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Happy China

Posted by DID 13 Aug 2012 21 Comments

Happy China has a large menu filled with the Americanized Chinese standards, Szechuan dishes and a rotating list of specials that includes things like fried intestines, duck casserole and lamb noodles. It’s a great option for reliable Chinese food in Durham.

Happy China is a bright, impossible-to-miss red building located just behind Nanataco, next to the Subway on Durham Chapel Hill Blvd. Like one of the former occupants, Pao Lim, Happy China’s atmosphere is on the nicer end with cozy booths, paper lanterns, linen napkins, white tablecloths and lots of red and black.

The food at Happy China is consistently solid. The crispy duck, a rare menu item in Durham, is fresh, tender, flavorful and enough for two to share. While more expensive than ordering a whole duck at Li Ming, Happy China offers a better atmosphere and alcohol. The General Tso’s Chicken is the classic guilty pleasure – that great combo of spicy, sweet and fried. Happy China’s version is refreshingly light on the sauce and not greasy. It’s a large portion and comes with a small sides of veggies, which is a nice touch.

The sesame tofu Рanother guilty pleasure Рis cubes of fried soft tofu tossed in a sweet sesame sauce. It comes with steamed broccoli and shreaded carrots. The home style bean curd (fried firm tofu in a brown sauce with broccoli, carrots, bamboo, snow peas and cabbage) could use a bit of flavor and benefited greatly from a dash of soy and hot sauce. Most all of the dinner options come with a choice of brown rice, steamed white rice or fried rice.

The best deal on the Happy China menu is the vegetable soup. It’s only $3 and it’s a large enough portion for six people to have a bowl as an appetizer. It’s a rich broth filled will broccoli, bamboo, lotus root, carrots and other vegetables. It would be a great, extremely affordable take-out option for winter cold season.

Happy China does not rival the selection of some of the great Chinese restaurants in Cary or Gourmet Kingdom in Carrboro, but it does offer a diverse menu filled with both authentic and Americanized Chinese fare right here in Durham.

Worth noting: Everything at Happy China is MSG free.

Happy China is open seven days a week until 10 pm.
2505 Durham Chapel Hill Blvd
Durham, NC 27707
(919) 237-2021


  • dav said:

    Can anyone give some recommendations about more traditional Szechuan items on the menu to try? I’ve had a few of their Chinese-American standards, and they’re fine, but I’m not sure what to try next.


    Doriane replies on May 7th, 2014 at 5:56 pm:

    We get take-out from Happy China a few times a week and mostly only their traditional Szechuan dishes. Our favorite is anything in their “spicy Szechuan broth.” On the menu they list beef and fish, but they are happy to do it with chicken. It’s pretty spicy but really, really wonderful. Very authentic. Their green beans are fantastic (not vegetarian, though) as is their ma po tofu.


  • James said:

    What are the great Chinese restaurants in Cary?


    Ben replies on August 14th, 2012 at 12:10 pm:

    Many people, including me, like Super Wok or Cary Taipei 101.


    DID replies on August 14th, 2012 at 1:19 pm:

    those are the ones i was thinking of – or the bar at grand asia


    judas_escargot replies on August 14th, 2012 at 6:07 pm:

    35 Chinese (Cary)


  • Shane Kelly said:

    The Szechuan Chicken and the Twice Cooked Pork on their Szechuan menu side is absolutely amazing. Very spicy but still has a great flavor to it.


  • Marc said:

    The dry sauteed string beans are fantastic


    Tooth replies on August 14th, 2012 at 9:44 am:

    +1 on the dry sauteed green beans.

    They’re awesome. Also, they were the sole reason we decided to eat at Happy China this past Sunday night. You can imagine how bummed we were when the waiter told us that they were out of that item.


  • Amie said:

    Can anyone recommend a good pad thai place in Durham, Morrisville or Cary?



  • kelly said:

    I love the spicy eggplant at Happy China. It is buttery, sweet, and spicy. Just delicious!


  • Eric said:

    After a string of disappointing Asian restaurants in this location, I’ve been very pleased with Happy China. The schezuan dishes run from hot to fiery, but the kitchen will work with you on this. I had a very interesting dried bean curd and pork dish last week. The bean curd was very firm–almost the texture of shiitakes–with a very flavorful sauce.


  • Jonn said:

    For Thai food question: the best options are Twisted Noodles on University (behind Target) and Pad Thai on Guess Rd. Thai Cafe in Rockwood is very popular but also very hit or miss in service and quality.


  • Savta said:

    We love the vegetarian selections. There are several different tofu and vegetable dishes, including our favorite apetiser, lettuce leaves with tofu.


  • Heidi said:

    They have the BEST Singapore (mei fun) noodles I’ve found in Durham yet. Also the crispy chicken in garlic sauce and the Kung pao chicken were both excellent.


  • CV said:

    The Sichuan cold noodles are spicy and delicious.


  • 3L said:

    Their authentic fare is pretty darn good. The string beans mentioned above are particularly good. And, if you’re a fan of the traditional steamed whole fish, they also do that well.


  • dmarie said:

    Went to Happy China with a group of friends recently. The inside of the restaurant is quite nice. Service was friendly and the food came out quickly. I thought my meal was tasty, flavorful and not heavy. Everyone else seemed pleased with their choices as well. Not sure why I haven’t tried it before, but I will be going back.


  • Frances Bentley said:

    This place is a hidden delicacy. Driving by this little restaurant on the side of a busy road, many may not stop to see what is inside. My friends introduced this restaurant to me last year, as we are high school students, and did not want to spend that much money on a meal, we were thrilled with the decent prices and delicious food that came with it. The service is quick and the servers and chefs are very accommodating to my vegetarian needs and my sister’s lactose intolerance (as it is an asian restaurant, this is not much of an issue anyways).

    Please stop by instead of passing by the next time you’re in Durham and are looking for a delicious meal at a bargain.


    andre d'g-unit replies on April 17th, 2013 at 10:58 pm:

    spot on, im lactose intolerant and go here like errday


  • CV said:

    Hey Carpe Durham, you guys need to check out Dragon Inn (Guess Rd., North Durham, in the strip mall with Ollie’s Bargain Basement). It’s replaced Happy China and Hong Kong House as my fave Chinese place around here.

    It’s under new ownership and now has an authentic Chinese menu in addition to the traditional/Americanized one. And you can also ask for the Spicy Pot menu…a big bowl of stir-fry (you mark the ingredients on the menu list – be brave and ask for #3 spicy). It’s right up there with Chinese food I’ve had in Chinatowns in NYC, San Francisco, and London.

    The place is often filled with Duke students from China…one young Duke student told me that it’s the place they come when they are homesick for real Chinese food. A really special place flying under the radar (in North Durham, no less!).


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