Chinese food in Orange County comes in many guises, from the Beijing-inspired cooking at Peking in Westminster to the tongue-numbing, chili and peppercorn-laced hot pots of Sichuan Impression in Tustin or Meizhou Dongpo in Irvine. Meanwhile, there’s a purveyor of American-style kung pao chicken and sweet-and-sour pork in just about every neighborhood. And while Irvine is the epicenter of OC’s diverse Chinese food universe, there are good options all around. These are the 10 best Chinese restaurants of 2020. And fittingly for the pandemic era, all of these places also offer takeout or delivery.

1. Peking Restaurant

Expect the service to be bossy but sweet. Chef Jerry Chen’s Beijing-inspired food comes out fast and hot: beef-and-scallion pancakes, honey walnut shrimp, country chicken, pan-fried dumplings, and green beans with minced pork. 8566 Westminster Blvd., Westminster, 714-893-3020.

Pan-fried dumplings at Peking Restaurant in Westminster (Photo by Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Pan-fried dumplings at Peking Restaurant in Westminster (Photo by Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register/SCNG)

2. Din Tai Fung

Although it was founded in Taiwan in the 1950s, Californians have long considered this chain to be one of our own, and the location at South Coast Plaza is easily one of the brand’s swankiest outposts. People can’t get enough of DTF’s Shanghai-style soup dumplings called xiao long bao. The shumai dumplings are outstanding, too, as is the chicken noodle soup. South Coast Plaza, 3333 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, 714-549-3388, dintaifungusa.com

Pork xiao long bao at Din Tai Fung in Costa Mesa (Photo by Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Pork xiao long bao at Din Tai Fung in Costa Mesa (Photo by Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register/SCNG)

3. Meizhou Dongpo

Sichuan has become the dominant theme in the local Chinese food scene, and there is no better trafficker of mouth-numbing peppercorn and throat-searing chilies than Meizhou Dongpo. If you like it ultra-spicy, order the royal hot pot — a boiling cauldron of shrimp, beef, mushrooms, quail eggs, lotus root and Spam. On the tamer side, the dan dan noodles are the best example of Sichuan street-style noodles in Orange County. 15363 Culver Drive, Irvine, 949-433-5686, meizhoudongpoca.com

Country style pork at Meizhou Dongpo in Irvine (Photo by Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Country style pork at Meizhou Dongpo in Irvine (Photo by Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register/SCNG)
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4. J Zhou

Lunchtime here is where you’ll find the best dim sum in O.C. The beef cheung fun (steamed rice paper roll) is superb. And you won’t find better sesame noodles than this giant heap. Come dinnertime, the menu shifts toward family-style feasts with offerings such as whole Peking duck, whole soy-sauce chickens, roasted suckling pigs and more. The District, 2601 Park Ave., Tustin, 714-258-8833, jzhouorientalcuisine.net

Pan-fried noodles at J Zhou in Tustin (Photo by Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Pan-fried noodles at J Zhou in Tustin (Photo by Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register/SCNG)

5. Sichuan Impression

Start with the cumin toothpick lamb. Then move on to the “finger-licking spicy crab,” which comes with plastic gloves. The tea-smoked pork ribs are fantastic, too, buried beneath a flurry of fried garlic and dried red chilies. And there’s almost nothing a big bowl of Leshan-style beef soup won’t cure. 13816 Red Hill Ave., Tustin, 714-505-9070, sichuanimpressions.com

Cumin toothpick lamb at Sichuan Impression in Tustin (Photo by Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Cumin toothpick lamb at Sichuan Impression in Tustin (Photo by Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register/SCNG)

6. Yang Ming Garden

The owners closed their original restaurant in Orange last year and moved to a smaller space (much less fancy) in Villa Park, opening right before the pandemic hit. The menu still focuses on vintage California-style Chinese. The crispy Sichuan beef with broccoli is excellent, as is the beef chow fun. 17853 Santiago Blvd., Villa Park, 714-998-9500, yangminggarden.com

Crispy Sichuan beef, string beans and garlic spinach from the new Yang Ming Garden in Villa Park (Photo by Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Crispy Sichuan beef, string beans and garlic spinach from the new Yang Ming Garden in Villa Park (Photo by Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register/SCNG)

7. Ta Chen

The sign in the window advertising “Szechuan and Mandarin cuisine” predates the current Sichuan trend by 30 or 40 years, so don’t come here looking for mouth-numbing heat. Instead, focus on the house specialty “dry braised beef,” a sultry blend of sweet and savory with a thin, almost-brittle texture unlike anything you’ll find elsewhere. The mu shu pork rolls are as big as burritos. 6082 Chapman Ave., Garden Grove, 714-892-6994, tachenrestaurant.com

Kung pao chicken, fried rice, egg rolls and snow peas from Ta Chen in Garden Grove (Photo by Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Kung pao chicken, fried rice, egg rolls and snow peas from Ta Chen in Garden Grove (Photo by Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register/SCNG)

8. China Moon

No one else comes close to China Moon when it comes to genuine, heartfelt hospitality, which is what really sets this place apart. The kitchen serves classic Taiwanese American cuisine – sesame chicken, salt-and-pepper calamari, crispy egg rolls with spicy mustard — that’s better than most. 30001 Town Center Drive, Laguna Niguel, 949-249-6868, chinamoonrestaurant.com

Spicy eggplant, sesame chicken and New York style egg rolls (takeout) from China Moon in Laguna Niguel (Photo by Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Spicy eggplant, sesame chicken and New York style egg rolls (takeout) from China Moon in Laguna Niguel (Photo by Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register/SCNG)

9. A&J

Most people know A&J as the place that makes the best Taiwanese beef noodle soup in Orange County. Pre-pandemic, people would stand in line for hours for this soup, even in summer. Also, just as good as the beef soup: Taiwanese dan dan noodles with peanut sauce and minced pork. 14805 Jeffrey Road, Irvine, 949-786-3585, aj-restaurant.com

Tawainese-style dandan noodles at A&J Restaurant in Irvine (Photo by Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Tawainese-style dandan noodles at A&J Restaurant in Irvine (Photo by Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register/SCNG)