Because the birthplace of the oldest Chinatown in the US, San Francisco and its surrounding areas have many family-owned eating places that includes dishes that symbolize the variety of China’s regional delicacies. With out leaving the Bay Space, diners can slurp up unctuous hand-cut noodles and soup dumplings or strive Sichuan peppercorn-filled dishes that can depart the mouth tingling and numb.

Due to the primary Chinese language immigrants, who arrived largely from Toisan, Zhongshan, and different areas of Southern China within the mid-Nineteenth century throughout the top of the Gold Rush, the Bay Space has scores of Cantonese eating places. Then, beginning within the Nineteen Sixties, immigrants from completely different elements of the nation started arriving in bigger numbers, bringing their meals with them.

Chinese language regional delicacies might be roughly categorized into eight types: Sichuan, Canton, Hunan, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Fujian, Shandong, and Anhui. Whereas these classes symbolize among the best-known dishes and types of Chinese language cooking, there are, after all, many areas of the nation that fall exterior these classes, together with a lot of Northwest China. As Al Cheng, a Bay Space meals lover and co-founder of Mates of Roots, says: “You possibly can’t actually categorize 5,000 years of historical past and meals.”

This information, put collectively by Cheng with some historic and background assist from Florence Lin’s Chinese language Regional Cookbook, goals to assist diners navigate menus and discover dishes that is probably not acquainted. Some ideas: Go along with a gaggle and share dishes, and ask waitstaff if the menu contains any regional specialties — or test the menu for an inventory of regional dishes.

The eight most important regional cuisines and the place to strive them


Chuan Tsai, or Sichuan, delicacies contains well-known dishes reminiscent of freshwater fish in spicy and sizzling soup, inexperienced beans with minced meat, and twice-cooked spicy pork. There are various kinds of sizzling and spicy: “mala,” or mouth-numbing, utilizing peppercorns, or dried sizzling pink chiles that depart a gentle burning sensation. As one of many extra standard types of Chinese language cooking, many Bay Space eating places serve Sichuan dishes. Go to Chong Qing Xiao Mian for spicy Sichuan noodle soup or Huangcheng Noodle in Oakland for Chongqing noodles.

Head to Newark’s Customise Malatang or Tang Bar at Stonestown Galleria for malatang, a street-style noodle dish that’s just like sizzling pot. Each locations have customizable malatang, which implies you select your components, that are then weighed by the pound. Lastly you choose proteins, contemporary greens, and broth — or select “dry noodle” type, akin to a stir-fry. The dish prices roughly $20 per serving, relying on the burden, or you possibly can pay a flat charge of about $22 per bowl should you order to go. Tang Bar additionally serves Sichuan dishes reminiscent of pig ear in spicy Sichuan chile oil.


Often called Yue Tsai, Cantonese meals typically options contemporary seafood and is among the hottest cuisines of China. Dim sum alone is an in depth class with many nice Bay Space choices. Attempt Koi Palace in Daly Metropolis or Peony Seafood Restaurant in Oakland Chinatown for an important basic expertise. For extra trendy dim sum dishes, go to Palette Tea Home and Dragon Beaux, each in San Francisco. Ming’s Tasty in Oakland is an effective informal dine-in or to-go joint, the place you may get three steamed barbecue pork buns for $3.95.

A spread of dim sum served in bamboo steamers

Dim sum at Koi Palace in Daly Metropolis.
Invoice Addison

For different Cantonese fare, R&G Lounge in San Francisco’s Chinatown is thought for its salt-and-pepper crab and baked cod. Riverside Seafood Restaurant has conventional braised squab, a dish from Zhongshan, for $14.50. Go to Harborview in San Francisco is thought for roasted pig, however name forward to test availability. Among the finest locations to get roasted duck is at Oakland Chinatown staple Gum Kuo, the place you possibly can decide up a chook by the pound or sit down and luxuriate in an in depth menu of steamed rice noodle rolls with completely different fillings and a savory-and-sweet soy-based sauce.

Toisanese meals contains clay pots; strive one at Far East Café, which has been open for greater than 100 years in San Francisco’s Chinatown. The big restaurant could be a formal banquet expertise or informal eating for a drop-in customer — all at inexpensive costs. A beef clay pot, for instance, is $18.50. The restaurant additionally options some hard-to-find American Chinese language dishes, reminiscent of “E Fu wonton” soup and egg foo younger.


Fujian, additionally situated in Southern China, has its personal specialty delicacies and dishes, generally known as Min delicacies. One of many area’s most well-known dishes is Fuzhou fish ball, a fish paste filled with pork and infrequently eaten in soups or sizzling pot. Tasty Pot, a sequence of sizzling pot eating places, serves Fuzhou fish balls.

Buddha Jumps Over the Wall is a seafood soup that features abalone, sea cucumber, and historically shark fin, although it’s outlawed in California. You could find the dish, typically eaten throughout the Lunar New 12 months, at Koi Palace for $43 a bowl. Capital Restaurant serves a Fujian-style egg tofu dish that pairs effectively with rice for $16.95. Hakka and Chao Zhou-style cuisines additionally come from China’s southern area. Attempt Hakka-style stuffed hen at Hakka Restaurant in San Francisco, although you’ll need to order upfront. For Chao Zhou porridge and dishes, go to Porridge and Issues in Millbrae, the place the menu contains an abalone and hen porridge. Different Southern dishes embrace mei tsai kou rou, or tender pork stomach with pickled mustard greens, served by Nice China Restaurant in Berkeley.


