Houston is the most culturally diverse city in the U.S., its urban sprawl comprised of colorful ethnic neighborhoods akin to New York or San Francisco. Just like New York and San Francisco, Houston has a vibrant, burgeoning Chinatown.
A stroll through Houston’s authentic Chinatown will reveal a family-friendly residential district surrounding a giant Hong Kong Food Market that will feel as foreign as China itself.
You can watch groups of Tai Chi practitioners slowly transitioning from pose to pose in the lovely Arthur Storey Park before heading to the famous retail row of Harwin Drive to shop.
Perhaps the best cultural gift Chinatown has to offer is an authentic variety of Asian restaurants. Most are family-owned by first-generation immigrants who cook dishes straight from the homeland for nostalgic immigrant neighbors and curious visitors alike.
I recently took a culinary tour through Chinatown in Houston and found a wonderful selection of authentic Asian restaurants.
9310 Bellaire Blvd, Houston, TX 77036
Featured in the Houston Chronicle’s “Eat Your Way Through Asiatown” publication, One Dragon is a humble, hole-in-the-wall Shanghainese restaurant serving some of the best dumplings in town.
The ambiance is casual and clean in an intimate, unassuming strip center a quick drive from Clay Stadium.
Their menu features bao, dumplings, noodles, soups, and a wealth of entrees with plenty of vegan and vegetarian options.
The dish to get at One Dragon is their soup dumplings, steamed pork, and cabbage-filled dumplings in a rich, savory broth. I also loved the Chef’s special crispy-bottom pork bao.
9348 Bellaire Blvd, Houston, TX 77036
With locations in the Heights, Montrose, and in Chinatown next door to One Dragon, Mala Sichuan Bistro serves authentic Sichuan cuisine in a stunning and spicy presentation.
Mala is named for the combination of the duality of spice in Sichuan cooking, where “ma” is the flavor, and “la” is the heat.
You’ll get a perfect balance of heat and flavor in Mala’s large selection of typical Sichuan dishes presented in colorful displays of culinary art.
Their Dan Dan noodles were incredible. They handmake the wheat noodles before boiling them and mixing with mala spicy sauce and sesame paste, topped with boiled seasonal greens, Yibin preserved vegetables, spiced ground pork, and green onions.
9630 Clarewood Dr Ste A13, Houston, TX 77036
Located in a modern, industrial-chic dining space with exposed brick walls and a gorgeous mural in the heart of Chinatown close to the neighborhood fire station, Mein is an award-winning Cantonese bistro.
Mein’s authentic menu of classic Cantonese street food has garnered acclaim from Eater, the Houston Chronicle, Houston Press, and Fox 26.
Mein means “noodle” in Cantonese, and you can expect noodles in every form, whether they’re glass noodles in fried egg rolls or as a main dish like drunken noodles.
Their massive menu has stir-fried specialties like Mapo tofu, pork spareribs steamed in pumpkin, and my personal favorite, fried whole tilapia with basil, Thai chili, onion, and spicy tamarind sauce.
6650 Corporate Dr, Houston, TX 77036
House of Bowls is a casual and colorful Chinese eatery in a bright and friendly strip-mall dining space across the street from Dun Huang Plaza.
They specialize in Cantonese cuisine, serving flavorful dishes you would find in any street stall in Hong Kong.
Their pastel-colored walls and giant gold Buddha statue adorned with butterflies and flowers made from folded dollar bills provides a festive and welcoming atmosphere.
Not only can you get authentic Cantonese food, but they also serve shaved ice, Hong Kong coffee, and Hong Kong specialty drinks that you most likely have never seen. I ordered lychee ice to accompany my delectable shrimp and scallop congee.
11360 Bellaire Blvd #990, Houston, TX 77072
Located across from Chinatown’s famous Honk Kong Food Market, Crawfish & Noodles is a refined, modern Viet-Creole fusion bistro from Vietnamese transplant and James Beard Semifinalist Executive Chef Trong Nguyen.
His incredible menu of Vietnamese seafood dishes with Cajun influences has been featured on Netflix, Travel Channel, and the Food Network.
Crawfish and Noodles has a selection of imported and domestic beer, wine, and sake to accompany a truly special meal.
