Gone are the days when “going for a Chinese” meant a standard repertoire of prawn toast and spring rolls followed by sweet and sour pork and a special fried rice (add a lemon chicken if particularly peckish).
Aussie lovers of Chinese cuisine have woken up to the fact that this vast country of coastline, desert, mountains, lakes and rivers offers a diversity and richness of flavours well beyond those much-loved Cantonese staples.
Today, any Australian city worth its salt and pepper tofu can trace a cultural, geographical and historical map of China through the plethora of regional Chinese restaurants that have rightly taken their place on the culinary landscape.
Each has its own distinct flavour, largely based on the produce available in the region, ethnic background of those who live there, climate, cooking techniques and traditions that have been passed down through the centuries.
Eight culinary styles – Anhui, Fujian, Guangdong, Hunan, Jiangsu, Shandong, Sichuan and Zhejiang – make up China’s remarkable culinary culture, the geographic location of each also informing the flavours it is famous for.
It’s no surprise that the cuisines emanating from eastern China (including Shandong, Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Fujian), which is flanked by a lengthy coastline, should be rich in seafood and feature light and fresh tastes.
The incendiary chilli, garlic and Szechuan pepper combos found in Szechuan and Hunan food, accompanied by preserved, pickled and salted condiments, meanwhile, are informed by their location deep in the central provinces of China.
In the north, the cuisine is influenced by nearby Shandong and Inner Mongolia, revealing salty yet simple flavours, while the food of the capital, Beijing, also takes its cues from the imperial court cuisine prepared for Chinese royalty, including that favourite of Asian aristocracy and ravenous Aussies alike, Peking duck.
Chinese food, whatever its provenance, is one of the most convivial of cuisines. A table filled with share plates of rice and noodles, delicately braised or seared vegetables, steamed fish, sizzling meats and stir-fries, plus a soup or two, means there will always be something to suit even the most pernickety of diners.
Those who prefer to go it alone or with an equally hungry pal can while away a couple of hours eyeing the trolleys of bamboo steamers as they meander around one of Canberra’s many impressive yum cha restaurants; in our book one of the best ways to spend a weekend morning (apart from nipping into a Chinese teahouse in Dickson to eat your bodyweight in barbecue pork and roast duck on rice).
Whether you fancy a plate of xiao long bao soup dumplings from Shanghai, a spicy Szechuan ma po tofu or a cha siu pork rice noodle roll from Guangzhou, there’s no shortage of options in the nation’s capital.
The best Chinese restaurants in Canberra
RiotACT’s editorial team has combed through 20 years of on-site comments to compile a list of the most recommended businesses according to you.
To be listed in our Best of Canberra series, each business needs to have consistently received positive feedback on RiotACT and Facebook as well as maintaining a minimum average of 4/5 stars on Google.
106 Hotpot is a fun way to dine on delicious and reasonably priced Chinese, Japanese and Thai cuisine. This self-service, food-train style eatery – unique in the Canberra market – specialises in a wide range of reasonably priced and filling hot pots, as well as delicious soups, gorgeous teas, yoghurt drinks and more.
Located on Alinga Street in the Sydney Building, 106 Hotpot CBD lets customers create their own meals. Select ingredients – meats, seafood, hotpot balls, offal, veggies and noodles, tofu– and cook everything up in a soup broth, each type packed full of flavour. Cooking takes just minutes. If customers prefer, 106 Hotpot will do the cooking.
One option, for quick delivery, is to order through the Easi food delivery app.
Fan Ting Anding wrote on Facebook, “Nice place to try authentic Chinese hotpot. Cordial staff and reasonable prices. Would definitely recommend my friends to visit this place.”
Canberra ACT 2601
What do you get when you combine creative cuisine, quality service and a fun atmosphere? The answer is award-winning pop Chinese restaurant Natural Nine, winner of the Best Chinese Restaurant Award at the Restaurant and Catering 2019 Awards for Excellence.
Tucked away in Casino Canberra (it’s an 18+ venue), Natural Nine’s team tailors menus with regional Chinese flavours at their heart, infused with an Aussie twist. Think sichuan noodles topped with crunchy ants (it’s listed on the menu as ‘tyrant ants climbing trees’), duck and broccoli fried rice with chicken floss, and white chocolate chilli pudding with vanilla ice cream and milk crumb for dessert.
Diner Shel shared her experience at Natural Nine on Google Reviews: “The restaurant is inside the casino with very nice comfortable seating. We love every dish we had and the service was great too! The speed of serving is also great! Highly recommend!”
Open 7 days, Natural Nine offers a daily Pop Yum Cha lunch menu from 12pm – 3pm and is open for dinner from 5.30pm to 10pm.
Fans of spicy flavours and chilli heat will want to experience the Sichuan Chinese Restaurant on Emu Bank in Belconnen, run by Eddie Zhao who grew up in Chengdu.
The menu features chef’s specials like fragrant special fish drizzled with hot chilli oil, a salt and pepper pork chop, pork belly infused with lemony Sichuan pepper (that makes taste buds tingle), braised meatballs, special sweet duck with steam buns, hot and sour soups and many other delicious options that celebrate the cuisine from this part of China.
Vegetarian dishes are also available, as is yum cha. Some dishes are created with an Australian twist. Desserts include oriental pearls in liquor syrup. Eddie says dishes can be adjusted to meet any dietary requires.
For home delivery, order through the Easi food delivery app.
As Vander Leal wrote on Google, “Awesome Chinese food. You can’t go wrong.”
Belconnen ACT 2617
If you love dumplings, add Bunda Street’s CBD Dumpling House to your list of must-try Chinese restaurants in Canberra. The decor isn’t fancy, but the service is fast (you can even watch the chefs make dumplings at lightning-fast speed in the kitchen) and the food is delicious.
In addition to dumplings, the restaurant also serves dishes ranging from seafood and noodles to rice dishes.
Diner Meghan shared her experience at CBD Dumpling House in a website testimonial: “Really good!!! They had vegan options, the food came out really fast even though the place was PACKED. We got a table immediately even though it was super busy and there are 5 of us. Would recommend!”
Happy’s Chinese Restaurant in Civic has been owned by three generations of the same family since 1962. Serving up traditional Cantonese cuisine, Happy’s offers banquet and a la carte dining options in a simple, no-fuss environment.
Diner Doug shared his experience at Happy’s on Google Reviews: “This is a old favourite, been operating 50+ years, now by the grandson. Always consistent and a winner. A firm favourite for locals and visitors alike. All the usual Chinese favourites and will accommodate dietary requirements. BYO and also licensed with good selection of well priced drinks.”
If you’d prefer to eat from home, check out our article on the best food delivery services in Canberra. Or, if you’re looking for another cuisine, check out our article on the best indian restaurants in Canberra.
Your experience with Chinese restaurants in Canberra
Thanks to our commenters who have provided insightful feedback. If you believe we have got it wrong, please let us know.
Have you had experience with any of the Chinese restaurants listed above? If so, share your feedback in the comments below.