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.
Ginseng Chinese is an award-winning Chinese restaurant offering a range of innovative and fresh Chinese dishes. Located in the Hellenic Club, it's open for lunch and dinner every day, with yum cha lunch available on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays.
Diner Pixel shared their experience on Google Reviews: "One of the best fried rices in Canberra. The lobster tails were excellent too. Fresh Chinese broccoli to complement the menu. Friendly and helpful staff. The place can get busy for lunch and dinner."
Wukong Hot Pot is the first and only authentic Chongqing hot pot restaurant in Canberra. Located in Dickson at the heart of Canberra’s Asian food district, Wukong is all about bring China to Canberra, creating a space where Canberrans can have first-hand experience of traditional and hearty Chinese food.
As happy customer and ‘Local Guide’ Brogan Goode writes in their Google review, “I had an amazing experience at Wukong! The food was fresh, and the service was quick. I recommend this place for people looking to expand their taste horizons.”
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 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!"
Located on Kennedy Street in Kingston with a sister restaurant in ANU's Kambri precinct, China Plate is locally renowned for its high quality service and flavoursome modern Chinese food.
Diner Jacob shared his experience at China Plate on Google Reviews: "Delicious dumplings, Budda vegetables, tangerine beef ribs, salt and pepper squid and clean fresh rice. Friendly and attentive service, he knew the dishes well to describe them to us when we had questions. Clean unisex toilets. Nice comfortable lighting. Atmosphere is an upscale modern restaurant."
You can't talk about Chinese food in Canberra without mentioning Timmy's Kitchen in Manuka. It's been around since 1985, and specialises in Chinese and Malaysian cuisine.
The most popular dishes at Timmy's Kitchen include shantung chicken, sizzling butterfly king prawns with chilli lemongrass, and laksa.
Here's what diner Annette had to say about her experience at Timmy's Kitchen: "So much food in the banquet we couldn't eat it all. Very fresh ingredients and flavours. Staff were all attentive, quick and professional. Will be back again as soon as we can."
Timmy's is open for lunch and dinner every day except Mondays. Bookings are recommended but not essential, and takeaway is available.
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.
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, the best Japanese restaurants and the best Thai 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.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Chinese food meet my dietary requirements?
Most likely, yes – but it depends. There are numerous Chinese dishes that are vegetarian but use egg – take out the egg, and it’s vegan. If you’re gluten free, you’re in luck: Chinese dishes rarely use gluten-based ingredients like flour in their cooking, and noodles are usually rice or egg-based.
Are there different types of Chinese restaurants?
There are eight different culinary styles of Chinese cuisine, with geographic location for each informing some of the flavours. These culinary styles are Anhui, Fujian, Guangdong, Hunan, Jiangsu, Shandong, Sichuan and Zhejiang. Some Chinese restaurants will focus on one specific cuisine, whilst others may incorporate a mix of a few.
Are there many Chinese restaurants in Canberra?
There are many Chinese restaurants in Canberra, and many can be found on Woolley Street in Dickson - which is affectionately known as Chinatown by the locals. This street also incorporates a mix of other cuisines and businesses such as Indian, Turkish, Malaysian and Japanese.
Do Chinese restaurants offer takeaway?
Most Chinese restaurants in Canberra offer takeaway, but it's always best to check their website or phone directly before you order.
Can I order delivery from Chinese restaurants in Canberra?
If you're looking to dine in at home, there are many options available for Chinese food delivery. A local Canberra food delivery app, Easi, has many Chinese restaurants on offer. Some restaurants offer delivery directly from their website. It's best to check with your local restaurant and enquire directly.