The Best & Most Popular Chinese Food Dishes in San Francisco

Han Lijun

Noodles: A key component of top Chinese food dishes

Being the foodie adventurist that you are, you finally decided to explore, discover, and review the best Chinese food in San Francisco restaurants . First, you begin by finding a popular and established Chinese restaurant, such as Chili House SF, which has a reputation of serving delectable and authentic dishes. Second, as you sit with the menu in your hands, you’ll have to choose the popular dishes that don’t only have wonderful presentation (ideal for taking pictures), but also best represent the cuisine. Hence, here are some popular Chinese food dishes that you ought to try:

Kung Pao

Also written as Gong Bao, Kung Pao dishes hail from Guizhou cuisine, one of China’s eight famous cooking styles. The main ingredients used for Kung Pao could be chicken, prawns, scallops, and tofu, to name a few. These are then stir-fried with peanuts, vegetables, and chili peppers. Needless to say, spicy Kung Pao is not for the weak-hearted as it will deliciously numb your taste buds yet leave you wanting more.

Chow Mein

From instant noodles to pop songs, Chow Mein is a tasty noodle dish that definitely made a name for itself. Here are the basic facts on one of the most popular Chinese food take-out options from an article posted at Cultural-China.com:

Chow Mein is a rich source of nutrition and has many health benefits including improving digestion, anemia and immunity. Extremely popular in China and all over the world, this stir-fried noodle dish comes in many varieties. Cantonese Chow Mein is the most famous in Western countries.

In American Chinese cuisine, Chow Mein consists of noodles, meat, onions and celery. It is served as a specific dish at westernized Chinese restaurants. The East and West Coasts of the United States do have some differences in preparation of this dish. On the East Coast, Chow Mein is almost always prepared in the “Hong Kong” style and crispy. On the West Coast, Chow Mein is almost always steamed and soft.

Most restaurants in China cook this dish by deep frying the noodles; the fastest way to obtain the beautiful golden yellow noodles associated with this aromatic dish.

Peking Duck

One can’t talk about the best and most popular Chinese food dishes in San Francisco without mentioning Peking duck. Now considered as a cultural symbol of traditional Chinese food, the aromatic and savory meat of a roasted Peking duck is a sure delight to the senses. It’s recommended that you first dine on the thin, crispy skin dipped in sugar and garlic sauce (or the signature sauce of the restaurant you’re visiting), followed by the tender meat.

(Source: Top 10 popular Chinese dishes on foreigners’ tables , Cultural China)

Chinese Food Catering-Spicing Up Your Life and Health with Hot Dishes

Han Lijun

When you choose to have Chinese food catering services from restaurants like Chili House SF for a special occasion, you must already expect that at least one or a few of the dishes to be served are on the spicy side, especially if it’s Szechuan cuisine, which is known for the liberal use of chili peppers and spices. Then again, if you don’t have a sensitive palate and actually love the slow yet satisfying burn of chili oil and whole peppercorns, you’re in for a delectable meal—and a number of health benefits.

Helps with Weight Loss

Capsaicin is the active compound present in chili peppers that is responsible for the hot or burning sensation you feel as you munch on spicy food. This compound increases your body temperature and heart rate, thereby boosting your metabolism (by as much as 8 percent) and helping you burn more calories. Moreover, a spicy meal encourages people to eat and be satisfied with smaller portions, which means less calorie intake.

Good for the Heart

Studies revealed that people in certain countries that eat the most spicy foods have much lower incidence of stroke and heart attack. Once again, capsaicin saves the day. A study published by the American Chemical Society showed that capsaicin helps reduce the buildup of LDL (bad cholesterol) while increasing blood flow; thus, improving cardiac function.

Prevention of Cancer

As you dip dim sum from San Francisco restaurants in chili sauce, place it in your mouth, and slowly savor its flavors as you chew, you’re also taking in anti-cancer compounds. In fact, chili peppers with their capsaicin aren’t the only spices that are lauded for their cancer prevention properties. An article by Robert Hughes posted at SFGate states that:

Some spicy foods have anti-cancer potential. Turmeric, a peppery-flavored spice native to India, contains the active antioxidant curcumin, which has shown some anti-cancer effects in lab studies. Though small studies have shown positive results, according to the Mayo Clinic, curcumin requires further investigation before being used for cancer treatment. The American Cancer Society suggests that capsaicin may help slow the growth of prostate cancer cells.

