Regional Chinese roundup 3.0 (SF Bay Area)

Since the 1960s, the Bay Area’s repertoire of Chinese dishes has continued to expand beyond its Cantonese roots. You could eat at Bay Area Chinese restaurants every night for a month, devoting each meal to a different region of China, ethnic group, or international community, and never repeat a restaurant or style.

To help make sense of the diversity of Chinese cuisine available in the Bay Area, this project aims to document restaurants that specialize in a regional, or ethnic-based, Chinese sub-cuisine, or at least have uncommon regional dishes. The list is a superficial treatment, but it will point you to over 500 restaurants whose specialties fall outside the general Cantonese or Chinese American umbrellas.

Regions of course don’t live in a vacuum, and a chef’s pedigree (or menu) says nothing of their skills at making regional dishes. Treat these categories as rough guidance, and be warned the list includes outstanding restaurants and real stinkers. For a more in-depth discussion of a restaurant or regional cuisine, and to help separate restaurant specialties from fool’s gold, check out linked discussions on Hungry Onion or start a new discussion to get the ball rolling. I’ve also included links to Chowhound discussions and journalist reviews, and each restaurant is linked to Yelp for address and location info. For a curated analogue of the guide, consider the San Francisco Chronicle’s James Beard Award winning Many Chinas, Many Tables project, which used this list to identify candidate restaurants, and which contains short descriptions and dish recommendations for dozens of restaurants.

For additional background on cuisines, the Modern Chinese Foodways conference has a bountiful resources page. For specific dishes, I recommend looking through Carolyn Phillips’ website and book on regional Chinese cuisine, All Under Heaven. Her Vice article is an excellent primer. Also check out Clarissa Wei’s regional Chinese guide to LA and Jim Thurman’s Essential Guide to Regional Chinese Food in LA .

Some Cantonese sub-categories are included, but let’s focus on Cantonese (i.e., Guangdong) and Hong Kong in other posts since they form the foundation of the Bay Area’s Chinese cuisine, and have lots of specialty shops worthy of their own discussions (e.g., dim sum, desserts, meats, etc.). The San Francisco Bay Area Cantonese Primer is a quick primer to get you started down that route.

Please add new discoveries and let us know if anything has been mis-characterized, especially if a place’s menu doesn’t reflect the purported region. This initial post is a wiki, so I can update it with your tips to keep things current.

Pre-2020 closures are recorded in the graveyard of 247 regional Chinese restaurants and the 2014 Version 2.0 of this list is on Chowhound. See also Olivia Wu’s SF Gate article to see what the scene was like in 2002.


Northwest 西北

See also Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Daguid’s book, Beyond the Great Wall and the circa 2015 hand-pulled noodle primer.

Shaanxi 陕西 / Xi’an 西安 (most have wide hand-ripped noodles and liang pi. See also the hand-pulled noodle primer)

Gansu 甘肅 / 甘肃 and capital Lanzhou 蘭州 / 兰州

See also the hand-pulled noodle primer for five restaurants listing Lanzhou hand-pulled noodles and about ten other places with hand-pulled noodles (Lamian 拉麵 aka Shou lamian 手拉麵)

Ningxia

  • Northwest China Cuisine (Fremont) Storefront closed, but available on WeChat. An untranslated menu item 回味宁夏一品锅 (roughly, Hui taste Ningxia variety pot”), explicitly refers to the Hui people, a Muslim Chinese group who make up more than 1/3 of Níngxia’s population. Hand-pulled noodles.

Uighur ئۇيغۇر تائاملىرى 维吾尔族 / Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region 新疆维吾尔自治区

Wide ripped or biangbiang noodles, but not an otherwise Northwestern menu


Shanxi 山西

See the thread devoted to knife-shaved and scissor-cut noodles


Northeast / Dongbei / 东北 / 東北

Full menu restaurants

Shao Kao (skewer) restaurants featuring Shenyang items


Shandong 山东 / 山東

Shandong owner and/or food, with no direct nod to Korea. Most Shandong dishes are noodle, bun, or dumpling related.

