Food & Culture

Seattle’s 45 Best Global Dishes: Chinese

By Seattle Mag March 5, 2017


This article originally appeared in the March 2017 issue of Seattle Magazine.

In the past half-decade, one of the great leaps in American dining culture has been the widespread understanding that Chinese food is not a one-dimensional cuisine and does not need to include General Tso’s chicken. Rather, the cuisine of a country with more than 1 billion people varies from the warm, urban coasts of the south to the high mountains of the west, much as the dishes of the American South differ from those on tables in New England and California. Sichuan, Xi’an and Anhui all have unique culinary traditions, and Seattle is lucky enough to have restaurants that offer food from each of those regions, and others.

This north-central province prides itself on being just a little bit different, one example being a set of culinary customs referred to as the “10 Weirdies of Shaanxi.” Among the “weirdy” traditions are these “noodles as wide as a belt.”

Hot-oil-seared Biang Biang noodles 
Miah’s Kitchen
The technique used to stretch these thick noodles, by slapping them repeatedly against a hard surface (hence the onomatopoeic moniker), results in a ropy, twisted noodle full of irregularities into which the pepper-infused oil can pool. The noodles, made from just flour and water, are chewy but snappy, and the mound of chiles and chopped scallions resting on top provides the intoxicating aroma and ensuing flavor. $7.99 

Pair it with: Get a little meat into your meal by starting with a spicy cumin beef sandwich on house-made flatbread. Redmond, 2022 148th Ave. NE; 425.644.6090; 

This northeastern port city is famous for its snacks, including this handheld treat whose popularity has spread around the country.

Jian Bing Guo Zi 
Dough Zone Dumpling House
The menu at this local mini chain draws from multiple regions in China, and represents the hometown memories of its crew of owners: xiao long bao (soup dumplings) from Shanghai, dandan noodles from Sichuan and jian bing guo zi from northern China. In the case of Jason Zhai, that hometown is Tianjin, and the dish is jian bing, whose crêpe-like wrapper is spread with egg, smeared with sauce and wrapped around a Chinese doughnut. On the streets of northern China, this is breakfast—and it’s everywhere. $4.75. Crossroads location only: Bellevue, 15920 NE Eighth St., No. 3; 425.641.8000

Tianjin breakfast dish, Jian Bing Guo Zi

One of the more popular regional cuisines, the food of this south-central province is known to most people for one thing: its unrestrained use of hot peppers. Nowhere is this truer than in the regional variation of hot pot.

Hot Pot
Style Hot Pot 
The minimally remodeled interior of this former diner makes for a slight disconnect, as this place specializes in spicy, steamy pots of boiling broth—without eggs and bacon or a cheeseburger in sight. Diners dip raw ingredients into that broth—there’s a mild chicken version and the bright red, pepper-packed spicy version (choose one or order half of each)—to cook them at the table. Ingredients for dipping are presented on a checklist and range from the common (beef, chicken, pork, cabbage) to the more rarely seen (pig brain, shrimp paste and pig’s blood). The make-your-own-sauce bar at the back of the restaurant lets diners further customize the meal, which also includes a few free appetizers to nibble on until the broth begins to boil. Prices vary.

Don’t miss: Tong ho, or chrysanthemum greens, work well in hot pot, as does frozen sponge tofu, whose texture after thawing absorbs more of the flavor of the broth. Bitter Lake, 930 N 130th St.; 206.257.3888

The cuisine of this mountainous eastern province is known as one of the healthiest of Chinese cuisines, because many dishes call for braising and stewing rather than frying.

Pickled Fish Rice Noodles Soup 
SilkRoad Noodle Bar 
Though what’s pickled in this soup is unclear in the English translation on the menu, it’s the vegetable, not the fish itself. Both the bite-size pieces of fish and the pickled greens come floating in a subtle, light broth along with spaghetti-thick rice noodles, whose remarkable chewiness is more like ramen noodles. Owner Frank Zhu hails from Anhui, but as the restaurant’s name suggests, the menu wanders into other regions, including Yunnan, for that province’s most famous dish, Crossing the Bridge noodles (here called Yunnan rice noodle). $8.99 University District, 4507 University Way NE; 206.547.1966;

Pickling and braising are two signature techniques from China’s northeast, home to a hearty wheat-based cuisine full of potatoes and root vegetables.

Lamb with Sour Napa Cabbage Earthen Pot 
Beijing Duck Palace 
While American food-handling laws prevent any place in the states from selling real Peking duck, you’ll find a decent impression here, called roasted Beijing duck. But forget the fancy namesake duck; the rest of the menu shows off more of the stick-to-your-ribs everyday cuisine of China’s chilly northeast: twice-cooked pork, Chinese-style kung pao chicken and sweet potato with caramel sauce. The stone pot with lamb and sour cabbage is Dongbei comfort food at its most soothing—pungent and meaty, hot and heavy, but most of all, simple and reassuring. The powerful, sauerkraut-like fermented greens stand up to the burly flavors of the meat, tempering the fattiness that leaks into the broth, the opposing forces calming each other—and, of course, the diner. $15.95 Bellevue, 12121 Northup Way, Suite 205; 425.628.2816;

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