In celebration of Chinese New Year (FYI: 2014 is the Year of the Horse), it’s the perfect time to look at one of America’s favorite aspects of China: the food! Chinese food has been a part of the American culture for well over seven decades and with over 41,000 Chinese restaurants in the United States alone, we’d say the cuisine is more or less a staple of our dining-out habits.

Yes, there are countless Mexican restaurants, steakhouses, waterfront seafood spots and neighborhood diners ready to take our order—but no, when we have that hankering for Mu Shu or Kung Pao or Sweet & Sour anything or a cart full of Dim Sum, only one thought pops into our heads: “Let’s do Chinese!”

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Problem is, we have a lot of Chinese restaurants in California. Thousands across the 163,696 square miles of this great state of ours. So which ones are the best? While we can’t speak for every Chinese restaurant in the digital yellow pages, we can give you some insight into five of the best across the Golden State. The ones that have those dishes that invite midnight cravings, are the subject of many-a-water-cooler-conversation and never result in hunger pangs an hour later (unless we’re looking for an excuse to finish off leftovers before bed). Without further delay, here are five of the best Chinese restaurants you’ll find in California. Happy Chinese New Year…now, let’s eat!

1. Yank Sing
101 Spear St., San Francisco & 49 Stevenson St., San Francisco

If you’re craving some top-of-the-line Dim Sum in the Bay Area, Yank Sing is it. Yes, it’s expensive for Dim Sum (expect to pay about $35 a person), but the food will leave your taste buds so happy, the bill wont sting at all. Try the Shanghai Dumplings, the Shrimp Dumplings, the Steamed Pork Buns and (for dessert) the fabulous Egg Custard Tart. They also have an array of vegetarian items that are wonderful, including the Savory Vegetable Dumplings and Spinach Dumplings. *Yank Sing is a James Beard Award recipient and was named one of the SF Chronicle’s “Top 100 Bay Area Restaurants” in 2013. Reservations suggested for both locations.

2. Newport Tan Cang Restaurant
518 W Las Tunas Dr., San Gabriel & 18441 Colima Rd., Rowland Heights

Just say the words “Newport Special Lobster” to L.A. Chinese food fans and watch their eyes glaze over in happy foodie memories. The mid-priced restaurant incorporates Cambodian, Vietnamese and Thai influences into their menu, creating deeply flavorful dishes like the Beef Loc Lac, Clam with Black Bean Sauce and the aforementioned divine Newport Special Lobster. They also have great Lunch Specials with prices that range from just $6.25 to $7.25.

3. Del Mar Rendezvous,
1555 Camino Del Mar #102, Del Mar

The award-winning Del Mar Rendezvous is a cannot-miss dining spot for true connoisseurs of Chinese cuisine. With the most recent accolades from CNN Travel (Among CNN’s 50 Best Chinese Restaurants in the United States), San Diego Magazine (2010 through 2013’s Readers’ Pick for “Best Chinese”) and Trip Advisor (it received 2013’s Certificate of Excellence award) solidifying their “shining star” status in San Diego, Del Mar Rendezvous continues to serve up some of the best food in California. The extensive menu is worthy of daydreams, and includes rave-worthy dishes like Beef with Broccoli, Governor’s Chicken, and the Singapore Chow Konnyaku Noodles. For those with pickier palettes, there are also vegetarian and gluten-free options available! *Check out Del Mar Rendezvous’ wine list, which earned them Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence in 2013.

4. Xi’an 90210
362 North Canon Dr., Beverly Hills

Set in the heart of Beverly Hills is Xi’an, an elegant but lively Chinese restaurant with some of the most consistently delicious (and healthy) Chinese cuisine around. Some of the best menu items include the Steamed Dumplings, Power Zone Rice (mixed veggies and egg white tossed with brown and wild rice—flavored to perfection), the Treasure from the Sea entrée (shrimp and scallops in black bean sauce) and Singapore Curry Rice Vermicelli. *You’ll notice red hearts next to a great number of menu items (including the dumplings and Power Zone Rice), which denotes American Heart Association low fat guideline-approved. Reservations greatly encouraged for interior and outdoor patio seating.

5. Jim’s Chinese Restaurant
1584 Del Monte Ave., Seaside

If you’re looking for affordable, friendly and delicious, family-owned and operated Jim’s Chinese is definitely the place to try. No, it’s not fancy, but the dishes are authentic and consistently delicious—and the service is downright welcoming. Devoted fans sing the praises of the Orange Chicken, Honey-Walnut Shrimp and Eggplant with String Peas and Snow Peas…and also enthusiastically boast about the lack of damage to their pocketbook (most entrées are only around $8.95 and dinner specials are just $8.50).

Have you had the pleasure of eating at any of these California restaurants? What’s your favorite? Let us know in the comments below.