Like most North American cities these days, many of Seattle’s most exciting Xi’an noodle spots and curative Yunnan soup purveyors sit in the suburbs, but the traditional home of Chinese food, the Chinatown-International District, stays relevant and still holds the highest concentration of excellent restaurants. Big-budget modern regional Chinese chain outlets share streets with old-school chop suey spots, and takeout dim-sum counters are interspersed with all-you-can-eat premium hot pot vendors. It’s a far cry from a generation ago, when most Americans outside the Chinese diaspora barely understood the difference between Americanized Chinese food and the cuisines of China.
Food writer Hsiao-Ching credits more people traveling, or even exploring other cultures from their couches. “What’s on TV, Tony Bourdain… even people on YouTube, broadcasting from wherever they are,” she says. “That has opened up the access to these regional cuisines and ingredients, created a broader demand and customer base.”