I hope that by reading this, you’re already resigned to the fact that Christmas with the extended family is cancelled. And I hope that when you skipped out on Thanksgiving, you realized there were benefits to missing a year of your Great Aunt commenting on your reproductive status and taking all the good leftovers. Think of staying home again as a bonus stocking stuffer.
This year, in the name of public health, I propose all of us gentiles make like a huge swath of Jewish-Americans who already know Christmas is just another day and celebrate the time-honored tradition of Chinese takeout. Here’s eight of my personal time-tested favorites, ranging from Beaverton to the Jade District. Pick up your order personally if you can, and no matter what, tip well.
Sisters Wendy and Cindy Li revitalized this Hollywood District staple with its iconic neon sign in 2017, revamping a tired Chinese American menu into the city’s only place to get Dongbei cuisine from Northeastern China. This is cold-weather fare, thanks to Russia and Mongolia sharing substantial parts of the province’s border. Don’t skip the Guy Fieri-approved dumplings: thicker-skinned without being doughy, the pork and sauerkraut are the classic (order a bag of frozen ones to eat later). On a cold Christmas night, round it out with any of the stews—I’m partial to the stewed beef with potatoes.
4116 NE 42nd, 503-281-1203, chinskitchenportland.com
This is my personal OG for Chinese American (cooked up by Vietnamese owners), that I discovered when the guy I was dating in 2009 lived a few blocks away. He’s gone, but my order has long remained the same: General Tso’s chicken, salt and pepper squid, green beans with shrimp, and a cup of wonton soup in a super garlic-infused broth.
5314 NE Sandy, 503-288-4743, zienhong.com
Now that I mostly eat alone, I often think of a dinner ‘round Christmas of last year, where I joined eight or so enthusiastic eaters around a lazy Susan laden with just about everything Happy Dragon could throw at us. I think that’s why I’ve ordered like $70 worth of Happy Dragon at least once a month during this pandemmy, living off the results for a week. You should try the roasted duck and add anything else that sounds good. I like the garlic spare ribs and the vegetable fried rice.
707 NE 82nd, 503-256-3828, facebook.com/Happydragonchineserestaurant
Since opening in 2018, Master Kong has wowed with its pillow-soft steamed buns, folded taco style around succulent pork and herbs, and a wonton soup with each wonton boasting a full shrimp inside. They’ve added xiao long bao (soup dumplings) to the mix, and despite the trip from the Jade District to the inner Southeast, they remain the brothy and flavorful Chinese comfort food answer to pot pies. The beef brisket soup has hints of pho’s anise, with hearty chunks of meat and thick wheat noodles that stand up to the broth, even into the next day.
8435 SE Division, 971-373-8248
Pure Spice was always the low-key best choice for dim sum, and my nine-month long quarantine sampling experiment confirms it’s still the best. Order your favorite dumplings Christmas morning along with a handful of lottery scratch-off tickets—no matter what, you’re getting lucky.
2446 SE 87th, 503-772-1808, purespicerestaurant.com
I don’t mean to shake a cane at the old Duck House menu, which actually had duck on it, because it's still the best Chinese west of the river in city limits. The Szechuan wontons in chili oil and piping hot pork and vegetable buns—steamed then crispy fried on the bottom—are still standard bearers, while the cumin lamb is all spice, game, and satisfaction. And while a beef roll is not technically dessert, I say its passing resemblance to a Swiss roll makes it a fine candidate nonetheless.
1968 SW 5th, 971-801-8888, duckhousepdx.com
This is where you need to be if you’re looking for the ma (numbing) and la (spicy) elements that make Sichuan cuisine so special. Go for classics like the fried Chong Qing chicken or the classic ma po tofu with ground pork. But also walk on the “wild side” menu: the signature swimming fire fish, with tender white fish, mushrooms, bean sprouts, and tofu in a spicy broth, and the rabbit chunks (bone in, natch) in chili oil are both a rare pleasure.
16261 NW Cornell, Beaverton, 503-629-7001, beaverton.tasteofsichuan.com
If only all mall food was Din Tai Fung. Order the signature pork XLB and eat them while driving home. And don’t forget to add the following for three hungry people: crispy fried green beans, sticky rice and pork shao mai, pork chop fried rice (by Santa’s beard, I crave this all the time), and Shanghai rice cakes with shrimp.
9724 SW Washington Square, Tigard, 503-629-7001, dintaifungusa.com