The Chinese diaspora has been Houston’s gain. Here in this city – and in particular here in the Chinatown section of our sprawling Asiatown – we enjoy hundreds of Chinese food outlets. To get you oriented, we have an overview of the eight kinds of Chinese food you’ll find on or near Bellaire Boulevard.

Mala Sichuan's dry pot prawns. Photo by Becca Wright

Mala Sichuan’s dry pot prawns. Photo by Becca Wright


Sichuan cuisine has been the main catalyst in raising Houstonians’ awareness of authentic regional Chinese cuisine. The early success of Mala Sichuan Bistro encouraged many foodies to venture to Chinatown and opened an avenue to trying Chinese food that is not the customary Americanized version. Sichuan cuisine is immediately recognizable by that spicy and numbing ingredient that is used liberally in most of the dishes – Sichuan peppercorn. Many great quality Sichuan restaurants have emerged since Mala Sichuan first launched and have made the market for this cuisine very competitive.


Sichuan peppercorns, five-spice powder (fennel, peppercorns, anise seed or star anise, cinnamon and clove), chiles and chile paste, tofu, all kinds of seafood and meat, hot pots, dandan noodles 


Szechuan House
9252 Bellaire Blvd., C
This establishment stands as one of Chinatown’s most authentic Sichuan restaurants and one that does not compromise on their spiciness. Try the roasted whole fish with all the fixings. It’s not for the faint of heart or palate.

Mala Sichuan Bistro
9348 Bellaire Blvd.
The old guard of Sichuan cuisine in Houston now has two locations. (The second, newer Mala is in Montrose.) Many non-Asian Houstonians have been introduced to the numbing “mala” quality of Sichuan peppercorns at this restaurant. Although competition is fierce nowadays, Mala Sichuan still holds its own. Their simple eggplant in spicy garlic sauce is a classic in the Houston Sichuan food scene.

Sichuan Queen
9114 Bellaire Blvd.
Their specialty is “Wood Bucket Fish” from Sichuan, and it is available locally only at this restaurant. It’s made tableside by placing fish fillets on sizzling hot black rocks inside a wood bucket. After they’ve cooked for a few moments, the chef arrives to pour hot broth and vegetables (e.g. various mushrooms, tomatoes, peppers, ginger) into the bucket. It’s topped with a lid to cook for a few minutes. This unusual feast will easily feed four people.

Chengdu Taste
9896 Bellaire Blvd., A
This newly opened spot used to be Banana Leaf II, so the decoration inside still retains a tropical theme. It’s a franchise Sichuan restaurant that originated in California and has drawn a big crowd since its opening. You will have a good fix of mala flavors from the usual numbing peppercorn, and a good sweat to go with a delicious meal here.


Fun fact: Throughout the United States, most Chinese-American restaurants that use the word “Hunan” in their name do not actually offer Hunan cuisine. However, many authentic Hunan restaurants that have opened in recent years in Chinatown are doing well and producing another unique Chinese regional cuisine for local diners to experience. Although Hunan and Sichuan cuisine can be similar and share some of the same characteristics, such as the spicy and savory components, Hunan-style cuisine uses less of the numbing peppercorns typical of Sichuan. Hunan food is often sourer (from vinegar or citrus) and hotter (from chiles).


White rice and rice noodles, al dente vegetables, pork, fermented foods, chile oil, smoked foods


Hunan Bistro
9889 Bellaire Blvd. in the Dun Huang Plaza
This is a top Hunan restaurant that demonstrates authentic Hunan cuisine in Houston. The braised pork belly with preserved mustard greens wins fans with meat so tender that it practically dissolves on the tongue, and the pickled mustard greens complement it well. Hot and Spicy Small Fish – so crunchy, savory and spicy – is meant to be eaten whole, bones and all.

Central China
9390 Bellaire Blvd.
“The Grease Scraps of Fat Chili King” is a unique dish that will intrigue more adventurous eaters. It is basically pieces of crunchy cracklings (like chicharrón), stir-fried with diced bell peppers and green onions. These little dynamites of deep-fried fat taste surprisingly clean and un-greasy and, combined with the sauce’s spicy and savory flavors, are easy to wolf down with steamed white rice. 


Hong Kong was a British colony for 99 years, and its food reflects the influence of the British Empire. For example, milk tea is probably the most popular beverage among Hong Kong people, while sandwiches and toast are also daily food staples. Hong Kong-style cuisine is available in Houston more in a cafe or bistro setting, but there is one popular restaurant with a full menu, properly outfitted with white tablecloths, to cater to a more formal dining experience.