Shandong &/or Chinese Korean

Shandong dishes with Hangul on the menu. All have black zha jiang mian

Korean restaurants with Chinese Korean dishes


Northern 北方

Geographical usage here, but note that the terms “Mandarin Chinese” and “Northern Chinese” are sometimes used as all-inclusive terms to describe that which is not Cantonese or Cantonese-American.

Beijing 北京

Tan Family Cuisine / Tanjia Cai 譚家菜
See China Daily (article).

  • Royal Feast (Millbrae) Award winning Chef Liu was the executive chef at Beijing Grand Hotel, and Melanie Wong found him here after savoring his food at China Village and in Fresno. See CH thread and Chowdown report.
  • Beijing Chef (Pleasanton and recent Newark location too).

Islamic Chinese 清真 / Hui 回族
A 2004 SF Gate article discusses some of the below restaurants.

Tianjin 天津

Inner Mongolia 内蒙古

Hand-pulled noodles, non-specific region

  • Bing’s Dumpling (Fremont) HO hand-pulled noodles and Xiao long bao, owner from Shandong, frozen dumplings too.
  • Din Ding Dumpling House Union City HO hand-pulled noodles and Xiao long bao, some Shaanxi dishes. Sells frozen dumplings too at Fremont location.
  • Yummy Szechuan (Millbrae) HO; CH, CH Chef Hu Wen Jun trained at Shijiazhuang Culinary Academy in Hebei. Also has hand-pulled noodles.

Other Northern and Jiaozi /dumplings or bing (might actually be Shandong or Dongbei or even Shanghai)

Jianbing, but not a Beijing generalist

See also goldthread2 and Taiwanese restaurants for dan bing.

Other Northern, descendant/affiliated with Hebei born restauranteur, Qinghe Li (h/t @souperman). Many also sell frozen dumplings, including takeout only Yummy Dumpling.


Shanghai 上海 / Jiangsu 江蘇 / Huaiyang 淮揚菜 / Zhejiang 浙江 / Jiangnan 江南

See Fuchsia Dunlop’s book Land of Fish and Rice, xiao long bao discussion, and sheng jian bao discussion.

Mix of Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang

Wuxi 無錫 and Suzhou 苏州

None currently since the closure of Rong’s (San Francisco), the more recent incarnation of Jiangnan Cuisine (SF Outer Richmond) HO Chris Ying article


Henan 河南

  • Hua Qian Dai Grilled Fish (Cupertino) according to the corporate webpage, a Henan-based international chain founded in 2012. The webpage says, “in order to adapt to wider regional characteristics and more complex taste needs, Mr. Ping Quanlai led the R&D team to personally go to Guizhou, Sichuan, Henan and other origins… to form a taste advantage over roadside stores.”
  • Neighborhood Kitchen (Cupertino) some eclectic soups, which name drop Suzhou, Beijing, Henan, and Longjiang but also tom yum and tonkotsu. Breakfast includes soy milk, dan bing, jian bing, roujiamo, youtiao, and a pork shao bing.

Jiangxi 江西


Wuhan 武汉 / Hubei 湖北


Guangxi / Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region 广西壮族自治区

Guilin 桂林

Luizhou 柳州


Hunan 湖南

See also Fuchsia Dunlop’s Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook.

General Hunan

Hunan noodle

Hunan dry pot


Sichuan 四川 and Chongqing 重慶

Sichuan dishes are popular on non-Cantonese menus, but these restaurants are more focussed. Many of these have dry pot options too. See also Fuchsia Dunlop’s Land of Plenty and the Hungry Onion Sichuan/Chongqing noodles thread. There are a few local chains in the mix, as well as a contingent of East Bay chefs who once worked at China Village.

Sichuan

Chongqing & Sichuan
These restaurants promote that their owners or chefs are trained in Chongqing, or refer to a large number of dishes as being Chongqing or 山城 (“mountain city”) style.

麻辣一品 Owned by Chef Yiwen “Truman” Du and Jenny Wu

Independent Chongqing restaurants

Sichuan dry pot 干锅
Dry pot is available as a part of many Sichuan, Hunan, and other restaurant menus. These restaurants appear to specialize in dry pot.

