10 Great Dongbei-Style Chinese Dishes (Plus, Where to Eat Them!)

Dry Tofu with Meat and Hot PepperEXPAND
Dry Tofu with Meat and Hot Pepper
Jim Thurman

The food of China's three northeast provinces, collectively known as Dongbei, often gets overlooked in the realm of Chinese regional cuisines, which is too bad, because there are some distinctive and unique dishes from the part of China that was formerly known as Manchuria.

Dongbei-style food is characterized by its use of pickled napa cabbage, potatoes, carrots, as well as wheat and corn instead of rice. It also is far less pepper-intensive than most Chinese cuisines. One can find the familiar mixed with totally unfamiliar over a range of dishes.

Thankfully for those who are interested in exploring this fascinating cuisine further, there are several Dongbei-style restaurants around the San Gabriel Valley where one can get personal with the food. This includes three unrelated restaurants that share a common name, "Shen Yang," after the capital and largest city of Liaoning Province.

Though of course there are so many more, to get you started, here are 10 dishes to try while eating your way through Dongbei: 

Twice-Cooked Pork (Guo Bao Rou)EXPAND
Twice-Cooked Pork (Guo Bao Rou)
Jim Thurman

Pork and Sour Cabbage Stew

So-called "Chinese Sauerkraut" is a staple of the Dongbei region, where the short growing season and harsh Winters made pickling a necessity. Pickled napa cabbage, slices of pork, yam noodles and seasoning - most notably star anise - percolate in a hearty broth. The dish appears on menus translated into English under various names that are fairly easy to decipher. The version at Shen Yang Restaurant in Monterey Park (above) comes with pork blood cubes. Where to find it: Dongbei Hometown Restaurant, Northern Café, Northern Chinese Restaurant, Shen Yang Restaurant (Monterey Park), Shen Yang Restaurant (San Gabriel), Thousand Tasty Restaurant.

Cumin Chicken BonesEXPAND
Cumin Chicken Bones
Jim Thurman

Twice-Cooked Pork
An authentic version of sweet and sour pork, known as guo bao rou. The Dongbei-style version uses pork tenderloins in place of thinner slices, which are then coated in potato flour, fried crispy and covered in a thickened sauce that includes sliced ginger. The sauce hits a perfect balance, neither too sour, nor the overly sweet Americanized version many are familiar with. You'll never view Americanized "Sweet & Sour Pork" the same. Where to find it: Dalian Small Stone Restaurant, Dongbei Hometown Restaurant, Northern Café, Northern Chinese Restaurant, Shen Yang Restaurant (Monterey Park), Shen Yang Restaurant (Rowland Heights), Shen Yang Restaurant (San Gabriel), Thousand Tasty Restaurant.

Dry Tofu with Meat and Hot PepperEXPAND
Dry Tofu with Meat and Hot Pepper
Jim Thurman

Dry Tofu with Meat and Hot Pepper
The spiciest Dongbei dish, which is still mild when compared to Sichuan or Hunan-style dishes. Noodle like strips of dry tofu skins, thin slices of peppers (usually, but not always jalapenos) and some pork are served in a thickened chicken broth. Where to find it: Northern Café, Northern Chinese Restaurant, Shen Yang Restaurant (Monterey Park), Shen Yang Restaurant (San Gabriel), Thousand Tasty Restaurant.

Marinated Pork BonesEXPAND
Marinated Pork Bones
Jim Thurman

Cumin Chicken Bones
Obviously, this dish won't win any most photogenic awards, but the flavor more than makes up for it. Think of it as a chicken version of cumin lamb skewers, only with bone nibbling and gnawing for bits of meat thrown in. Sort of an extreme version of wings. A perfect beer food. Perhaps it's no coincidence that Dongbei was home to China's first brewery. On some menus as Cumin Chicken Rack. Where to find it: Dongbei Hometown Restaurant, H&H Restaurant, Northern Café, Northern Chinese Restaurant, Shen Yang Restaurant (Monterey Park), Shen Yang Restaurant (Rowland Heights), Shen Yang Restaurant (San Gabriel), Thousand Tasty Restaurant.

