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What is Hunan Cuisine?

What is Hunan Cuisine?

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Hunan Cuisine is a type of Chinese cuisine

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Steamed fish head served with diced red hot peppers is a typical Hunan dish.

Hunan cuisine is a type of Chinese cuisine that is commonly referred to as Xiang cuisine, as it consists of cuisines from the Xiang river region including Dongting Lake and western Hunan Province.

Hunan cuisine is one of the eight great traditions of Chinese cuisine and is known for its spicy, hot flavors, and is thus commonly compared to Szechuan cuisine. Hunan cuisine and Szechuan cuisine do share many things in common as both cuisines are known for their fiery cooking, which can be seen through their common use of chili peppers in many of their dishes.

In addition to chili peppers, Hunan cuisine also uses garlic and shallots and is considered a “dry hot” or just purely hot type of cuisine, which is what sets it apart from Szechuan cuisine.

Hunan cuisine is quite an oily cuisine and uses many smoked and cured ingredients in its dishes. Additionally, Hunan cuisine is a very seasonal cuisine, and its menu changes with the seasons.

Common examples of Hunan cuisine are orange beef, dong’an chicken and dry-wok chicken.

Doubanjiang is made from a blend of fermented broad beans, soybeans, salt, rice, and spices. Spicy varieties also include chile peppers in the ingredients list. The longer the ferment, which often ranges from three months to three years, the more expensive and high-end the doubanjiang will be.

Doubanjiang is packed with umami (savory) flavor. The fermentation creates a complex taste that&aposs salty and earthy at the same time, adding depth to any recipe that gets a dollop of it. You can stick with regular doubanjiang or opt for one of the spicy varieties. Search for a jar labelled "spicy" or look for chile peppers in the ingredients list, but if neither of those are available, the color of the product is also an indication of heat level. Spicy doubanjiang is a bright red color, while non-spicy doubanjiang is a dark brown, nearly black, color.

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Hunan cuisine is also known as Xiang cuisine. Its unique spicy flavor has won it a place among the Eight Culinary Cuisines of China.

Hunan cuisine is also known as Xiang cuisine. Its unique spicy flavor has won it a place among the Eight Culinary Cuisines of China.

Hunan cuisine is also known as Xiang cuisine. Its unique spicy flavor has won it a place among the Eight Culinary Cuisines of China. Local preference for spicy food, based on original analysis, is due to the great humidity of the region. It is also said that spicy food helps release extra damp from the body, which is beneficial for health. has compiled a list of top 10 Hunan dishes that are not only tasty but also wallet-friendly. While the degree of spiciness can be adjusted based on your preference, never expect to taste any Hunan dish without chili, less the cook should feel completely at a loss.

Here are our recommendations.

1. Shredded pork with fresh peppers

[Image Credit:] Reason for recommendation: This is probably the most popular dish with local people because of its unique flavor stemming from a perfect combination of long spicy peppers and streaky pork. It is also quite common to mix rice into the sauce.

2. Boiled yellow catfish

[Image Credit:] Reason for recommendation: Like most Chinese people, you might be confused by its literal translation in Mandarin. While huangya literally means yellow duck, the dish has nothing to do with ducks. Yellow catfish has few bones and muscle but has high nutritional value, which makes it very popular with those who dislike eating fish. With the added sliced chili peppers, green onions and diced ginger, yellow catfish has an incredibly delicious taste.

3. Steamed fish head with pickled pepper sauce

[Image Credit:] Reason for recommendation: Choosing pickled peppers with a decent acidity is the secret to this delicious dish. Placing red and yellow-green pickled peppers all over the fish head gives it a really nice appearance, and makes it look more attractive and tasty. One more tip for this dish is to add a bowl of rice noodles into the spicy and sour sauce.

4. Mao’s braised pork

[Image Credit:] Reason for recommendation: This dish might be the least spicy dish in Hunan cuisine because the starchy sauce is made from sugar. Braised pork used to be Chairman Mao’s favorite, and was invented after adjustments were made for his taste.

5. Steamed ribs with black beans and chili peppers

[Image Credit:] Reason for recommendation: Mixed with minced red peppers and black beans, this dish has a unique smell, combining meat and beans. The way of cooking fully preserves the nutrition of the meat and keeps it from becoming greasy. While it is very easy to make, timing is everything.

6. “Dry-wok” chicken

[Image Credit:] Reason for recommendation: “Wok” is the term for “pot” in Cantonese. “Dry woks” mostly contain a little bit of thick sauce at the bottom only. Chicken made this way tastes crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. Generally, fresh vegetables are included in this dish.

7. Braised eel with cucumber

[Image Credit:]

Reason for recommendation: Before being braised with cucumber, the eels are normally fried to medium rare. Normally the cook will add a handful of dried chilis when the soup becomes milky.

8. Smoky flavors steamed together

[Image Credit:] Reason for recommendation: Three main ingredients are needed for this dish: smoky pork, duck and fish. The oil stemming from these three different meats smells really good. Mixed with flavorous spicy black beans, I bet you will order another bowl of rice to go with it.

9. Big pot cauliflower

[Image Credit:] Reason for recommendation: Cauliflower is broken off into segments for this dish. Experienced cooks prefer to add oil collected after frying smoky pork and cumin seeds.

10. Preserved eggs with roasted chili peppers

[Image Credit:] Reason for recommendation: Though this dish looks like a simple starter, it has very strict requirements. Roast the peppers until they are well done, tear off their peels and cut them into strips. The last step is to mix sliced preserved eggs and stripped roasted peppers with two teaspoons of chili oil and a little bit of vinegar.

Notable Features - Many Vegetables, Hot Seasonings, and Rice

Crunchy vegetables: Eating a wide variety of vegetables keeps them healthy as does their cooking method. They generally like to sauté with a little oil so it is still crunchy "al dente." It preserves vitamins in food this way.

  • Refreshing summertime vegetable: 'Slapped cucumber' (拍黄瓜 pai huanggua) is an appetizer of cold cucumbers served in garlic, dried chili flakes, and vinegar. To prepare it, cucumbers are 'slapped' down to absorb the vinegar dressing.

Daily staple: The area is in the subtropical rice growing area of China, so white rice and rice noodles are the the main staple cereal foods. For example, mi fen (长沙米粉 mǐfěn) rice noodle soup is popular in Changsha.

Seasonings of Xiang Cuisine

Yang sources: They use hot peppers and green onions, shallots, garlic, ginger, spicy oil, duo la jiao and cassia cinnamon to provide the needed daily yang. Soy sauce and tea seed oil are also used in cooking.

Sweet foods: Honey is enjoyed in some dishes, and sugar is used in some dishes and candy. They like sweet food, but not as much as the Cantonese further south. Lotus seed candy is a local product.

Picking Your Peppers

Ever since we started the blog, the pepper-loving community has really kept us on our toes about pepper varieties and spice levels!

Peppers are vital to Hunan Beef, but the peppers you use are a matter of personal preference. We like to use a variety—both spicy and sweet. Poblano and Holland peppers are mild, but if you want more spice, you can add Fresnos or jalapeños to the mix. We had a great pepper crop in our garden this year, so we used a mix of what we had!

Remember that the addition of the dried chili peppers can add a lot of spice (also depending on whether you chop them to release the seeds inside or leave them whole), so you’ll want to consider those factors as well.

What is hunan beef?

Hunan beef is a term most commonly used by the people of China. Hunan beef and Hunan beef recipes originated from the villages of china it is a representative of Chinese culture. This Hunan beef based recipes are different from the traditional food recipes of China. The taste and flavor for Hunan beef based foods are a mixture of spicy and sour. Hunan is a Chinese province. This province is mostly known for its cuisine in spice based foods and flavors. The beef in Hunan beef is very spicy due to the extravagant addition and use of hot chili peppers. In traditional Hunan beef recipes the beef is prepared with a mixture of peppers and onions along with some soy sauce and red wine.

Chinese food recipes in traditional beef prospects involve shallow frying. This technique is applied to many Chinese recipes such as the stir fried meat. The process is composed of two steps to actually establish the taste and texture of velvety cornstarch coverings and coatings over the beef. Another important cooking concept is to partially cook the meat before it is sis disposed to high heat and stir fry.

Hunan beef deep fry is an altered and magnified adaption of Fuchsia Dunlop&rsquos cookbook called the &ldquoRevolutionary Chinese cookbook&rdquo. In reference to Hunan beef the Hunan province has a specialty of chile, chile flakes and garlic. These ingredients are known to increase a lavish and mouth-watering flavor profile for the Chinese food.

Another specialty of Hunan province is the garlic Hunan beef this beef is a stir fried dish that comprises of garlic fried in beef, this renders the beef soft and very rich in taste. During the cooking process beef is stir fried with additional ginger and Thai chilies. Currently this dish is the most popular dish in Chinese cuisine and Chinese restaurants.

Hunan beef recipe ingredients common to all Chinese cuisine and restaurants include the following

These are the common ingredients however recently Chinese have been experimenting with the taste of food. Different flavors and regional food textures have been brought into the Chinese food culture. Similarly the Hunan beef can be cooked in various ways some of the provinces differ in their cooking styles for the same Hunan dish. Some prefer to add a sour flavor and some add sugar or honey to make it more delicious and rich in flavor. Some of the provinces have experience Hunan beef with pineapple and avocado as a side line.

Chinese have been experimenting with food flavors for some time now. Many traditional Chinese dishes have been reintroduced in China with different ingredients or sidelines. Most of the Chinese cuisine is subtle in nature. Not too rich in flavors. The trends have however changed and resulted in a very good prospect for food industry in China. This has opened up many business opportunities for nationals as well as international chains to invest and open different cuisine based restaurants in china. Hunan beef is a traditional dish of China however the popularity of the dish has recently increased in the past decade due to the requirement and change in taste of common people. This dish is extremely rich in flavors and offers a great divine experience.

Hunan food imparts numerous shared traits to its nearby, more notable cousin, Szechwan cooking, The two cooking styles begin in the Western district of China.

The atmosphere there is sub-tropical sticky and warm enough to energize the utilization of searing flavors to help cool the body, and to require high spicing of food as an additive.

With comparative atmosphere, the two districts additionally share numerous fixings rice is a significant staple in the two weight control plans, and bean stew peppers are a significant piece of most dishes.

The two styles of territorial food are comparative enough that numerous eateries and cookbooks knot them together under Western Chinese cooking or basic allude to both as Szechwan cooking.

There are some significant contrasts, however.

Hunan cooking is, for a certain something, considerably more red hot than most Szechwan dishes.

Szechwan dishes regularly incorporate bean stew glue for scouring into meats, or remembering for sauce.

Hunan culinary experts incorporate the whole dried bean stew pepper, with its seriously hot seeds and skin.

The distinctions in the real place where there is the two districts likewise affects the distinctions in their food.

The Szechwan area is hilly wilderness, with minimal arable land for cultivating.

The Hunan area, on the other hand, is a place that is known for delicate moving slopes and moderate streams.

In view of its fruitful hillocks and valleys, the Hunan district approaches an astounding assortment of fixings that arent accessible to Szechwan cooks.

Fish and meat are both undeniably more normal in Hunan cooking, as are numerous vegetables.

The land, and the difficulties related with it, additionally give the Hunan more opportunity to focus on food.

Hunan cooking highlights complex and tedious planning time.

Numerous dishes start their planning the day preceding they are to be served, and might be marinated, at that point steamed or smoked, lastly southern style or stewed before they arrive at the table.

A similar consideration is paid to the readiness of fixings, and it is said that Hunan food is the most satisfying to the eye of every single Chinese cooking.

The state of a food in a specific formula is close to as significant as its essence in the last dish.

Hunan gourmet experts are experts with the blade cutting whimsical states of vegetables and natural products that will be utilized in planning suppers, or to introduce them.

Hunan cooking is noted for its utilization of stew peppers, garlic and shallots, and for the utilization of sauces to complement the flavors in the elements of a dish.

It isn’t remarkable for a Hunan dish to play on the differences of flavors hot and harsh, prepared, sweet and hot impactful, fiery and scrumptiously sweet at the same time.

Hunan culinary experts are noted for their capacity to make an orchestra of taste with their fixings.

An exemplary model is Hunan zesty hamburger with vegetables, where the meat is first marinated for the time being in a citrus and ginger blend, at that point washed and scoured with bean stew glue prior to being stewed in an impactful earthy colored sauce.

The outcome is a meat that is meltingly delicate on the tongue and changes flavor even as you appreciate it.

To an ever increasing extent, eateries are starting to figure out the two cooking styles, and Hunan food is making its mark.

Firm duck and Garlic-Singed String Beans are having their spot close by Kung Pao Chicken and Twofold Cooked Hot Pork.

In any case, there is no fight between the two for a position of honor among Chinese Provincial foods rather, there are just victors the cafes who have the joy of examining both.

Top 5 dishes to try in Hunan cuisine

Steamed fish head with chopped chilli pepper

Steamed fish head with chopped chilli pepper is one of the most famous Hunan dishes. It contains the use of chopped chilli peppers as a condiment. The origin of the dish reportedly dates to the Qing dynasty. The meal usually tastes salty and spicy. You can eat it by dipping the fish headpiece in the chopped chilli peppers.

Stinky tofu

One cannot stand the smell of the stinky tofu street food. The amazing thing, however, is that the moment you taste it you cannot stop eating it. The Hunan Changsha-style of stinky tofu has a less spicy smell. It is black in colour as a result of the ingredients used in the brine solution during the fermentation of the tofu. It is deep-fried and served with a hot delicious sauce. The tofu pieces are supposed to be crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. One can also serve it with pickled veggies which will add some additional layer of flavour.

Dongan chicken

Dongan chicken is originally vinegar chicken. The main ingredients contain the small pieces of chicken, chilli peppers, Sichuan peppercorns, white rice vinegar, ginger and scallions. One can add more ingredients if they wish to. It is the signature dish of the people of Hunan. The cooking process begins by parboiling the chicken first for a couple of minutes before you begin to stew it with salt vinegar and wine.

Mao&rsquos braised pork

Mao&rsquos braised pork is yet another common delicacy in the Hunan region. First, the pork is cut into cube dices then braised in the sauce with some sugar and red pepper. It has a unique taste that is slightly spicy, salty and sweet yet not oily. The meal has got its name from Mao&rsquos family.

Steamed Yolkless egg with mushroom

The steamed yolkless egg is one most authentic Hunan meals of the Changsha tradition. It has reportedly been a traditional meal for over 100 years in Hunan. The chefs extract the yolk then leave the egg white within the shells. Then the chicken is added to the eggshell and mixed with the egg white before sealing it again and then the food is steamed. The dish is delicate and fresh.

Recipe Summary

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, or more as needed, divided
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 ounce fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 pound pork tenderloin, sliced into thin strips, or to taste
  • 3 hot long green chile peppers, sliced into thin strips, or more to taste
  • salt to taste
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce, or to taste

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat until smoking saute garlic and ginger until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add pork to wok cook and stir until cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer pork to a plate.

Pour remaining 2 tablespoons oil into the same wok over medium-high heat saute chile peppers until well-coated with oil and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add pork to chile peppers and generously season with salt. Cook and stir mixture until peppers are tender, 5 to 7 minutes more. Mix enough soy sauce into pork mixture to add color and taste for desired saltiness.

What Is Hunan Chicken? (with pictures)

Hunan chicken is a spicy dish of chicken and vegetables popular in Chinese-American cuisine. It is based loosely on the cooking style of the Hunan region of southeastern China, particularly along the Xiang river most experts concede, though, that there is no single chicken dish from this region so popular as to warrant such a universal name. In the West, particularly in the United States, Chinese food has become quite standardized, however, and “Hunan chicken” is a typical preparation in many restaurants and take-out shops in these places.

Common Characteristics

Hunan chicken is a stir-fry dish, which means that it is prepared using a wok over very high heat. Cooks add raw chicken to the wok once it is smoking hot, then stir rapidly and constantly until the meat is cooked through.

One of the most defining characteristics of this type of chicken is its thick sauce, which is typically made by combining fresh ginger, soy sauce, and rice wine vinegar. Spices like red chili peppers, garlic, and scallions are usually included as well. Cooks typically marinate chicken pieces in this sauce for several hours before cooking, and most will add more as the dish is being prepared. Most people will also add cornstarch during this phase to help the sauce thicken and really adhere to the chicken.

The type of chicken used can be a matter of some controversy, at least among Chinese food aficionados. Many people argue that bone-in chicken pieces — drumsticks, for instance, or wings and thighs — are more authentic. These pieces can be harder to eat, however, particularly when presented as a stir-fry. Many restaurants and commercial ventures use boneless chicken chunks, usually from the breast. This may be less traditional, but usually proves more popular with consumers.


Most of the time, Hunan chicken is served over white rice with vegetables, particularly broccoli and onion. Cooking the vegetables alongside the chicken allows their flavors to influence the sauce, but this isn’t always necessary — the vegetables can be prepared separately, which makes them crisper and helps them retain their own texture better. It is usually more efficient to cook everything all at once, as it saves time and requires fewer tools, but the taste is often improved when the ingredients are kept separate. A lot depends on the individual taste preferences of the chef as well as the space and time available.

Where to Find Commercially

Hunan chicken is usually a staple dish at Chinese restaurants, particularly take-out or “fast food” chains. The simplicity and easy predictability of the dish makes it a favorite among consumers on the go. These same properties often make it somewhat less popular at fancier Chinese establishments, where chefs often like to present dishes that are more authentic or at least more complex.

Traditional Variety and Westernization

China’s Hunan region is well known for spicy foods with a dry heat that comes primarily from the oil of fermented or dehydrated chili peppers that grow in the region. Poultry dishes are popular here, though there is not really a single dish that is itself characteristic of the cuisine since cooks in Hunan, as in most places, prepare meals in many different ways. Chicken can be stir-fried, boiled, or grilled, for instance, and a variety of different sauces and marinades are common.

The dish known as “Hunan Chicken” in the United States, much of Europe, and other countries is usually best described as “inspired by Hunan.” It is typically made with ingredients that are commonly available outside of China, and is often designed to appeal to the tastes of non-Chinese consumers. Most fast food restaurants make this dish following the same basic recipe, and as a result it has become more or less standardized around the world. Different cooks are of course free to add their own twists, but the core dish is usually pretty much the same from place to place.

Cooking at Home

A number of food manufacturers sell specialty Hunan sauces that home cooks can buy to make the dish in their own kitchens some companies also go so far as to sell ready-made chicken meals, usually frozen, that can be prepared quickly. These “pre-made” options tend to best emulate the taste of take-out, but are by no means the only way to get good results. Making Hunan sauce from scratch can be time consuming, but is often worth it where taste and nutritional value are concerned. Home cooks who control what goes into their meals can both tailor them for personal taste or family member preference and can limit ingredients like sugars and starches, which can add calories.

Common Variations

Making the dish more or less spicy is one of the easiest variations, though adding things like garlic, peppercorns, or different vegetables can also alter the finished product. Serving it over brown rice, thin noodles, or shredded lettuce can also change the presentation. So long as cooks keep to the basic thick brown sauce, altering the taste or playing with the accompaniments can be a good way to make the dish more personalized.

Watch the video: What Is Authentic Hunan cuisine (May 2022).