Chinese food in Kansas City is as abundant as barbecue. That may be jarring to read — we are the barbecue capital of the world, after all — but you actually have more options when searching for a Chinese restaurant in Kansas City.
The same is true in most major American cities. Chinese food is everywhere. And no one is complaining about that, because Chinese food is delicious. But, how did it become so popular in America, and in Kansas City?
The story goes all the way back to the 1800s. When rumors of gold in California drew thousands of Americans west, it also brought adventurous Chinese explorers across the Pacific Ocean. Those gold miners settled down in what became San Francisco’s Chinatown — the oldest Chinatown in America. As they settled in, they brought their food along, too. It was unlike anything American cooking had created.
There are obvious reasons for the spread of Chinese food in Kansas City, Mo., and across America. It’s delicious. But, on top of that, the original Chinese restaurants were something of a marvel to Americans. The U.S. had little to no restaurant culture, but China had hundreds of years of hospitality experience built up when immigrants came ashore in California. The model they set actually helped American restaurants figure out how to serve people.
We’ve come a long way from those first Chinatown restaurants to your favorite takeout joint for Kansas City Chinese. Still, the food you chow down on from any Chinese restaurant in Kansas City has a deep history, and the heritage is still evident in the flavor.
Types of Chinese Food in Kansas City
While “Chinese food in Kansas City” can be grouped broadly into one category, there are many different types of Chinese food. It is, after all, the largest country in the world. Just like southern comfort food is different from northeaster seafood in America, there are regional dishes and genres of food from China that have made their way to the States.
The most common style of Chinese food in Kansas City that you’ll find is American-Chinese food. Chinese food has been around the U.S. for long enough that we’ve made our own traditional style of it. We have added in Western ingredients that are not as common in China. For instance, crab rangoon — those delicious fried wantons filled with cream cheese and crab meat — are an American-Chinese food invention. This may be less “authentic,” but that doesn’t mean it is less delicious!
There are other, more traditional styles of Chinese restaurants in Kansas City, as well. As you can imagine, a nation with more than 2 billion people and thousands of years of heritage has thousands of cooking styles. Out of all these, eight are consistently identified as the most important and most common traditional ways to make Chinese food.
These eight Chinese culinary traditions are:
- Cantonese: Cantonese food is the most common type of Chinese food in Kansas City and the rest of the western world. When you think of a night out at a Chinese restaurant in KC, you’re probably thinking of food that comes from Cantonese cooking — things like dumplings, pork and steamed vegetables.
- Fujian: Known for soups, stews and stir fries, Fujian food balances sweet, savory and sour flavors in mashed-up concoctions. This type of cooking comes from Southeast Asia and can be found all around the world, including at Kansas City Chinese restaurants.
- Sichuan: Spicy stew. That’s the calling card of Sichuan cuisine, which focuses on spices like peppercorn and garlic, cooked together with air-dried meats and turned into hearty stew. One of the most well-known Sichuan dishes is beef soup with noodles and peppercorn.
- Hunan: Hunan-style cooking is responsible for the beloved “hot pot” Chinese food in Kansas City. Typically, a simmering pot of stew is placed on the table, and then ingredients are added and cooked on the spot. Hunan food, like Sichuan, is known to be fairly spicy.
- Jiangsu: This tradition of Chinese cooking grows from the Jiangsu Province. It is known for using ingredients according to the current season and focusing on presentation as a key aspect of the meal. Jiangsu dishes are often served at Chinese banquets because they are so aesthetically pleasing.
- Zhejiang: This food is common on the eastern coast of China that touches the Pacific Ocean. Unlike several of the other culinary traditions, Zhejiang is not as spicy and has a heavier emphasis on seafood. A staple of many Zhejiang meals is sea cucumber.
- Anhui: This cuisine is known for its use of wild herbs and gamey meat, prepared using methods like braising and stewing. Anhui is an inland, mountainous region of China, and its style of cooking reflects the wilderness it is surrounded by.
- Shandong: Finally, Shandong food is most common in cities like Beijing. This style of preparing food can be dated back to nearly 200 BC, making it one of the oldest known culinary traditions. Most Shandong-style menus are dominated by seafood that has been fried, paired with ingredients like peanuts, noodles and onions.
Find Chinese Restaurant in Kansas City, MO
Can you find these types of Chinese restaurants in Kansas City, or is it all American-Chinese food? Thankfully, there’s a good variety of KC Chinese food around the metro area. We can’t cover them all, but this list should give you a place to start with a good representation of the different culinary traditions.
- Bo Lings
- Sichuan Dynasty
- Dragon Inn
- Princess Garden
- Blue Koi
- Lucky Wok
- New Peking
- Rice House
- Kin Lin
- Joy Wok
- Shang Tea
You obviously have a lot of options for Chinese restaurants in KCMO. You can pick based on location, menu, atmosphere or price. Either way, you’ve got a chance for a good meal.