As a white kid growing up in central Massachusetts, Chinese food was just, well, Chinese food. Shanghainese soup dumplings, spicy Szechuan fare, Lanzhou-style pulled noodles: These kinds of subtleties and regional variations didn't exist — or at least not that I noticed. Beef chow mein, crab rangoons, and "Peking raviolis" (potstickers) were my go-to order and about the extent of my knowledge when it came to this enormously diverse cuisine.
Things have come a long way, particularly in the Bay Area where the large Chinese-American population and an overall increasingly savvy and curious dining clientele have given rise to more restaurants that specialize in specific regional cuisines and dishes.
That's certainly true in Fremont. The highly diverse city of more than 230,000 bridging the East Bay and Silicon Valley is home to a large and growing Asian population, the diaspora of which encompasses nearly every region of China. You can experience that driving through the sprawling city's myriad strip malls, which are dotted with spots specializing in the likes of Chongqing-style spicy noodles, the Halal and lamb-heavy dishes of China's Uyghur Muslim minority, country-style Hakka cuisine, and even Hong Kong eateries that mix American favorites like spaghetti and pork chops with Cantonese fare.
As a food lover, it's a bit like a culinary treasure hunt trying to sniff out all the hidden gems, unique dishes, and unusual dining experiences in Fremont. I ultimately picked out the following five dishes as some of the most unique, interesting, and plain delicious ones that I came across. There are many more waiting to be discovered. Happy hunting.