The food menu features a Cajun section and a Vietnamese section. While you can get a crawfish boil at plenty of locales around Texas, the Vietnamese noodle dishes here are one-of-a-kind. I recommend the Mi, egg noodles served in a house-made broth with shrimp, BBQ pork, and quail eggs.
6816 Ranchester Dr, Houston, TX 77036
Family-owned by married couple Mr. and Mrs. H Chiu, Tan Tan is a beloved Pan Asian restaurant that has been serving Chinatown since 1986.
Located inside a massive and bustling dining space with traditional Chinese decorations, Tan Tan features authentic dishes from China and Vietnam.
The menu is in English, Chinese, and Vietnamese, with dozens of options for each menu section. I especially enjoyed their enormous hot pots which you can share family-style.
I went with friends and got the seafood hot pot with shrimp, crab, fish ball, fish fille, squid, scallops, oysters, mussels, veggies, bean thread noodles, tofu, and lo mein.
11210 Bellaire Blvd, Houston, TX 77072
Voted one of America’s Best places to eat like a local by Travel and Leisure magazine, Thien Thanh is an authentic Vietnamese eatery in a colorful and casual space across from Hong Kong City Mall.
Opened in `1993, Thien Thanh has garnered accolades from Houston Press, Houstonia, Foodspotting, and The Blind Cook.
You know this is a special place because it was featured in the late Anthony Bourdain’s show “No Reservations.” The menu may be small, but anything you order is expertly executed.
Their vermicelli noodle soups were the most flavorful I’ve ever tasted. I recommend starting with a fried rice cake with shrimp.
9788 Bellaire Blvd, Houston, TX 77036
Located in a massive dining hall across the tollway from Arthur Storey Park, Sinh Sinh is a family-friendly Chinese Barbecue restaurant that is a Chinatown favorite, recommended by the Houston Chronicle.
Whole ducks and pigs hang in the windows, and the enormous kitchen is ablaze with a team of high-energy chefs managing massive woks.
The menu is as enormous as the dining space, with long lists of soups, dumplings, fried rice, noodles, poultry, seafood, vegetables, and more.
Their Peking Duck and General Tsao’s chicken were very flavorful, but my favorite dish was the salt toasted spare ribs.
9889 Bellaire Blvd STE 230, Houston, TX 77036
Tiger Den is a fashionable, modern Japanese Izakaya, serving the best of Japanese street food, cocktails, and beer in a hip and beautiful bar and dining room across from Great Wall Grocery.
The rich wood tables and cool black and white collages of Japanese characters and Tokyo street scenes make for a fun and hip night out.
Izakayas are essentially Japanese bars, serving a full menu of street fare like ramen and seafood-centric bar snacks.
You can get skewered, glazed baby octopus, which is quite delicious if you can get past the look of them. Their ramen is the best in town.
I loved the tantan-men bow with spicy minced pork, peanut, chashu, ajitsuke, Tamago, menma, cabbage, kikurage mushroom, pickled mustard stems, and scallion.
9896 Bellaire Blvd, Houston, TX 77036
Located in a bright and cheerful yet modest dining space a bock from the Sam Houston Tollway, Golden Dumpling House is an authentic Chinese restaurant specializing in dumplings.
It is a mom-and-pop restaurant with a small kitchen, friendly service, and great prices. They also do a fast take-out service and are a great place to pick up dinner on your way home from work.
Whether you want dumpling soup, pan-fried dumplings, or classic steamed dumplings served in a typical metal steam bowl, Golden Dumpling House has it all.
They also offer raw dumplings by the dozen to take home and boil yourself. I recommend getting an order of pan-fried shrimp, pork, and veggie dumplings along with a steamed chicken and vegetable dumpling to sample different kinds.
9600 Bellaire Blvd #102B, Houston, TX 77036
MIAN is a family-friendly, casual Chinese eatery specializing in Szechuan cuisine. Their gorgeous and flavorful dishes come on black clay platters, serving as a stunning picture frame for these brightly colored works of art. Located next to the Dynasty Medical Center, MIAN is as popular a dine-in eatery as it is for take-out.
The all-day menu is affordable and authentic. I started with an appetizer of steamed egg with minced pork followed by a spicy and delicious bowl of vegetarian Mapo Tofu noodles.
Their Sichuan Hot and Sour noodles are the perfect bowl of steaming spicy soup, and they’re also vegan.