From keeping you fit to aiding your body in fighting off the most dreaded disease, the benefits of spicy food can’t be ignored. On the other hand, if chili peppers aren’t your spice of choice, you can always rely on the mild yet gratifying heat of other spices, which are also used in Chinese cuisine, such as garlic, ginger, star anise, and cloves, to name a few.

(Source: What Are the Health Benefits of Spicy Food?, SFGate)

Getting to Know Hot Pot Dishes in San Francisco Chinese Restaurants

Article about hot pot preparation at Chinese restaurants

For most people, dining at Chinese restaurants in San Francisco , such as Chili House SF, often equates to ordering the more well-known (and widely loved) items on the menu: chow mein, dumplings, kung pao chicken, and sweet and sour pork. However, if there’s one type of dish on the menu that Chinese cuisine lovers must try—which can be succinctly described as “satisfying, hot goodness”—it’s the hot pot.

The Chinese Hot Pot

Sometimes referred to as steam boat or Chinese fondue, hot pot is a kind of stew that is traditionally served in a metal or clay pot of boiling broth/soup base. The pot is placed at the center of the dining table as plates or bowls of fresh and raw ingredients, including thin slices of meat, vegetables, and seafood, are laid out around it. Diners cook the ingredients they prefer by placing them into the simmering pot, and then dipping the cooked meat or vegetable in a tasty sauce.

History: Beginnings of the Boiling Broth

It’s been said that the Chinese hot pot boasts a history of more than a thousand years. An article posted at CultureofChinese.com has this to say about hot pot history:

The hot pot originated from the Mongolians and first appeared in China early Qing Dynasty. It became popular after Manchu army passed the Shanghai Pass in 1644.

Early in the 18th century of China, during the reign of Emperor Kangxi and Qianlong, Hot Pot was already featured upon their royal cruisine [ sic ]. Hot Pot later also became popular in Muslim restaurants.

1854, Zhengyang Restaurant was opened outside Qianmen in Beijing. This became the first Han restaurant with Hot Pot. The restaurant was renowned and exceptionally famous for its mutton being sliced as thin as paper.

Hotpot today has become widely popular in most of China.

Hot Pot in San Francisco and Beyond

As a matter of fact, hot pots are not just in China anymore. Thanks to authentic Chinese restaurants in San Francisco and other places, people from all over are able to enjoy this delicious and heartwarming dish. A bite into the tender, freshly cooked meat and a sip of the warm, savory broth are sure to lift one’s spirits—especially on a cold, rainy day.

Etiquette: Eating It Right

If you’re ordering a hot pot to share with friends, ask your companions if there’s any food in the pot that they wish to scoop out before you throw in the long-cooking ingredients (e.g. clams, abalone, prawn). Moreover, you wouldn’t want soggy vegetables or tough meat, so make sure that you don’t overcook them. Thinly sliced meat, for one, cooks within 20-30 seconds. You should take it out when there’s no more pinkness left in the meat.

If you’d like to try the best hot pot in San Francisco, visit Chili House SF, where we pride ourselves on serving authentic cuisine. Our chefs have served many foreign dignitaries and even sitting presidents of China in their careers. Try our hot pot today!

(Source: Chinese Hot Pot or Steam Boat , iLearn: Chinese Culture)

Sichuan Spice at Any Notable San Francisco Chinese Restaurants

Team of chefs preparing spicy Sichuan cuisine

Sichuan cooking (a.k.a Szechuan and Szechwan) has enviably taken its place as one of China’s eight great cooking styles. The term comes from the Sichuan province in southwestern China, where the Sichuanese, even in ancient written accounts, were reported to “uphold good flavors”—flavors marked by hot and spicy. Its cuisine today, even around the world and in almost every Chinese restaurant in San Francisco , is characterized as having bold, sharp flavors with garlic, chili peppers and peppercorns, and the fragrant native Sichuan peppers playing up the dominant notes in its dishes. The complexity and pungency of Sichuan cuisine, however, are not without its pulsing, thrilling depth.

