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Chinese New Year 2016: NYC's best Szechuan, Hunan, dim sum restaurants

Chinese food is all over New York City, but there is so much more available than chicken and broccoli or shrimp fried rice.

Chinese cuisine varies from region to region, and you'd be hard-pressed not to find a restaurant for every last one in NYC. But, of course, some are more popular than others.

There are eight main culinary cuisines of China, from Cantonese to Hunan to Sichuan, with subcategories within each.

Here are some of the most prevalent regional cuisines in New York City and our picks for where to eat them. All locations in Manhattan unless otherwise noted.

Cantonese cuisine

Cantonese cuisine is perhaps the most well-known of
Photo Credit: Meng He via Flickr

Cantonese cuisine is perhaps the most well-known of all Chinese cuisines. If you're eating fried rice or lo mein or popular takeout staples like moo goo gai pan or wonton soup, you are eating food with roots in the Guangdong province of Southern Chinese. Flavor often comes from soy sauce, sesame oil, hoisin sauce and plum sauce as well as dried and fermented ingredients. Dishes are usually stir fried or steamed and dim sum is a very popular style of Cantonese cooking.

Where to eat it:

Pacificana, 813 55th St., Sunset Park, 718-871-2880, pacificanabrooklyn.com

Items to order: pork, seafood peanut steamed dumplings, barbecue pork steamed buns, rolled rice noodles with shrimp, sauteed Chinese broccoli

East Harbor Seafood Palace, 714 65th St., Sunset Park, 718-765-0098

Items to order: rice rolls, taro cakes, steamed pork spareribs, prawns with walnuts in orange flavor, sliced beef with bitter melon

Nom Wah Tea Parlor, 13 Doyers St., 212-962-6047, nomwah.com

Items to order: egg rolls, roast pork buns, spare ribs

Sichuan cuisine

The Sichuan style hails from Southwestern China and
Photo Credit: Garett Ziegler via Flickr

The Sichuan style hails from Southwestern China and is known for its fiery flavor, thanks to the heavy use of chili peppers, chili pepper oil and Sichuan peppercorns, which can numb the tongue and mouth. Sichuan cuisine can also be sour, or pungent.

Where to eat it:

Legend, 88 Seventh Ave., 212-929-1778, legendbarrestaurant.com

Items to order: Chongqing chicken, homemade bacon with green leeks, ma po tofu

Cafe China, 13 E. 37th St., 212-213-2810 cafechinanyc.com

Items to order: pork dumplings in chili oil, braised pork Szechuan style, double-cooked pork with smoked tofu and leeks

La Vie en Szechuan, 14 E. 33rd St., 212-683-2779.

Items to order: double-cooked pork, ma po tofu, clear noodles in Szechuan chili sauce (pictured)

Szechuan Gourmet, 21 W. 39th St., 212-921-0233, szechuangourmetnyc.com

Items to order: Dan Dan noodles with chili and minced pork, stir-fried shredded potato, braised fish with chilis

Shanghai cuisine

Perhaps best known for xiao long bao (soup
Photo Credit: LWYang via Flickr

Perhaps best known for xiao long bao (soup dumplings, pictured), Shanghai cuisine focuses on ingredients and freshness and less on spices.

Where to eat it:

456 Shanghai Cuisine, 69 Mott St., 212-964-0003

Items to order: xiao long bao and fried yellow fish wrapped in tofu, steamed juicy buns

Joes's Shanghai, 9 Pell St., 212-233-8888, joeshanghairestaurants.com

Items to order: salty pork and bamboo casserole, crab and pork xiao long bao

Shanghai Cafe, 100 Mott St., 212-966-3988, shanghaicafenyc.com

Items to order: fried tiny buns, pan fried noodles, Shanghai rice cakes

Hunan cuisine

Hunan cuisine relies on deep flavors and lots
Photo Credit: worldtotable via Flickr

Hunan cuisine relies on deep flavors and lots of spice. Hunan cooking is often compared to Sichuan but is different in a few important ways. It's smokier in flavor, thanks to cured and preserved ingredients found in many of the dishes. It also tends to be more oily, whereas Sichuan cuisine is often dry sauteed.