Hunanese meals is well-known partially for its spicy, mouth-numbing qualities — suppose massive chile peppers and peppercorn dishes with aromatics like shallots and garlic. Signature dishes embrace smoked pork stomach and steamed fish head with chopped chile peppers. Among the finest locations to strive it’s Wojia Hunan in Albany, a sit-down restaurant with dishes like “toothpick” cumin lamb, basic “Chairman Mao’s braised pork” (Chairman Mao grew up in Hunan), and steamed fish head. Head to Millbrae’s Fantastic for an array of Hunan and Sichuan dishes, together with lotus root with smoked pork stomach in an iron pot or Hunan chilly noodles.

Shandong (and different Northern areas)

What’s to not love about dumplings and hand-pulled or knife-cut noodles? At Oakland Chinatown’s informal Shan Dong, strive the handmade noodles with sesame paste or home particular pancakes filled with leeks. Within the Sundown District of San Francisco, you’ll discover many eating places specializing in dumplings. Yuanbao Jiaozi retains the menu concise, and you’ll watch employees within the again deftly wrapping dumplings. Attempt the shitake and sole dumpling or pork-and-three-delicacies dumplings.

Peking duck is a signature Northern dish. Though Hong Kong East Ocean Seafood Restaurant in Emeryville is a dim sum spot, they make an important Peking duck with steamed lotus buns.


Candy and bitter hen from Mamahuhu.
Patricia Chang

Jiangsu, or Su Tsai, delicacies contains that of Shanghai and Suzhou. Some imagine this area is the origin of sweet-and-sour and hong shao, or pink cooking, completed by sluggish braising in soy sauce till the dish is caramelized. One standard Jiangsu dish is lion’s head meatballs, which might be present in San Francisco eating places reminiscent of Rong’s, a Shanghainese restaurant that additionally serves red-cooked braised pork stomach. Mamahuhu’s sweet-and-sour hen with rice and the sweet-and-sour fish at Spices 3 in downtown Oakland additionally symbolize the basic taste profile rooted on this area’s delicacies.


Zhe delicacies contains Hangzhou, Shaoxing, Ningbo, and Wenzhou types of cooking. One of many area’s most well-known dishes is dong po rou, or pork stomach. Do that dish at Chili Home in San Francisco, together with a dong po pork shoulder, or at Noodles Recent in Berkeley and El Cerrito, which serve dishes from many various areas.


Tofu dishes are a specialty of the Anhui area. Some of the well-known is a “furry” beancurd, or fried comfortable tofu with a layer of mildew. One other is an egg dumpling with wrapper produced from a skinny omelet. Sadly, the Bay Space doesn’t at the moment have a restaurant specializing in Anhui delicacies.

Further regional cuisines and the place to strive them

Framing Chinese language meals round eight cuisines overlooks a lot of the Northwest, which incorporates an abundance of halal meals and dishes that function lamb and cumin. For flavorful noodles and soups, go to Northwest China Delicacies in Fremont, which makes a speciality of Ningxia and different Western Chinese language meals. Attempt the lianpi, or chilly noodles, which originate from Shaanxi Province, and tomato and egg with contemporary noodles. Darda Seafood in Milpitas additionally predominantly serves Northwestern Chinese language meals and is halal, that includes favorites reminiscent of da bing, an enormous slab of thick sesame bread. Previous Mandarin Islamic in San Francisco is the go-to for a lot of looking for Chinese language halal meals, and Terra Cotta Warrior, additionally within the metropolis, options a number of biang biang, or flat noodles, and a cumin lamb dish. For spicy knife-cut noodles and house-made chile oil, go to Huangcheng Noodles in Previous Oakland.

Close-up view of knife-cut noodles being picked up by a pair of chopsticks

Knife-cut noodles at Huangcheng Noodles in Oakland.
Patricia Chang

For different Northern-style regional cuisines, go to Hubei Restaurant in Millbrae, which serves meals from Wuhan, together with lotus root and spareribs soup and hanyang pearl rice meatballs coated in sticky rice.

For Taiwanese meals, go to Purple Sizzling Wok, a divey restaurant and bar in Cupertino, for some three-cup hen, or san bei ji. Additionally in Cupertino, 02 Valley presents large Taiwanese-style bentos that includes components reminiscent of pork stomach out of a small store in a strip mall. Good to Eat Dumplings in Emeryville serves trendy Taiwanese small plates like night time market-style grilled squid and lu rou fan, or minced pork over rice.


Although Mongolia will not be a part of China, the nation’s proxominty and deep cultural ties to China imply the 2 cuisines have closely influenced one another. The practically ubiquitous sizzling pot originated in Mongolia and was historically made with mutton. Within the Bay Space, there are various sizzling pot eating places serving a wide range of types. Attempt DNM Sizzling Pot in San Francisco, which serves basic Interior Mongolia sizzling pot and different dishes. Broth bases begin round $10 and a plate of proteins or greens begins round $5. In addition they serve barbecue lamb ribs.


The Lanzhou area is thought for hand-pulled noodles, which you’ll be able to strive at Ox 9 Lanzhou Handpulled Noodles in San Mateo, Cupertino, or Milpitas. A brothy bowl with slices of beef and QQ chewy noodles prices $19.99.


For excellent Tibetan meals, go to Nomad Tibetan in Berkeley. The restaurant serves a formidable lamb shank dish in a flavorful sauce and meat or vegetarian momos.


Guilin, situated within the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Area simply exterior of Sichuan, is thought for its rice noodles. Basic Guilin Rice Noodles in Oakland, San Mateo, or Milpitas is among the solely locations specializing in Guilin delicacies. Attempt the meat and tripe noodles, which include a broth on the aspect that ought to be poured over the rice noodles.


Yunnan province in China is thought for rice noodle soups, which you’ll be able to strive at Yunnan Type Rice Noodle in El Cerrito. The restaurant serves 10 varieties, some spicy and others not, beginning at $12.99 for the unique, which comes with greater than a dozen small aspect dishes so as to add in.