As food writer Andrew Coe knowingly writes: “The result is a cuisine with an incredible depth and complexity of flavor, hitting all sense receptors in your mouth, nose, and gastrointestinal system at the same time. You can tell a bad Sichuan restaurant because it hits one note at a time; dishes at a good Sichuan restaurant are a symphony.”

Even food components in Sichuan dishes that are pickled, salted, and dried, are made spicy with the liberal use of chili oil. The unique flavor of Sichuan pepper (pinyin or flower pepper) has a citrusy, fragrant flavor that prickles in the mouth, along with star anise, ginger, garlic, and chili peppers.

Food writer, Fuschia Dunlop, who went for chef training at Sichuan’s Institute for Higher Cuisine, points out that spicy Sichuan cuisine is not unlike French cooking in that there are different words for different processes of cooking. She identifies some of these techniques below:

For example, liu is taking your ingredient, which usually has some starch paste on it, and pre-cooking it in oil or water. Then you make a sauce and mix the two together.

Jian is what Westerners would call pan-frying in a flat pan, or frying without moving the ingredients around very much because you can also do it in a wok.

Chao means stir-frying. Chaoxiang is to fry fragrant, which is bringing out the fragrance of oil, ginger, or garlic.

Bian is another word similar to stir-fry. Ganbian, meaning dry bian, is frying without any oil and later adding oil and seasonings.

Qiang is frying Sichuan pepper and chili and then adding an ingredient to drive in the Sichaun spice.

Sichuan’s capital city, Chengdu—the birthplace of many culinary traditions—was the first city in Asia to be designated the “City of Gastronomy” by UNESCO. The city, in fact, has become one of the most exciting food centers in the world. Sichuan cuisine, indeed, finds its way in any authentic and vibrant Chinese restaurant in San Francisco , such as the Chili House SF, and with every one of them never losing the beat of ten blended flavor notes—spicy, sour and hot, home-style, gingered, sweet and sour, and garlicky, among others—which has earned authentic Sichuan-styled food its well-deserved world reputation for great-style cooking.

(Sources: Sichuan cuisine: More than just spice, edition.cnn.com. October 10, 2012 )

Fun in Flavors: The Pleasure of Eating Chinese Food in San Francisco

Han Lijun

Looking for the best Chinese food in San Francisco can be an exhausting experience, what with the huge number of choices available. Moreover, the various regional cuisines of China won’t limit you to one or two dishes alone. For example, NDTV recently had an article about Chinese food and it highlighted several of these cuisine types. One of those described was the spicy Szechuan, which is described in glowing terms:

The combination of everything hot and spicy stands out for Sichuan cuisine. Here, food is mind-numbingly fiery and frequent use of chillis and Sichuan peppers shines through in every dish. Those from the Sichuanese province cure their own meats, make their own pickles and cook in large pots with a lot of fragrant stock.

Szechuan is just one of the six prominent regional cuisines, the others being Cantonese, Hunan, Hakka, Mandarin, and Zhejiang. Oftentimes, leading restaurants like Chili House SF that specializes on Chinese food in San Francisco serve dishes from most, if not all, of these popular cuisines. Here are four dishes that you should try to get a taste of:

First, gong bao or kung pao chicken is an excellent example of Szechuan style cooking. Consisting of diced chicken, peanuts, vegetables, and peppers, this particular Szechuan dish has several variations. The original version uses the especially potent Szechuan peppercorns that made the dish a fiery pleasure on the tongue. For those who aren’t inclined toward spicy foods, milder versions can be cooked up.

Second, Peking duck is quite a popular duck dish worldwide. Roasted duck is easy to understand, but Peking duck takes a bit more preparation than just sticking a duck on a stick and cooking it over an open fire. For one, the duck is hung and left to stand for 24 hours after it has been glazed with a layer of sweet syrup. Afterwards, the duck is roasted in a closed oven until it has a shiny brown color. The thin skin and the tender meat are a tasty treat and make for a fine meal.

