Houston’s Northern China Cuisine Map

By Bohan Zhang, Ph.D. Student in the Department of History

Double Cooked Pork Slices/GuoBaoRou, taken at the Lucky Bento VIP Cuisine by the Blog author

Among the eight Great Traditions of regional cuisines in China, Shandong Cuisine (Lu Cuisine) stands out as the sole representative from the north, holding the top position owing to its extensive history, intricate culinary techniques, and premium ingredients. Regrettably, there’s a lack of specialized Shandong Cuisine restaurants in Houston. However, don’t lose hope! Many northern Chinese cuisines have roots in Shandong Cuisine while showcasing their unique characteristics. As a native northerner, I’m delighted to present some of the northern Chinese cuisine in this blog. Houston boasts numerous restaurants where you can savor the flavors of northern China! 

Cuisine of Northeast China

Northeast China, encompassing the three northeastern provinces (Liaoning, Jilin, and Heilongjiang) along with the eastern sector of Inner Mongolia, boasts an expansive terrain teeming with resources, extensive grasslands, forested areas, and an intensely cold winter climate. Consequently, Northeastern Cuisine, while originating from Shandong Cuisine, bears its distinct characteristics. The widespread cultivation of soybeans in this region results in their pervasive use, notably in the form of soybeans and soy sauce within the cuisine. Drawing upon the culinary styles of Han Chinese, it integrates dietary elements from various ethnic groups like Korean, Mongolian, and foreign influences, forging a distinctive culinary tradition. The cold climate, on the one hand, slows down the growth of plants, making the quality of the seasonal food better than in other regions; on the other hand, it also creates the characteristic of food with a strong taste, heavy oil, and high-fat content.

In essence, Northeast cuisine embodies a diverse array of flavors marked by distinct notes of saltiness and sweetness, a wide range of ingredients, rich and robust tastes, deep colors, crispy and fragrant. Renowned for its adeptness in utilizing high-quality seasonal produce, this cuisine masterfully incorporates scallions, ginger, and garlic to intensify flavors, while the addition of soy sauce enhances its color. Notably, Northeast cuisine is famous for its unbelievably large portions, delighting diners with its abundant servings. Among its standout dishes are Double Cooked Pork Slices, Crisp Fried Pork, Local Three Fresh Foods, Stewed Hazelnut Mushrooms with Chicken, Pickled Chinese Cabbage with White Meat, and Northeast Meat and Vegetable Stew, each representing the richness and diversity of this culinary tradition. 

In Houston, I’ve tried the Lucky Bento VIP Cuisine (9262 Bellaire Blvd) and found the food there very authentic. 

Cuisines of Beijing

Chinese Cuisine

Beijing, situated in northern China, is the capital of China and has been a central hub across five ancient dynasties. Being the capital, Beijing boasts a profound and diverse culinary heritage shaped by its extensive history. Drawing in people from all corners of the country, the city’s cuisine boasts distinctive characteristics, blending elements of palace gastronomy with everyday snacks, and offering a vast array of dishes. Notable among these are Shredded Pork with Sweet Bean Sauce, Instant-boiled Mutton, and Royal Style Barbecue, with Peking Duck reigning as the most renowned. There’s a saying that experiencing Beijing isn’t complete without eating Peking duck or climbing the Great Wall, underscoring the iconic status of Peking duck within Beijing cuisine. Additionally, famous Beijing snacks like Pease Pudding, Quick-fried Tripe, and Wheaten Cake Boiled in Meat Broth further contribute to the city's rich culinary tapestry.

In Houston, there are several restaurants specializing in the cuisines of Beijing. I have been to Peking Cuisine (8332 Southwest Fwy) and Courtyard Cuisine (3412 Hwy 6 Ste. A, Sugar Land, temporarily closed for renovation since November 2023), both of which offer authentic Beijing food. For Peking duke lovers, Bamboo House near George Bush Intercontinental Airport (7855 N Sam Houston Pkwy E, Humble) is also a great restaurant to explore. 

Cuisine from Beijing

Cuisine of Tianjin

Tianjin is renowned for its diverse array of snacks! A stroll through the city reveals hundreds of local delicacies. Among the multitude, the "Three Unique" Tianjin snacks that every visitor must try include Shibajie Fried Dough Twist, Goubuli Bun, and Erduoyan Fried Rice Cake, each accompanied by its own legendary tale. Yet, the most beloved snack in Tianjin, surprisingly, is a much more affordable option – the Pancake Rolled with Crisp Fritter (JianBing Guozi). This beloved snack begins with the pouring of batter, typically made from rice or beans, onto a circular hotplate. Skillfully spreading the batter across the surface using a spatula, an egg is then cracked on top. Green onions, a crispy cracker, and any preferred additional ingredients are added before the snack is neatly folded into a pocket-like shape. Due to its delicious taste and affordable price, this snack has emerged as one of the most popular options for a quick meal for Chinese people all over China.

There are several restaurants in Houston that serve Tianjin-style Pancake Rolled with Crisp Fritter. I highly recommend Lau’s Kitchen (6348 Corporate Dr)! The owner comes from Tianjin, and he specializes in making authentic Tianjin pancakes! 

Enjoy exploring Northern Chinese food in Houston! If you want more information about Southern Chinese Cuisine in Houston, check out my previous blog here and stay tuned for my next blog exploring foods from Northwestern China!