Various chow fun (wide rice noodle) dishes, roast duck, wontons, char siu (barbecued pork), egg tarts, dim sum and milk tea


House of Bowls
6650 Corporate Dr.
House of Bowls is best known for their variety of wok-fried noodles, like dry beef chow fun and shrimp chow fun with egg sauce. Their fried chicken wings are also beloved, with scallion or salt and chili pepper. (Order the wings first, as they take about 15 minutes to prepare.) Get their dessert toast and milk tea or YinYeung (milk tea and coffee) to finish off a nice meal.

Hong Kong Cafe
9108 Bellaire Blvd. Ste. A in the Welcome Supermarket Plaza
Hong Kong Cafe is famous for their Hai Nam Chicken Rice, which consists of an entire chicken poached and cut in pieces, then served with aromatic oily rice cooked in chicken broth, garlic and ginger. Their version of Hong Kong-style roast duck with crispy skin is well prepared here and served with more meat than the usual Peking Duck, which focuses mainly on the crispy skin with minimally rendered fat.

Hong Kong Food Street
9750 Bellaire Blvd., #100
This proper Hong Kong-style restaurant has an extensive menu that includes exemplar congee (like a rice porridge, but better than that sounds). It also serves very good Hong Kong-style barbecued meat. The BBQ Sampler is a good starting dish and is comprised of barbecued pork belly with crispy skin, roast duck and char siu (barbecued pork). 

Afandim's lamb shank

Afandim’s Tawa kawap. Photo by Melody Yip


The Uyghur (pronounced wee-gur) people live in Xinjiang, an autonomous region located in China’s far northwest. It has often been in the news, as the region has a history of discord between China’s government and this ethnic minority. The Uyghur culture is very different from mainstream Chinese – the people are Muslim, though they speak Mandarin – so their food naturally adds another exciting variety into the already diverse Chinese cuisine. Xinjiang food is heavily influenced by Central and South Asia, like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkey, yet it still reflects many characteristics of Chinese food.


Halal lamb and chicken, chewy laghman noodles, house-made yogurt, rice pilafs


Afandim Restaurant
9126 Bellaire Blvd. in the Welcome Supermarket Plaza
This little restaurant is nicely decorated with artifacts of the Uyghur culture. Tawa kawap – braised lamb with special Uyghur sauce served on grilled naan-style bread – is a memorable dish here. Try also the mur gosh korimisi, which is crispy bits of stir-fried lamb and wood ear mushrooms. Laghman – thick hand-pulled noodles topped with stir-fried meat and vegetables – is another hearty and satisfying dish.

Uyghur Bistro
9888 Bellaire Blvd. #168 in the H Mart Plaza
Their version of polo, which has lamb shank slowly wok-roasted until fall-off-the-bone tender, is accompanied by aromatic rice that soaks up all the flavors from the meat juices infused in the cooking process. It’s almost like the Xinjiang version of the famous Indian dish lamb biryani. Big Plate Chicken uses chicken pieces – skin and bone included – stir-fried with spices, then served on hand-pulled noodles.


There are many superb Guangdong or Cantonese-style restaurants in Houston, especially in Chinatown. Cantonese cuisine prides itself on maintaining the original and natural flavors of the meat, seafood and vegetables used in a dish. Therefore, a minimalist approach – like stir-frying and steaming – is mostly employed for this effect. Freshness of the ingredients is crucial, and the magic of a fantastic dish can be distinguished by the skill of an experienced chef, especially that coveted wok hei or “breath of the wok.”


Fresh and live seafood (like steamed whole fish), sweet sauces, dim sum, tofu, many vegetarian options, generally mild flavors


Arco Seafood
9896 Bellaire Blvd. in the H Mart plaza
This is, arguably, the best dim sum in Houston, despite the absence of pushcarts. Shrimp dumplings rival or are even better than those found in Vancouver, one of the most densely populated cities of Cantonese people in North America. Arco offers great quality and a variety of dim sum at very reasonable prices.

East Wall
9889 Bellaire Blvd. #301 in the Dun Huang Plaza
Order the Golden Spare Ribs that have been marinated and then coated with salted egg yolk for an intense umami bomb. It’s a must-try unique dish. Also recommended: stir-fried green vegetables, walnut shrimp, salt-toasted squid and the dumplings.