Third, chow mein is a noodle dish that everyone, most likely, already knows about. Stir-fried noodles mixed with a variety of vegetables and meat, this tasty noodle dish is filling and easy to prepare. Depending on where it is served, you can have a choice of crispy or soft noodles.

Finally, sweet and sour pork is a favorite among people trying out Chinese cuisine for the first time or are still getting used to its flavors. Made with deep-fried pork slices covered in the traditional sweet and sour sauce, it has a tangy taste that excites the tongue and leaves one wanting more.

(Source: 10 Best Chinese Chicken Recipes , NDTV, September 30, 2014)

Chinese Restaurants in San Francisco: How to Handle the Spicy Heat

Han Lijun

If there’s one thing you can expect from Chinese food—specifically Szechuan dishes—in San Francisco, they’re most likely going to be spicy—and restaurants like Chili House SF pride themselves in preparing and serving hot meals fresh off the wok and into your plate. So if you want to challenge your friends to a day eating nothing but spicy yet tasty food, look no further than popular Chinese restaurants in San Francisco . If you want to ensure a win by boosting your spicy food tolerance, here are some tricks you can try:

Go Rough

Bring along some rough food like crackers, or better yet, order steamed rice and munch on them as you savor the overwhelming spiciness of your chosen dish. Rough foods tend to distract your tongue’s taste receptors from focusing on the spicy flavor by giving them another texture to worry about, and if you eat starchy food, it might even absorb some of the capsaicin—the active component of chili peppers.

Swish, Don’t Drink

If you need to have a glass of water with you, make sure it’s lukewarm, so you could keep it in your mouth for longer without hurting your teeth. This is because you should swish the water around your mouth and tongue and spit it out instead of taking gulps and swallowing. This way, you are rinsing off the spicy capsaicin and getting it out of your mouth.

Start Small

Serious Eats contributor Andrea Lynn advises that you should start small, whether it’s by taking in little amounts of food at a time, or by digging in on the less spicy food first, then build up to the hotter ones:

When your taste buds get accustomed to these small measures of spice, bring it up a notch. Try adding seeded, chopped chiles to your meals. Start with milder ones like poblanos and cubanelles before moving onto jalapenos and serranos. A friend of mine who worked up his spicy tolerance advised this: “It needs to be somewhat gradual, but don’t be afraid to go a little too spicy sometimes. You don’t have to douse every meal with hot sauce, but if you want to stretch your tolerance, then you need to have an occasional meal that leaves you with a burning mouth. It’s like exercising a muscle—no pain, no gain.”

If you’re looking for excellent San Francisco Chinese restaurants to hold your spicy challenge in, pick ones that have a variety of spicy dishes to choose from. Don’t get too caught up, though—remember that your body can only tolerate so much spicy food before you get too much stimulant. Also, try not to be overly competitive that you forget to enjoy.

(Source: 6 Ways to Build Your Spicy Food Tolerance , Serious Eats)

Tasty Treat: Excellent Chinese Food Catering Brings Dim Sum to Parties

Han Lijun

It would be difficult to find the best dim sum in San Francisco considering the many established Chinese restaurants like Chili House SF competing for the honor. The bite-sized cuisine has come a long way from its origins, which J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s article for Serious Eats describes:

The original dim sum houses originated in Canton, and were a lot like diners: small, roadside establishments that served tea along with a bit of sustenance for weary travelers or rural workers. Just like Spanish tapas, which were originally simple accompaniments to glasses of sherry, these simple Cantonese tea snacks eventually became the main focus of the meal, though tea is, of course, still served. These days, in many parts of Southern mainland China, and in Hong Kong in particular, it’s become a weekly ritual family meal, generally taken on weekend mornings.

Dim sum’s popularity is worldwide in scope and different types of establishments, from hole-in-the-wall diners to the fanciest restaurants, offer it. Which is why there’s no simpler way to ensure your party is a hit than to offer dim sum treats as part of the menu. A popular Chinese food catering service would be able to offer the tastiest dim sum choices, some of which you can read about below.

First, there are the tasty dumplings. Wrapped in a thin rice flour skin, dumplings come in a wide range of shapes and sizes. Usually steamed or fried, the main difference between dumplings are actually their filling. Typically consisting of pork or shrimp mixed with various vegetables like green onions, carrots, and mushrooms, the filling’s taste can range from spicy to sweet. No matter the flavor, however, they are a delight to the palate.

Second, fluffy buns are also a popular and filling part of the dim sum experience. Filled with a variety of fillings ranging from savory pork to sweet bean pastes, these buns are either steamed or deep-fried. As you bite into one, the texture of the wheat or rice bun gradually gives way to a satisfying burst of flavors.

Finally, you can finish off a dim sum meal with complementary desserts. There’s mango pudding, a blend of mangoes, milk, and sugar that is served chilled, or you can try the well-liked fried sesame balls, which are balls of glutinous rice covered in sesame seeds with a sweet bean core.

(Source: The Serious Eats Guide to Dim Sum , Serious Eats, April 19, 2011)

Eats from Your San Francisco Chinese Restaurant: Time to Try the Tofu

Han Lijun

Chinese food might be a favorite among Americans, especially people in the City by the Bay, but if there’s one thing about the cuisine that many raise their eyebrows to, it has to be tofu. Nevertheless, any reputable Chinese restaurant in San Francisco still includes a host of tofu dishes in their menu. If you know and understand the wide array of benefits that tofu can offer you, you just might realize why it’s a staple for most Chinese dishes, and why it’s always worth a try.

Tofu fights cancer.

Studies suggest that eating tofu could decrease your risk of getting cancer, as the peptides in soybean were found to slow the growth of colon cancer cells by as much as 73% and liver cancer by 70%. These same peptides may also help to block a few of the pathways of cancerous cells in the body.

Tofu is protein.

Whatever your stand on the vegetarian lifestyle may be, there’s one truth that you couldn’t refute: if they eat tofu, they get just as much protein as anyone eating meat. A mere half cup of tofu contains about 10 grams of protein. Aside from this, tofu also has a significant amount of calcium and iron.

Tofu promotes weight loss.

As SF Gate writer Erin Coleman, R.D., L.D. states in article, eating tofu can also help a lot if you’re looking to lose weight without having to consume less protein. This is because of its low calorie content:

Your overall calorie intake is most important when you’re trying to lose excess body weight. To lose about 1 to 2 pounds per week, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics encourages you to reduce your intake by 500 to 1,000 calories every day. Weight-loss diets generally contain 1,000 to 1,600 calories per day, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Regular tofu prepared with calcium sulfate contains only about 94 calories in each 1/2-cup portion.

Tofu helps combat skin aging.

Soy beans help fight aging. It slows down the signs of skin aging by helping you keep the elasticity of your skin and it even tones the muscles on your face. If you want to go the extra mile, take it from others who don’t just eat the tofu, they make a paste out of it and apply it on their skin, too!

So the next time you’re visiting the best Chinese restaurant in San Francisco , be sure to ask for their tofu dishes! Places like Chili House SF always have some on the menu for you to enjoy. Unless you have soybean allergy, there’s no reason for you not to try their nutritious and tasty tofu dishes.

(Source: Tofu & Weight Loss , SF Gate)

Best Chinese Food to Order – Tasty Staples at Chinese Restaurants

Tasty cuisine served at Chinese restaurant

There is no doubt of the love Americans have for Chinese food. There too is great debate about what is the best Chinese food to order from menus that often feature dozens of dishes. However, many people may be wondering how all this love started. Thrillist.com writer Adam Lapetina offers some insight into the growth of Chinese food in the United States:

It started in California
The foundations for what we know as Chinese food were laid in the mid-1800s, when a huge influx of Chinese immigrants came to California during the Gold Rush, mostly from Canton (today known as Guangzhou). The newcomers started opening restaurants, and eventually began settling elsewhere thanks to the railroad expansion. That resulted in the establishment of Chinatowns all over the place (never forget, Jack Nicholson!).

