Houston’s Southern China Cuisine Map

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

Chinese Cuisine

When it comes to Chinese cuisine, what dishes can you think of? Orange chicken, Beijing Beef, or Fortune Cookies? All these are American Chinese foods that originated in America. Authentic Chinese cuisine is highly diverse, comprising eight Great Traditions of regional and provincial cuisines. Are you looking forward to experiencing authentic Chinese food's “color, scent, and taste”? Houston is a great place to start, as plenty of authentic restaurants are available. However, Chinese cuisines are too diverse to be included in a single blog. This blog will introduce the characteristics of different regional cuisines in Southern China, and I'll recommend restaurants that I find authentic. I will introduce Chinese food from other regions in later blogs. Let’s get started!

Cuisine of Hunan Province 

Cuisine of Hunan Province

Located in south-central China, Hunan Province is famous for its stunning natural beauties, such as the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park and Mount Hengshan, as well as its historic sites, such as the Pheonix Town and Yueyang Pavilion. Apart from these attractions, its delectable Hunan cuisine undoubtedly draws visitors to Hunan. As one of the eight Great Traditions of Chinese Cuisine, Hunan cuisine is famous for its intensely spicy flavors and deep colors, owing to the wide use of chili peppers and smoked cooking methods. Representative dishes include Steamed Fish Head with Chopped Chili, Fried Pork with Chili, and more. Alongside the main dishes, Hunan is also famous for its various snacks. Changsha Stinky Tofu, in particular, stands out as one of the most renowned Hunan snacks, known for its intense aroma and delicious taste. Other Hunan snacks include Changsha Rice Noodles and Spicy Crayfish. 

You can easily locate several restaurants serving Hunan cuisine in Houston by searching "Hunan" on Google Maps. I’ve found the Hunan Bistro and Spicy Hunan, located in the Bellaire Chinatown, very authentic.

Cuisines of Jiangsu and Zhejiang Provinces

 Cuisines of Jiangsu and Zhejiang Provinces

Geographically located in the Jiangnan area (South of the Yangtze River), Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces are renowned for their extensive networks of rivers and waterways, the architecture of whitewashed walls and black tiles, and literary culture. Often referred to as “delicately cooked freshwater fish characterize the land of fish and rice,” Jiangsu and Zhejiang cuisine. Representative dishes include Stir-fried Shredded Eel with Hot oil, Crab Powder Meatball, Fried Prawns with Longjing Tea, and more. Desserts are also a must-try! Among hundreds of Jiangnan desserts I love the most are Lotus Root Stuffed with Glutinous Rice and Mini Rice Balls with Chinese Fermented Sweet Rice Wine. Compared to other Chinese cuisines, Jiangsu and Zhejiang food tastes milder, fresher, and sweeter. This is why Jiangsu and Zhejiang cuisines are often served at the Chinese State Banquet for foreign dignitaries.  

In Houston, Taste of China (9888 Bellaire Blvd Ste168, Houston, TX 77036) is a restaurant specializing in the cuisines of Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces. I visited there once and found the food to be pretty authentic. 

Cuisine of Sichuan Province and Chongqing Direct-administered Municipality

Sichuan and Chongqing food, with its pungency and spiciness derived from the bold use of garlic and chili peppers, is arguably the most popular style of Chinese cuisine abroad. In contrast to Hunan cuisine, which also boasts a spicy flavor profile, Sichuan food sets itself apart with a combination of heavy oil and spicy peppers. Another distinction lies in using chili powder instead of fresh chopped peppers, a hallmark of Hunan cuisine. Moreover, within Sichuan and Chongqing dishes, Chongqing cuisine may result in a tingling sensation on the tongue due to the incorporation of Chinese prickly ash. 

Representative Sichuan and Chongqing dishes include Diced Chicken with Spicy Chilis, Sliced Beef/Beef Tripe in Chili Sauce, Sichuan/Chongqing Hotpot, Water-cooked Pork, and more. Notably, many delicious dishes, such as Kung Pao Chicken, Yuxiang shredded pork, Double-cooked Pork, and more, are less spicy. I also highly recommend Sichuan and Chongqing snacks. The Northern Sichuan Bean Jelly is a must-try for me whenever I visit Sichuan and Chongqing restaurants.

There are many Sichuan food restaurants in Houston. I have tried Mala Sichuan Bistro, and it’s pretty authentic. You can find more restaurants serving Sichuan and Chongqing food if you search “Sichuan” on Google Maps.

There are More Cuisines! 

Apart from these three representative cuisines, Southern China boasts a rich culinary landscape, including Fujian, Guangxi Cuisine, and Jiangxi Cuisine. You can also find restaurants serving these cuisines in Houston. Enjoy exploring and savoring the vast array of Chinese cuisines!