Crown Seafood
10796 Bellaire Blvd.
There are two things Crown Seafood does very well. Definitely go for the lobsters, prepared nearly any way you like. (The XO sautéed or House Special is a great option.) There are many places that do very good Peking duck, and this is one of them. The crisp skin of their well-roasted ducks is excellent, and then there is a second course made from the rest of the duck that you choose … it might be soup, lettuce wraps or stir-fried with bean sprouts.


With Shandong’s long coastline, it’s not surprising that seafood is of primary importance. Diners also relish delicacies like pig blood and intestines. The cooking style emphasizes the preservation of the ingredients in taste, color and cut. Shandong chefs go for a “quick fry” technique called bao, where ingredients are tossed in a wok filled with extremely hot oil for a short spurt of time. The result is marvelous and less oily food.


Vinegars and salt, peanuts, soybean products, both wheat and rice noodles, cabbage, seaweed. Raw meat is often tossed in flour so it forms a crust while frying.


Lu Xiang Village
6650-C Corporate Dr.
More a carryout cafe than a restaurant, this tiny spot specializes in Shandong-style food, which is also known as Lu cuisine. Come here for steamed red bean buns, pork buns, spiced meat, chicken legs, pig’s ears and more. Also serves Chinese breakfast.

one dragon in chinatown

One Dragon’s soup dumpling. Photo by Melody Yip


Shanghai is a port city in China with billions of dollars of foreign commerce passing through the city. That traffic has made the local food an amalgamation of many different cuisines. Consequently there is not really a de facto Shanghainese cuisine; it’s a little of many things. A hint of sweetness is often noted in many dishes. Buns and dumplings also play a big part as staple foods. There are several area restaurants that have the word Shanghai in their name, but only one reigns supreme.


Xiao long bao (soup dumplings), steamed, braised, roasted, stir-fried or smoked seafood (e.g. crabs, eels, sea cucumber, fin fish), fried and steamed stuffed buns.


One Dragon Restaurant
9310 Bellaire Blvd.
One Dragon’s traditionally trained chef/owner was a famous chef in Shanghai who worked at renowned restaurant corporations. He helped a few Houston restaurants become popular by his mastery at making xiao long bao (what we call “soup dumplings”) before he opened his own small restaurant. The world-class soup dumplings here are delicate and delicious, with flavorful soup and exquisite meat fillings, all encased in a thin skin that holds everything together. What a wonderful opportunity it is for Houstonians to access the amazing xiao long bao and authentic Shanghai cuisine right here in town. 


There is a respectable population of Taiwanese in Houston, but few Taiwanese restaurants seem able to stay in business for long. The good news is that we have many of them to choose from. The cuisine draws many influences from China’s middle and southern provinces, most especially Fujian (Hokkien). Most of our local Taiwanese restaurants are more cafe and bistro-like, offering a wide variety of noodle soups, dumplings, potstickers and rice plates.


The most common foodstuffs are seafood, pork, chicken, rice and soy. Subtropical fruits (e.g. papayas, starfruit, citrus) are used, as are an array of seasonings, including sesame oil, fermented black beans, pickled radish, chiles and cilantro (aka Chinese parsley). The Taiwanese enjoy lots of substantial snacks, known as xiaochi, as well as fruity boba drinks and shaved ice.


Tainan Bistro
9306 Bellaire Blvd. in the JusGo Market plaza
Gather a few friends and order beef noodle soup, katsu chicken, fish rice plate, dumplings and potstickers at this newly opened Taiwanese restaurant. It has one of the best values for the quality and quantity of food provided. Staffers are eager to help and accommodate.

Star Snow Ice & Teriyaki
9252 Bellaire Blvd., A, and others
One of the longest-standing and successful Taiwanese cafes in Houston, people come here for their beef noodle soup and katsu pork or chicken set meal. They also carry the popular shaved ice dessert, where you can choose crazy-different toppings of fruit and jellies.

Yellow River
9600 Bellaire Blvd., #121 in the Dynasty Plaza
This place is popular for people who want to get a set meal of two vegetables and two meats selection with either rice or noodles. There are more than enough choices available daily, and all those clean and fresh options are available at a super value of $5.50.


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This article was originally published in the Summer 2017 issue of My Table magazine, now on newsstands. To purchase a copy online, click here. To find one at a local retailer, click here