Chinese cuisine is generally fantastic — especially so in Austin where there are plentiful restaurants serving up a variety of amazing regional fare from the East Asian country. There’s a place for everyone, whether you’re a fan of the dishes, looking for epic banquet hall food, or missing comforting classics your families would make at home.
From sliced beef in chile sauces and wrapped-on-the-spot dumplings to perfectly crispy Beijing ducks and hand-pulled noodles, here’s where to find the best version of classic Chinese dishes in Austin.
Casual restaurant Taste of Home Dumpling House lives up to its name with homemade dumplings freshly folded and batch-cooked to order. Jiaozi are conch-shaped dumplings with thin skins made of dough that doesn’t rise, which are then typically boiled or pan-fried (potstickers). All Chinese families know that the best jiaozi are made at home (read; you don’t order them in fancy restaurants in China). Order the dumplings boiled, fried, or steamed, and then peek into the kitchen to watch the staff hand-making your order behind the plexiglass wall. Everything on the menu is good, but top hits include the juicy lamb cilantro dumplings and fragrant pork-shrimp-chive dumplings which are made with generous chunks of shrimp.
10901 North Lamar Boulevard, Suite B203, North Lamar; takeout orders can be placed online and there are indoor dine-in services
Soup dumplings are divine, bite-sized flavor bombs loaded with minced meat filling and broth. To avoid injury from potentially too-hot soup, try cooling the soup dumplings by adding black vinegar to your soup spoon before popping the bites into your mouth. Modern Chinese sibling restaurants Qi and Lin Asian Bar, owned by Chinese restaurateur and chef Ling Wu, offer similarly delightful versions with pork or seafood delicately wrapped in thin handmade dumpling skins. Likewise, Steamie’s Dumplings, a Taiwanese retail shop where you can watch each batch being made behind a glass window, also offers freshly made soup dumplings in a more casual environment for on-site or at-home enjoyment.
Qi: 835 West Sixth Street, Suite, Downtown; takeout orders can be placed online and there are indoor dine-in services
Lin Asian Bar: 1203 West Sixth Street, Clarksville; takeout orders can be placed online and there are indoor and outdoor dine-in services
Steamie’s Dumplings: 6929 Airport Boulevard, Suite 148; Highland, takeout orders can be placed online and there are indoor and outdoor dine-in services
Beijing duck is a great example of banquet cooking: a whole duck basted in layers of a savory-sweet marinade, slow-roasted for hours in a specific rotisserie, and then finished with a quick bath of boiling oil to crisp the skin. The expertly carved whole duck is typically served with paper-thin pancakes, chopped scallions, and sweet bean sauce for a build-your-own taco experience. Chinese restaurant Bamboo House did so well when it opened its original location in Houston that it decided to open an Austin branch. The city’s long-awaited restaurant had lines out the door when it first opened in September and did not disappoint — it definitely serves the best Beijing duck in town. The resulting dish comes with perfectly crispy skin atop tender meat without any trace of the bird’s gaminess so even the duck-averse crowd will enjoy it. The skin melts like meat candy, and you can dip it in some sugar or one of the provided sweet and savory sauces. Who needs dessert?
7010 Easy Wind Drive, Suite 100, Crestview; takeout orders can be placed online and there are indoor dine-in services
There are so many distinct regional variations of Lanzhou lamian in China, and everybody has an opinion on what makes the beef hand-pulled noodle soup dish good. The Northern-style iteration hails from the Lanzhou province — hence the name — where it is all about the noodles. Traditionally, wheat was grown in northern China, so those regions are adept at producing wheat products like noodles and flatbreads. For Lanzhou-style hand-pulled noodles, the dough needs to be worked aggressively where the chef pulls the dough in straight, rapid tugs while slamming it against the prep board to ensure even stretching, resulting in a springy texture. Depending on your preference. In Austin, mini-chain Xian Sushi and Noodle chefs Ting and Ye Lin, who were professionally trained in China, and their staff hand-pull noodles as tin as fine vermicelli or as thick as bigoli.
Okay, so, dim sum isn’t a dish, but the meal is a crucial part of Chinese cuisine and it’s basically like brunch. Classic dim sum dishes include lo bak go (aka turnip cakes, which are pan-fried shredded radish and rice flour clumps), shu mai (steamed dumplings in wonton wrappers filled with minced meat or prawns), soup dumplings, and garlic eggplant (where the vegetable is stir-fried in a sweet-and-savory garlic sauce). This can be all found at the Austin location of national supermarket chain 99 Ranch, where the hot deli line is easily accessible without having to book a week in advance like other dim sum restaurants.
6929 Airport Boulevard, Suite 110, Highland; takeout orders can be placed and there are indoor dine-in areas
Liangpi zi, or cold mung bean noodles, are cut from gelatin-like blocks of mung bean that are tossed in chile oil. Served cold with a variety of regional toppings, liangpi zi is the perfect summer dish. Chinese food truck Chef Hong serves a Northern style that is spicier, heavier on the chile, and lighter on toppings, while Xian and pan-Asian restaurant Noodle Alley offer liangpi zi topped with shredded chicken, peanuts, and cucumber; Noodle’s one is also Sichuanese, which means spicy.
Chef Hong: 907 West 24th Street, West Campus; takeout orders can be placed in person
Xian: multiple locations throughout Austin; takeout orders can be placed online and all have indoor dine-in services
Noodle Alley: 1201 North Bell Boulevard, Suite 100, Cedar Park; takeout orders can be placed online; there are indoor and outdoor dine-in services
Dry hot pots
The Sichuan province is known for its infernally hot chiles and numbingly cool peppercorns. The dry hot pot is a one-wok dish where proteins and/or vegetables are cooked over high heat and tossed in a variety of those spicy ingredients along with other aromatics. Sichuan restaurant House of Three Gorges offers dry hot pots of shrimp, beef, pork ribs, pork intestines, cabbage, and cauliflower served piping hot in cast-iron woks. The Sichuan peppercorns are the real deal and perfectly complement the scorching chiles. If you’re scared of spice, just ask the staff to leave it out.
8557 Research Boulevard, Suite 144, North Austin; takeout and delivery orders can be placed online and there are indoor dine-in services
Fu qi fei pian
Fu qi fei pian, aka “husband-and-wife slices,” is a perfect marriage of chile oil and sliced beef. It got its moniker from a married street vendor couple in Chengdu who popularized the dish. Made from thinly sliced beef and innards (mostly tongue or tripe) marinated in chile oil and aromatics, the two elements go hand-in-hand as the chile oil tenderizes what is usually a tougher cut of beef, and the thin slices allow flavor and juices to soak in. Sichuan restaurant House of Three Gorges serves a spicy version with plenty of peppercorns, and if you’re looking for a milder dish, get fu qi fei pian as a side with the Beijing duck at Bamboo House (see above).