In San Francisco, where the biggest Chinatown outside Asia is located, one can throw a stone and hit a Chinese restaurant. However, individuals with discriminating palates shouldn’t settle for anything less, especially if they are out to celebrate a special occasion like a birthday or wedding anniversary. They should go for the gold, and specifically look for the following delectable staples in their menu. Here is some of the best food to order from Chinese restaurants:

Peking Duck

Chinese cuisine would simply be incomplete without this staple. After all, it is considered to be one of China’s national foods. This dish is a favorite because of its thin and crispy skin that covers mouthwatering meat. People can further savor the scrumptious meat strips with a variety of sauces like sweet or sour, plum, or hoisin sauce, a popular Chinese dipping sauce.

Kung Pao Chicken

While this dish’s origin is a frequent topic for debate— some records say it’s an original Sichuan dish, some say it’s from the Guizhou province—it remains to be among the most popular Chinese cuisine staples. The addition of peanuts or cashews to the roasted chicken is a definite enhancer, taking its yumminess up a notch. Vegetarians who don’t want to partake in meat, though, have alternatives to enjoy from established restaurants like Chili House SF, including Kung Pao tofu and Kung Pao prawns.

Noodles and Dumplings

What’s Chinese cuisine without these two elements? Noodles come in a variety of composition: bean thread, egg, and rice stick. Meanwhile, dumplings come in various fillings, including mince pork, ground chicken, and beef for the meat-loving population, and diced shrimp and vegetables for the vegetarians.

For those marking a momentous occasion soon, consider serving Chinese cuisine for the guests. However, they should keep in mind that the best Chinese food in San Francisco consists of the above staples. Get those chopsticks ready!

(Image and Excerpt Source: 10 LITTLE-KNOWN HISTORICAL FACTS ABOUT AMERICAN CHINESE FOOD, thrillist.com, January 13, 2014)

Chinese Food Catering for Your Event: Maximize Its Health Benefits

Han Lijun

Chinese cuisine has had a long history. However, many people often take the health benefits of Chinese food for granted, thinking that no food that delicious is good for the body. The Foodnetwork.com staff lists down some of the basic ingredients in Chinese food that offer health advantages.

The first on the list is ginger, which is a popular tool in Eastern medicine and known to relieve nausea and stimulate appetite. Another common component in Chinese meals is tofu. This is a great way for people to add protein to their diet without actually consuming meat, one of the primary sources for protein. Tofu is well-known for its bone-building calcium. Cabbage, particularly the Bok Choy variety, is also a staple in Chinese cuisine, and it offers the benefit of immunity-strengthening vitamins like A and C.

With these benefits, those who have events coming up will be making a wise choice if they go with a Chinese food catering service for their special occasion in San Francisco, especially if the guests expected are health-conscious individuals who are active in outdoor activities or workout programs. However, there are ways to maximize the health advantages of Chinese food without sacrificing its sumptuous taste. Here are a few tips:

Encourage the use of chopsticks

Using chopsticks to consume the meals instead of standard utensils allows people to take in smaller portions. A study from the Cornell University revealed that using chopsticks helped people slow down. As a result, people will be able to savor the meals more.

Choose the sauces well

For people to fully cherish what dim sum in San Francisco can offer to their palate, they have to add a few drops of Chinese staple sauces like sweet and sour sauce. However, some healthier alternatives which generate the same effect are oyster sauce and hoisin sauce.

Go for steamed, poached, roasted, and barbecued varieties.

The amazing thing about Chinese cuisine is that there are several ways to prepare them. Some popular dishes are breaded or fried like Crispy Garlic Flavor Prawns. However, you should consider healthier but equally delicious options like Kung Pao (roasted) prawns or chicken, steamed scallops with garlic, or steamed Chinese cabbage with garlic, all of which are offered at Chinese restaurants like Chili House SF.

In San Francisco where the largest Chinatown outside of Asia is located, choosing Chinese food for a special event is a natural choice. However, people shouldn’t forget that these meals offer countless health benefits, and there are countless ways to make the most of them.

(Source: The Health Benefits of Chinese Food, foodnetwork.com)