Where to eat it:

Hunan Kitchen of Grand Szechuan, 42-47 Main St., 718-888-0553

Items to order: cumin lamb, white pepper smoked beef, sliced cured pork with string beans (pictured)

Hunan Manor, 399 Lexington Ave., 212-682-2883, hunanmanornewyork.com

Items to order: steamed eggplant with salty duck egg yolk, white pepper smoked duck with dried turnips, sauteed preserved pork with leeks

Henan cuisine

Henan cuisine is a little like Sichuan because
Photo Credit: Garrett Ziegler via Flickr

Henan cuisine is a little like Sichuan because it uses similar ingredients to add flavor, from Sichuan peppercorns to chilies and garlic, but is a less fiery. Onions are used heavily, and more of an emphasis is placed on sour flavors. It is also known to be more seasonal than other regional Chinese cuisines. One dish that is found at most Henan restaurants is the big tray of chicken.

Where to eat it:

Spicy Village, 68B Forsyth St., 212-625-8299, spicyvillagenyc.com

Items to order: hand-pulled noodles (dry or in soup), spicy big tray chicken

Uncle Zhou, 83-29 Broadway, Elmhurst, 718-393-0888

Items to order: tomato and egg knife-shaved noodles, spicy crispy rabbit

Henan Feng Wei, 136-31 41st Ave., Flushing, 718-762-1818

Items to order: sour dumpling soup, big tray of chicken

Dongbei (Northeastern Chinese) cuisine

The cuisine of three regions in Northeastern China
Photo Credit: feetin2worlds via Flickr

The cuisine of three regions in Northeastern China is called Dongbei and is experiencing an uptick in popularity in New York City, despite the cuisine's relative obscurity. Flavors are deeper and earthier and sometimes sour thanks to heavy usage of vinegar, with spices like cilantro playing big in dishes and spices like Asian cumin taking center stage. Soups are on many menus, as are lamb dishes and pickled and fermented ingredients.

Where to eat it:

Fu Ran, 40-09 Prince S., Flushing, 718-321-1363, furanrestaurant.com

Items to order: Muslim lamb chop, seafood and blotch soup, crispy sliced fish with chili pepper and cumin, tofu stew with sour cabbage and pork

Golden Palace, 40-09 Cherry Ave., Flushing, 718-886-4383

Items to order: crispy flounder with chilies, cumin and sesame, pork and Chinese cabbage cakes, green bean sheet jelly with mung bean noodles, black vinegar and wood-ear mushrooms

Modern Chinese restaurants

For lack of a better term, and indeed
Photo Credit: Wally Gobetz via Flickr

For lack of a better term, and indeed discussions vary on what to call it, Chinese restaurants helmed by highly skilled (and sometimes not Chinese) chefs are increasingly appearing in NYC to much acclaim. They are influenced by more than one region of China, and maybe even more than one country in Asia.

Where to eat it:

Fung Tu, 22 Orchard St., 212-219-8785, fungtu.com

Items to order: smoked and fried dates stuffed with duck, spicy mustard chicken wings, Lion's Head meatballs and noodles in soup

Mission Chinese Food, 171 E. Broadway, mcfny.com

Items to order: thrice-cooked bacon with Shanghai rice cakes, lettuce cups with beef tartare, miso-cured salmon roe and fried onions, cumin lamb ribs with charred onions and dates, green tea noodles

RedFarm, 529 Hudson St. and 2170 Broadway, 212-792-9700 and 12-724-9700, redfarmnyc.com

Items to order: Katz's pastrami egg roll (pictured), pan-fried pork buns, grilled prime Creekstone bone-in New York strip steak, long-life noodles with mushrooms

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