Many years ago, I went to Xi’an, China, and I can recall with perfect clarity the street stall noodles I ate there. Cold, slippery, and chalk-white, they came slapped with black vinegar and red chili oil, garnished with a handful of shredded cucumber, and partnered with a few cubes of a sauce-soaking spongy substance that I surmised might be loofah or tripe.
I later learned that this dish is called liang pi, which means “cold skin,” and the absorbent cubes served alongside it are actually wheat gluten, a byproduct of making the noodle dough. And now — joy! — I have found liang pi in Chicago’s best basement food court.
Shan Shaan Taste, a new stall in the Chinatown Square–adjacent Richland Center, offers a trim menu of specialties from two neighboring western Chinese provinces with near-identical names: Shaanxi (of which Xi’an is the capital city) and Shanxi. The very good liang pi are served on their own or, better yet, on a combo plate with a tea egg and one rou jia mo — a griddled flatbread split and stuffed with fatty, flavorful pork. A finer lunch doesn’t exist, and I’ll keep eating it until I get sick of liang pi, which I assume will be never.