  • General Pot (Fremont) same owner as Aceking and Chef Liu

Chongqing hot pot

Sichuan hot pot


Guizhou 贵州省


Yunnan 雲南 / 云南

See also Georgia Freedman’s Cooking South of the Clouds: Recipes and Stories from China’s Yunnan Province

The following have no indicators of a Yunnan kitchen (I think they’re all Cantonese/Hong Kong), but I’ll list because they serve a few dishes containing Mixian noodles:


Teochew 潮洲 / Chiuchow / Chaozhou / Teo Chow / Chinjiew

See also The Cleaver Quarterly’s article on Teoswa cuisine, Diana Zheng’s Jia! The Food of Swatow and the Teochew Diaspora, and the Netflix documentary Flavorful Origins.

Teochew etc. / Vietnamese / Trieu Chau
My understanding is that these reflect the cuisine of Teochew speaking people who immigrated to the US from Southeast Asia.

Teochew-Singaporean

  • Lion Dance Cafe (Oakland) “Flavors from our teochew-singaporean family recipes, nostalgic hawker favorites and the legacy of the chinese american diaspora”, pre-order or show up. Limited hours. Vegan!

Hakka 客家

See also Linda Lau Anusasananan’s the Hakka Cookbook.


Taiwanese 臺灣 / 台灣

See also bubble tea, shaved ice, Taiwanese fried chicken and various Taiwanese bakeries and desserts. See also Steven Crook & Katy Hui-wen Hung’s A Culinary History of Taipei: Beyond Pork and Ponlai and prolific podcaster Cathy Erway’s Food of Taiwan: Recipes from the Beautiful Island

Taiwanese bento/steam plate/specialty snack, not tea-focussed

Taiwanese “military dependent’s village cuisine”
See description of this cuisine on Chowhound

Taiwanese Hotpot


Cantonese 粵 / Guangdong 廣東 / 广东 subsets and offshoots

See KK’s Regional Cantonese primer. Some scattered Shunde and Zhongshan Cantonese dishes in Millbrae at Gourmet Village, the Kitchen.

See also dim sum, Cantonese seafood, Chinese bakeries, Chinese BBQ or roast meats, wo choy, clay pot, banquet, congee / jook / porridge, Taishan / Toishan, Cha Chaan Teng, HK Cantonese, Hong Kong cafe, Hong Kong western cuisine


Other

See also hot pot, dry pot, and Chinese hybrid cuisines such as Peranakan / Nonya (Singapore / Malaysian Chinese), and of course Chinese American, American Chinese, the elusive “NY Cantonese”, Kosher Chinese, Chinese fusion.

Chinese Vegetarian (notables)

Chinese Vegetarian

Indian / Desi Chinese

South American Chinese

Shao Kao 烧烤 / Chinese Skewers 串
See Chowhound and SF Chronicle coverage. Many of these have Dongbei side dishes and soups.

Malatang

Hot pot (unknown or non-specific region)
Please open a new thread if you have info on these places!

To be categorized later
Please open a new thread if you have info on these places!

  • Five Grains Noodle House (Fremont) From their yelp page, “We serve noodles made from rice, buckwheat, corn, sorghum and peas.” Part of the Hubei headquartered Wugu Yu Fen group
  • Hunan Chef (Pleasanton) Mostly Chinese American, but scattered other stuff like Chinese breakfast on weekends (fan tuan, soy milk), northern noodles from Qi Shan to Chao Ma Mian, big sesame pancakes, fish gluten
  • MOMO Noodle (SF, Mission Bay), a food truck, mentions “family recipes” for what they refer to as “bàn miàn”. Anyone have insights into their brief menu? I thought “bàn miàn” was the same as “lo mein” (the Cantonese dredged egg noodles, not the Northeast Chinese American derivative), but the dishes, have more of a Sichuanish persuasion, perhaps the owner’s contemporary spin.
  • Noobowl in Westfield Oakridge (San Jose) and SF Westfield mall (San Francisco)
  • Sizzling Pot House (Santa Clara)
  • Taste (Palo Alto) HO Sichuan and various northern specialties. Chef used to work at Chili House in SF.