Pork & Sour Cabbage StewEXPAND
Pork & Sour Cabbage Stew
Jim Thurman

Potato, Pepper & Eggplant
The best known vegetable dish in Dongbei takes thinly sliced potatoes, chunks of eggplant, green and red bell peppers, onions, sometimes tomatoes, with ginger and garlic in a brown, soy based sauce. Sometimes known as "Three Delights", the eggplant is lightly covered in a flour to give it a nice tempura like crunch, which goes well with the still lightly crunchy potato slices. Where to find it: Dalian Small Stone Restaurant, Dongbei Hometown Restaurant, Shen Yang Restaurant (Monterey Park), Shen Yang Restaurant (Rowland Heights), Shen Yang Restaurant (San Gabriel), Thousand Tasty Restaurant.

Candied Hawthorn BerriesEXPAND
Candied Hawthorn Berries
Jim Thurman

Sheet Teny of Green Beans
We're not sure how the English translation arrived, but that's the way it appears on some menus around the SGV. Mung bean starch noodles (la pi) atop julienned carrots and cucumbers and sprigs of cilantro with minced garlic, mustard on the side, topped with some strands of pork and a drizzle of sesame sauce. At the bottom of it all, a splash of black vinegar. When mixed, each flavor of what is sometimes called "Five Delights" blends perfectly. If you don't see Sheet Teny on the menu, look for glass or clear noodles. Where to find it: Dongbei Hometown Restaurant, H&H Restaurant, Northern Café, Shen Yang Restaurant (Rowland Heights), Shen Yang Restaurant (San Gabriel), Thousand Tasty Restaurant.

Sheet Teny of Green BeansEXPAND
Sheet Teny of Green Beans
Jim Thurman

Corn & Red Bean Flower Bun
Made from corn flour, this dense bun is filled with mashed red beans. Served with sugar on the side, which isn't really needed since this is fairly sweet as is. We've only seen it at Shen Yang Restaurant in San Gabriel.

Potato, Pepper & EggplantEXPAND
Potato, Pepper & Eggplant
Jim Thurman

Chinese Donut Roll
Nothing like the more familiar you tiao commonly seen at Chinese and Taiwanese breakfast places, these dough twists are surprisingly light, fluffy and springy. The sweet taste is reminiscent of many types of pan dulce. Again, we've only seen this at Shen Yang Restaurant in San Gabriel.

Candied Sweet PotatoEXPAND
Candied Sweet Potato
Jim Thurman

Candied Hawthorn Berries
A favorite street food from Beijing northwards, the pitted fruits are covered in a sugar syrup and sesame seeds. Served chilled to frozen (indeed, once a waitress warned not to bite too early, lest one lose a tooth and tapped them on the plate for emphasis). The flavor of the hawthorn berry has been compared to a slightly tart cherry, less sweet raspberry or a cross between cranberry and strawberry. Where to find it: Shen Yang Restaurant (San Gabriel) and Thousand Tasty Restaurant.

Corn & Pine NutsEXPAND
Corn & Pine Nuts
Jim Thurman

Candied Sweet Potato 
A classic Dongbei dessert. Chunks of very hot sweet potato coated in sugar syrup are served alongside a bowl of cold water . Plunge one into the dish of cold water to create a hardened, crunchy shell. Northern Chinese Restaurant also has taro done in the same manner while Dalian Small Stone also has this dish with taro, mountain yam, banana or apples. Where to find it: Dalian Small Stone Restaurant, Dongbei Hometown Restaurant, Northern Chinese Restaurant, Shen Yang Restaurant (San Gabriel), Thousand Tasty Restaurant.  

Dalian Small Stone Restaurant (closed): 7637 Garvey Ave., Rosemead 91770; (626) 280-3128.
Dongbei Hometown Restaurant: 18406 Colima Rd. #B, Rowland Heights 91748; (626) 964-8858.
H&H Restaurant: 429 W. Garvey Ave., Monterey Park 91754; (626) 569-0919.
Northern Café: 1637 S. Azusa Ave., Hacienda Heights 91745; (626) 810-6728.
Northern Chinese Restaurant: 8450 E. Valley Blvd. #108, Rosemead 91770; (626) 288-9299.  
Shen Yang Restaurant: 639 W. Garvey Ave., Monterey Park 91754; (626) 576-9088.
Shen Yang Restaurant (closed): 1015 Nogales St. Suite 130, Rowland Heights 91748; (626) 226-3432.
Shen Yang Restaurant: 137 S. San Gabriel Blvd. #A, San Gabriel 91776; (626) 292-5758.
Thousand Tasty Restaurant: 535-537 W. Valley Blvd., San Gabriel 91776; (626) 281-0788.


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Northern Chinese Restaurant

8450 E. Valley Blvd.
Rosemead, CA 91770

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