Dishin’: Shao Bing at Shi’An

We normally run from a restaurant that’s advertised as Chinese and American. Common sense, but it also dates back to a day in New Hampshire when we walked into “Judy’s (or whatever her name was) Chinese Restaurant” and were given dinner rolls and butter along with our menus.

Shi’An Restaurant (12534 Lake City Way NE) is easy to run from. Its peeling-away paper sign barely covers the shingle of the former Baker’s restaurant. The inside décor has hardly changed, from the pinkish-red booths to the ice cream parlor feel (you can still get scoops). And there’s a bakery display case where a few cans of grass jelly drinks vie for space with incorrectly spelled croissants, muffins, and other Western treats.

You can get a hamburger or roast beef sandwich here, but there’s better to be found. Skip past the American food and the Americanized Chinese food (better yet, learn to read the Chinese menu), and you’ll find food from Shi’An, also known as Xi’an, capital of Shaanxi province and home of the famed terracotta soldiers. Look for the “Lamb with Cumin Humbow” ($4.95) and order yourself a special sandwich.

Shao Bing (not the actor) is integral to this somewhat different humbow. A round, thick flatbread (is that oxymoronic?), shao bing also plays a key role if you order the lamb stew, as you’ll have to soldier on in shredding a seemingly stale disc before the kitchen can cook it into the dish. For the humbow, the shao bing sandwiches a delicious combination of peppers and lamb seasoned perfectly with cumin.

We could eat a bunch of these (also try the “Shi’An Humbow,” made with pork), but there were plenty of other delicious dishes to try, including the hot and sour soup with dumplings – another big hit. It’s all peasant food at peasant-pleasing prices. Shame that we were the only customers for most of the evening. We recommend you run to, not from, Shi’An Restaurant right away.

Originally posted at Seattlest (where “we” = me) on September 28, 2007.

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