International chains
In 2013, @chandavkl asked why there weren’t more Chinese restaurant chains. By 2016, he commented on the influx, and in 2018, several have opened, which matches a broader trend of chain Asian restaurants opening in the SFBA. Here’s a running list. I’m generally leaving out pastry/dessert and tea shops, as they’re too numerous to keep track of.

US Chains (from outside the SFBA, not including cafes/tea)

US Chains (started, and expanded from, Bay Area)

Local “Chains” / Restaurant Groups (three or more restaurants with same owners) yet to expand outside SFBA

Large menu virtual restaurants with in-house chefs or partnered with restaurants
Most of these allow you to purchase from different restaurants/chefs all in the same order.

Odds and ends

Category description in progress— contains Celebrity chef, contemporary Chinese-American, and renowned Chinese chefs.

  • China Live (SF Chinatown) HO
  • Eight Tables (SF Chinatown) Si Fang Cai or ‘Private Chateau Cuisine’ tasting menu upstairs of George Chen’s China Live.
  • Mister Jiu’s (SF Chinatown) Brandon Jew’s one Michelin star California take on Cantonese, with upstairs Moongate Lounge
  • Royal Feast (Millbrae) Chef Liu was the executive chef at Beijing Grand Hotel, and Melanie Wong found him here after savoring his food at China Village and in Fresno. See CH thread and Chowdown report
17 Likes
  • The 248 replies from April 2016 to December 19, 2017 are archived here
  • The 207 replies from Dec. 17, 2017 to Dec. 7 2018 are archived here.
  • The 170 replies from Dec. 18, 2018 to Nov. 12, 2019 are archived here
  • The 121 replies from Nov. 14, 2019 to May 2, 2021 are archived here
  • The 64 replies from May 8, 2021 to Jan 6, 2023 are archived here
  • The 36 replies from Jan. 8, 2023 to Jan 2, 2024 are archived here

36 posts were split to a new topic: Regional Chinese roundup 3.0 (SF Bay Area)- Jan 2023 - Jan 2024 archive

Openings

  • Master Gua Malatang (San Leandro) malatang & skewers
  • Lizhou City (Union City) the shuttered Fremont Halal restaurant reopens in Union City. Sichuan + northern chinese items among a vast menu.
  • Taste of Old Street (SF Outer Richmond) Sichuan + sauerkraut fish soup + hot skewers + cold skewers (the bundled kind that’s served upside down in liquid)
  • Orange Square (Milpitas) Taiwanese bento
  • 7 Noodles and Sizzling (San Jose) Taiwanese
  • Ten Seconds Yunan Rice Noodles (San Mateo) 4th SFBA location of international chain. Five years ago, there were two dedicated SFBA Yunnan eateries. With the opening of this 4th location of the Ten Seconds chain, there are now eleven, including several mom and pop restaurants.
3 Likes

Closures

  • Chef Wu, one of the few places to get Taiwanese breakfast in the SFBA, has closed.
  • Little Dipper Shabu Shabu (Fremont) is closed. Cupertino and Dublin locations had existed too.
  • Dumpling Time Express (SF Design District)
2 Likes

Openings

  • Chef Chen’s Chinese Cuisine (Fairfield) the pork hock and the “West Szechuan Style Fish Filet in Chicken Broth” suggest the chef worked at Albany’s China Village or one of its 680 corridor descendants. The focus is Sichuan, and unlike some of those other restaurants, Shandong/Korean Chinese dishes don’t have a notable presence.
  • Chuan Xiang (Newark) Sichuan/Hunan
  • More a note than something for the Original Post, I spotted “cumin spiced lamb biang biang noodles” while dining at Quail and Crane, the restaurant at SFO’s Grand Hyatt. It listed as components “house-made noodles | soy sauce | black vinegar sichuan peppercorn.” Nine years ago, there were only about ten SFBA restaurants that had biang biang noodles.
  • YGF Malatang opens their 4th SFBA location in Dublin

Closures

4 Likes