China is huge, yet when I think of Chinese food it’s the same stuff: lo mein and egg rolls. Our explorations of Philadelphia’s vibrant Chinatown have proved that totally wrong. Our quest to explore Chinatown started after reading Craig LaBan’s Philadelphia Inquirer article on the best restaurants in Chinatown (

Our first stop was Xi’an Sizzling Woks.  Xi’an is a provincial capital city in northwest China and is the home of the famous Terracotta Army. Because of its location at the start of the Silk Road, its food has a Muslim/Middle-eastern influence – tasted in the “Chinese Hamburgers” –  chunks of cumin-flavored beef wrapped in a soft English-muffin like bun:

Tobey & Pop Pop with noodles and (what’s left of) a Chinese hamburger

Another specialty is the biang biang noodles, which we ordered along with the hamburgers and a potato dish (China is now the world’s leading producer of potatoes).  We tried to order some of the specialties mentioned in the review, but since the menu is mostly in Chinese we had to make a few guesses.  The dishes came out one at a time. After starting on the hamburgers and the surprisingly crunchy noodle dish, our final dish came out.  This was clearly the noodle dish.  What we thought was noodles was actually the potato dish – who knew potatoes could be crunchy?  Turns out the dish is made from par-boiled (still crunchy) potatoes.  Xi’an Sizzling Woks was an adventurous start to our Chinatown quest.


Xi’an Sizzling Woks – 902 Arch Street