Not exactly a burger but more of a Chinese pancake sandwich, the Spicy Cumin Lamb Burger ($3) at Xi’an Famous Foods has been a long time favorite of mine since I first had it in the basement of Golden Mall in Flushing four years ago. Since that time, the little stall has done amazingly well — thanks to the likes of Bourdain and Zimmern — with four more locations in the New York area. One even in Midtown! God bless America. Still, in recent years, because of its proximity to the B/D line than anything else, I’ve been cheating on Xi’an with the pork pancakes at Henan Flavor (now Spicy Village). So yesterday, after a dry spell, I decided to revisit the the lamb burger at Xi’an. This time, at its East Village outpost.
As expected, it did not disappoint. The loose cumin lamb filling was plentiful (much more so than at Spicy Village, which is reflected in the price by a few cents), moist, and redolent of cumin. At first I was thinking it wasn’t as cumin-flavored as the Flushing version, but my post-lunch burps told me otherwise. As for the spice level, it definitely wasn’t as spicy as I remembered, but no fear, chili oil is available at the store. I would recommend a few spoonfuls, especially since the pancake is thicker and more dense than the one at Spicy Village. A little extra liquid is needed.
The pancake may be more dense, but what is commendable about the pancake at Xi’an is the crackly outer crust that crunched loudly with every bite.
I wouldn’t say one pancake/burger is better than the other. I like both versions. Xi’an has more meat, is more heavily flavored because of the cumin and use of lamb, and has a thicker crust, but Spicy Village has a lighter, crisp pancake that works well with the amount of filling. For days I want something heavier or want lamb over pork, I’d head over to Xi’an, other days, Spicy Village. It’s good to have options. Again, God bless America.