We’re back! The internet’s most beloved series focused on “people arguing vehemently over food that they’ll never actually get to try” has returned from summer break! All your old friends are here: Steve “The Overwrought Tryhard” Bramucci, Vince “Bland Color Palette” Mancini, and Zach “Let’s Get Didactic” Johnston. It’s like a heist squad, except we’re stealing your time from your employer.
This month, we’re all about the noods. Fried noodles, that is, which is code for “we didn’t want anyone cooking Italian but didn’t want to call it ‘Asian Noodles’ because then you’re holding us to a certain level of authenticity and not even Zach has taken the time to study 3,000 years of Asian culinary tradition in full, so we’ll just stick to ‘fried,’ okay?” The results vary widely with everyone playing to their own distinct strengths (and unable to hide their glaring weaknesses). We also all seem deeply desirous of scoring a win — whether it’s because it would solidify our bond with a Top Chef star (Vince), confirm that we can use the sous vide on literally any foodstuff on earth (Zach), or keep us from falling so far behind that we abuse our editorial power to cancel the series completely (Steve).
Check what we made and get commenting. Because if anything can ease the pain of summer ending, it’s the chance to call someone you’ve never met a dickhead for how they cooked some noodles you’ll never taste.
BLT Showdown — 1) Vince 2) Zach 3) Steve
Mac & Cheese Showdown — 1) Vince 2) (tie) Zach, Steve
Taco Showdown — 1) Steve 2) Zach 3) Vince
Winter Stew Showdown — 1) Zach 2) Steve 3) Vince
Date Night Showdown — 1) Zach 2) Vince 3) Steve
Pasta Showdown — 1) Steve 2) Zach 3) Vince
Hot Beef Showdown — 1) Zach 2) Vince 3) Steve
Shellfish Showdown — 1) Vince 2) Zach 3) Steve
BBQ Showdown — 1) Steve 2) Zach 3) Vince
Pumpkin Spice Showdown — 1) (tie) Vince, Zach 2) Steve
Thanksgiving Side Dish Showdown — 1) Vince 2) Steve 3) Zach
Christmas Dessert Showdown — 1) Steve 2) Vince 3) Zach
Chili Cook-off Showdown — 1) Zach 2) Steve 3) Vince
Nacho Showdown — 1) Vince 2) Steve 3) Zach
Burger Showdown — 1) Zach 2) Vince 3) Steve
Breakfast Burrito Showdown — 1) Vince 2) Zach 3) Steve
We’re giving three points to the winner and one to second place for each round. As it stands, the score is:
STEVE’S BIANG BIANG CHILI CUMIN LAMB NOODLES
It was always going to be this dish for me. I’ve written about food for a long time now, and over the past five years or so I’ve never been so surprised by any order as I was by the spicy cumin lamb noodles at Xi’an Famous Foods in NYC. It’s shocking, how good this tastes. Moreover, how… unexpected it tasted for a palate like mine, which wasn’t familiar with food from the Xian region of China. I’d never tried a cumin-centric dish before and had no idea how much I’d like the spice when it was given a starring role. It’s like how Paul Giamatti was just this dude who made everything better then suddenly he screamed “I’m not drinking any fucking merlot!” and we were all, “Wow! In the right thing, this dude is a lead.”
In case you don’t know, this dish has a cult following that sprung into internet stardom. So there are plenty of riffs on the recipe available (as well as some straight up recreations that have been sanctioned by the restaurant itself). Me being me, I figured I could improve on one of the best recipes I’ve ever tasted with a few extra flourishes, so I tried that. Truthfully, my tweaks are pretty small. But I didn’t want to get pinged for Painting-By-Numbers and also following recipes is kinda boring, so I Steve’d it up a little.
Let’s start with the lamb.
I used lamb shoulder here. You need something fatty and lamb shank won’t cut it — it’ll toughen up in the pan. I was prepared to burn a ton of cash by buying lamb chops and slicing the chop from the bone (which would have worked), but luckily I didn’t have to: My Whole Foods had shoulder, which I’ve literally never seen there before and made me feel like this comp might be #blessed for me.