As you can tell by the headline, apparently I have now decided that I’m just going to write about whatever I want. No, I’m just kidding, I promise. But I am taking a bit of a detour this week. Mr. FresYes (Jason Farris) and I were talking about a reader’s question on the best Chinese food in Fresno. Naturally, as the resident Chinese girl, I decided to take the answer upon myself.
Having grown up in Fresno, there’s not much about me that’s traditionally Chinese – but the food, I know! So here’s a few of my favorite places, all very authentically Chinese. (None of that Panda stuff here!)
Tsing-Tao Chinese Restaurant
Tsing-Tao Chinese Restaurant has always been, and probably always will be, my favorite Chinese place in town. (Technically it’s in Clovis, at Willow and Shaw, next to Japanese Kitchen.) And based on how busy the small restaurant is, a lot of people agree.
Tsing-Tao is, as I said, on the smaller side, but it has a great, cozy atmosphere than can accommodate everything from a first date to a large party. My own family considers Tsing-Tao our spot of choice. Which is appropriate, because the best way to taste as many dishes as possible is to dine family-style.
I have a confession to make: I always make us order the exact same things. 1) The Crispy Beef, described accurately on the menu as “no other Chinese restaurant does like it” (forgiving the ESL grammar). 2) The Salt & Pepper Shrimp, which has so much more depth of flavor than the name suggests 3) The Moo Goo Gai Pan (mushroom chicken), which is great when you don’t want to eat too greasy.
Branching out has its perks, though. I arrived late to dinner a couple months ago and found an appetizer platter on our table, complete with a small fire in the middle. Yes, a fire. It was called the Pao-Pao Platter, and the fire was in a tiny grill that you could put beef skewers on. Fun AND delicious!
Four Seasons Chinese Restaurant
Hallelujah, there’s finally a good, full-service dim sum restaurant in town! Dim sum, to put it in more trendy foodie terms, is like the Chinese version of tapas. It’s impossible to describe all the different varieties, but basics include dumplings, steamed buns and a variety of desserts. And Four Seasons Chinese Restaurant on Clovis and Herndon (next to In N Out) is really the only place to go for it without driving to San Francisco!
If you’re inexperienced with dim sum, it can be sort of a choose your own adventure to bite into something and see what’s inside. My advice is to grab the nearest Chinese person you know. I’ve dragged many a friend to Four Seasons in the last year and given them a lesson. But if you’re without help, the menu with pictures are a big help. Or on Sundays, they actually roll the food out on carts for you to pick from, in true traditional fashion. The best part is, even if you pick something that’s totally not to your taste, almost every plate and basket us under $5, so you won’t be out too much money!
To get you started, here are some of my favorite dishes:
- Pork dumplings (shu mai)
- Shrimp dumplings (har gow)
- Shrimp wrapped in steamed rice noodle
- Deep fried shrimp balls
- Egg custard bun
- Baked BBQ pork bun
- Sesame seed balls
- Chef’s special dumplings
I’ll be up front: my adorable dad (aka Keith Lui) has managed Imperial Express (located at Cedar and Herndon next to Majesty Bible Store) for many years. I can’t tell you how great it is that there are literal reviews on Yelp that discuss how great my father is. I sort of grew up in the restaurant over the years. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s pretty much the best Chinese fast food there is.
Imperial Express is great for takeout or dine in (I usually call ahead). It’s a mix of traditional and more Americanized food. My favorites include 1) Express Chicken, which is fried chicken pieces with their special teriyaki sauce. 2) Hong Kong style noodles, which are crispy fried and then drenched in a soup-like broth rich with meat and vegetables. 3) Chow fun, which is a dish with flat rice noodles stir fried with meat and veggies. 4) Szechuan chicken, which is sort of like a better version of orange chicken. (Fun fact: Due to ESL problems, I thought for a long time that my dad said it was “sesame chicken,” and I was confused as to why there was no sesame in the dish.)
It’s also worth noting that Imperial Express actually serves dim sum as well, and it’s actually a bit better than Four Seasons in my totally unbiased opinion! The only reason they aren’t on the top of my list is that they only serve the basics, and just on Saturdays and Sundays. It makes Mondays really fun when dad brings home leftovers, though!
So in the humble opinion of this one Chinese girl, these are the places where you can get the best food from my people! What about you? Where do you like to go?