've had in Sydney, so if you're curious to try, go check it out. The pork is well seasoned and not overcooked, and the bun is toasted and not too doughy.

The dumplings... WOW. I'm coming back just for the dumplings alone. The pan fried ones are crispy, full of flavour, and simply a party in your mouth. We actually ordered more. The pork dumplings in special chili oil are sensational, it's almost a satay like chili and just a real treat to devour. The oil splash noodles were bouncy and quite nice, but I do like the ones at Xi Bay just a little more as you get wider noodles there and a bit more chili and garlic flavour come through. 

The Xi'an home-style pork noodles were delicious, so delicious that we ordered another bowl. The lamb Pao-Mo Soup conceptually is great: it's a hot stew of lamb that's boiled with bones, Sichuan pepper, star anise, tsaoko, cinnamon, and other spices until the meat is tender and the broth is done. It's topped with chopped up steamed leavened flat bread (the bread from roujiamo) and then served with glass noodles and lamb meat. As someone who didn't grow up eating much lamb, this was just a bit too gamey for my taste. They do have a beef version that I'd happily opt to try next time.

All in all this was a very fruitful endeavour and I'm very pleased we bumbled our way through the menu and cannot wait to come back.