“Chinese food” is one of the vaguest phrases in the cuisine world given that China is almost as large as Europe, with nearly twice as many people living in it. And they all enjoy different and distinct food depending on which part of the country they call home. We’re not talking about general Chinese food restaurants that serve a little bit of everything from all corners where Chinese cuisine is prepared. Instead, we were hunting for regional Chinese cuisine in Yokohama Chinatown — the best place in Japan for Chinese food. Here are some of our personal favorites:
The Peking Duck Wrap at OCho
The famous dish named after the country’s capital is more difficult to make than most people realize. It takes well over two months to raise and prepare a Peking duck. The bird is roasted and seasoned until its skin becomes crispy and its flesh deliciously tender. You will get exactly that at OCho, a Peking duck specialty restaurant. The duck meat, crunchy vegetables and a flavorful dash of hoisin sauce are all wrapped up in a deliciously doughy spring roll wrapper. And that is the Beijing way of eating duck.
The best thing about the wraps is the excellent balance between all the ingredients, and because of their small size, they can be enjoyed on the go. If you want to sit down and savor your Peking duck, there is a bench in front of the restaurant, plus 15 seats inside.
Where: 78-6 Yamashitacho, Naka-ku
The Sichuan Ma-po Doufu at Keitokuchin
Sichuan cuisine is synonymous with spicy flavors and Keitokuchin wants to be upfront that you will be getting the authentic Sichuan experience when you order their “ma-po doufu” dish. It’s clearly labeled “very hot” on the menu. If you’ve only ever tried the Japanese take on the dish called “mabodofu,” this will be somewhat of an adventure for you. The decor of Keitokuchin is very elegant but the dish itself is brutal. Made with an abundance of Sichuan red peppers, this ma-po doufu will strip a layer off the inside of your mouth. At the same time, it’s not so spicy to completely overpower the delicate flavors of the tofu cooked to perfection with not too much oil. It’s authentic Sichuan pleasure and pain.
Where: 190 Yamashitacho, Naka-ku
When: 11:30am–10pm (Mon–Fri) | 11am–10pm (Sat, Sun, National Holidays)
Cantonese Shrimp-Shiso Spring Rolls at Kakin Hanten
Cantonese cuisine has a reputation for being very meat heavy. But Guangdong, as the province is more commonly known nowadays, is located along the South China Sea coast, and as such offers plenty of lighter seafood dishes too. Kakin Hanten specializes in those kinds of dishes, putting a lot of emphasis on freshness. That being the opposite of fast food, even a simple dish like minced shrimp and green shiso spring rolls can take some time to prepare. But the end result is more than worth the wait. The dish is absolutely packed with delicious fresh flavors, which is hard to do when deep-frying.
The restaurant’s sweet-and-sour ribs have also been getting great reviews and are worth checking out. So, you can get all the amazing flavors of Guangdong at this convenient location.
Where: 126-22 Yamashitacho, Naka-ku
Shanghai Style Pan-Fried Buns at Houtenkaku Shinkan
Shanghai is one of the busiest cities in the world, so a lot of its cuisine is enjoyed on the go. A prime example is Shengjian mantou — also known as shengjian bao or just shengjian — the area’s take on the small xiaolongbao pork-filled buns or dumplings. Shengjian are pan-fried instead of steamed. At Houtenkaku Shinkan, you can not only try them yourself, but you can also see them made as the takeout part of the restaurant puts its kitchen in full view behind glass.
The restaurant also serves steamed xiaolongbao but the pan-fried variety (“yaki-shoronpo” in Japanese), which comes in a pork and seafood version, is their bestseller. It can be tricky to eat, though. You need to first take a small bite from the dumpling to open it up and suck out the soup inside. If you don’t, you risk burning your mouth. Once that’s done you can safely bite into your yaki-shoronpo and instantly understand why this finicky dish is so popular.
Where: 192-15 Yamashitacho, Naka-ku
Bonus: Taiwanese Fried Chicken at Hou Dai Dai Ji Pai
One of the must-do things when visiting Taiwan is hitting the night markets where you can get some of the best street food in the world. Chief among them is Taiwanese fried chicken, which usually comes in bite-size pieces. At Chinatown’s Hou Dai Dai Ji Pai, however, we recommend going with the jumbo version. It consists of one piece of flattened fried chicken the size of a plate.
Next to its size, the thing that instantly hits you about this chicken is its aroma. It’s fragrant in the most delicious way possible. The taste is also top-notch: crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. Order a Taiwanese beer with your mega-chicken for an even more authentic Taiwanese street food experience.
Where: 188 Yamashitacho, Naka-ku
In search of more tasty explorations? Check out some of our other foodie finds: