Image: Alice Levitt

Whether you’ve grown up eating Americanized staples like sesame chicken or dining on dim sum weekly—or both—there’s always more to discover about Houston’s vast Chinese food scene. Here are some of our favorite places for Cantonese, Sichuan, and more.

Gangnam Style

This small spot next to Mala Sichuan in Asia Town specializes in the cuisine of Jiangnan, a region of China that includes Shanghai, Nanjing, Shaoxing, and other cities in Southeast China close to the East China Sea. Also known as Shanghai cuisine, it puts an emphasis on the color red, plus sweeter and sourer flavors, and features plenty of seafood. So look for traditional Shanghai/Jiangnan fare like red-braised pork belly, where the pork bathing in a candy-like soy sauce is extremely tender. Or opt for the outstanding soft tofu braised in creamy crab roe sauce.

Ginger & Fork

The friendly staffers at this comfortable bistro are always eager to chat about the menu of Cantonese delicacies. The owner herself might applaud your choice of the refreshing jellyfish appetizer, served cold and tossed with pickled vegetables. We also like the tender beef stewed in a steel pot with enoki mushrooms and a sweet and spicy sa cha sauce.

Mala Sichuan Bistro

Beloved for its carefully crafted, spicy Sichuan food, this foodie landmark owned by Cori Xiong and Heng Chen still packs the perfect punch with authentic preparations of mapo tofu, three-pepper duck, and stunning, tongue-tingling beef with fibrous konjac jelly. The service is snappy too.

Golden Dumpling House

This Asia Town staple is an excellent choice for affordable dumplings by the plateful. Step up to the cash-only counter and get them boiled, steamed, or fried, along with an assortment of noodle dishes and cold appetizers. When they’re on offer, order the pork and leek dumplings, and mix your own vinegar, soy, and chile sauce to go with them.

Hu's Cooking

You'll certainly get mouth-numbing Szechuan bites at this comfortable, always-buzzy restaurant near the Medical Center. Chief among those spicier items is the shabu shabu lamb, with equal parts raging peppercorn and cooling spearmint, and everything from sliced beef in hot chile oil, to mapo tofu, and to braised pork with chile pepper are bound to make you sweat. But don't forget the very delectable beef in garlic sauce with soft buns, sugary skinned duck, and Taiwanese beef noodle soup, one of many Taiwanese dishes at Hu's.

Mein Restaurant

While this Chinatown restaurant specializes in Cantonese fare, like char siu and some of the better xiao long bao in Houston (plus a ridiculous list of noodle dishes, highlighted by the near-ramen-like mapo noodle), it has something for every palate. The firecracker chicken doesn’t numb the mouth quite like the chile-inflected dishes at some of the city’s most beloved Szechuan spots, but it’s effortlessly juicy as it pops. A hearty dish of fu chow fried rice with shrimp, pork, squid, and mushroom sauce hits the spot anytime. Even the innocent beef and broccoli hor fun kicks butt. All this to say, you should keep eating at Chinatown.

One Dragon

Tucked inside the same Asia Town plaza as Mala Sichuan, this bare-bones establishment turns out some great xiao long bao. We like to carefully pick up each thinly wrapped soup dumpling, maybe poke a small hole near the top to release the heat, and then let the dumpling explode its flavorful broth. Don’t miss the crispy shrimp-and-pork dumplings or the sweet, salty cold-fried-fish appetizer either.

Qin’s Noodle Kitchen

Also known as Happy Valley, this super-casual Dun Huang Plaza spot boasts a deep roster of Chinese and Taiwanese dishes, perfect for a family meal. We love the green-onion-pancake-wrapped beef and the house noodle soup packed with scallops and shrimp in a fragrant, light broth. There’s also free hot-and-sour and egg drop soup by the counter.

Image: Alice Levitt

The Rice Box

Feeling nostalgic? This energetic, neon-lit hot spot with two locations (Heights, River Oaks) serves up excellent renditions of Chinese-American classics like General Tso’s and orange chicken, beef with broccoli, chow fun, sesame chicken, and fantastically crispy egg rolls. Remember, your takeout box folds into a plate.

Siu Lap City

The Chinese barbecue counter inside the now-closed Long Sing Supermarket has resurfaced as a brick-and-mortar lunch business, and it’s a must-visit. Get the cha siu special, incredibly juicy barbecue pork with rice and veggies—we like the eggplant and bok choy. Dining with a friend? Start with the enormous chicken wings.

Image: Alice Levitt

Spicy Girl

This laidback, Inner Loop Sichuan spot serves up hot-and-spicy dumplings soaked in chile oil and topped with peanuts for a crunchy pop. The vegetable section of the menu is full of great finds such as mapo tofu and a surprisingly light and fresh curry with Singapore-style noodles.

Tan Tan

The inside of this bustling Asia Town hang feels like an all-day diner, and its menu follows suit with a deep roster: There's beef, chicken, pork, tofu, Peking duck, and fish; hot pots and sizzling plates, like baby beef ribs, Chinese rice soup or congee; and all kinds of noodle dishes, including Vietnamese plates. Oh, and don't forget Dungeness crab made several ways, like with tamarind sauce or steamed with rice in lotus leaf. All that variety and you still should head right for one specialty item: the house special rice cake, pan-fried with eggs and served with crispy onions.

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