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Hunan cuisine

Updated: Jul 20, 2017 Print

Hunan cuisine, or "Xiang cuisine," is derived from the Xiaoxiang (the region of "lakes and rivers" in south-central China that more or less corresponds with today's Hunan province) area, is one of the eight culinary traditions of Chinese cuisine.

Hunan cuisine features complicated and delicate preparation process, rich variety of ingredients and a kaleidoscopic range of tastes and diverse dishes and categories. It is known for affordability, the liberal use of oil, deep colors, fresh aromas, spiciness and tender textures. Common cooking techniques include simmering, stewing, smoking, steaming and stir-frying.

The theme of Hunan dishes is strong flavors that arouse our appetite for rice. Many Hunan natives don't like to eat foods that are too spicy but do so anyway, primarily to eat more rice. For this reason, Hunan cuisine is often paired with rice.

Hunan cuisine boasts an impressively long history. Its genesis dates back to the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220), when it had already reached a fairly high level of culinary finesse. The taste is predominantly savory, sour and spicy and imparts a distinctive mountainous and rural flavor. Hunan cuisine is mainly made up of dishes from Changsha and Hengyang. The unity between the gustatory and visual perceptions and harmony of colors, the blending of tastes, aromas, presentation and textures are all vital.

Tasty Snake


Tasty Snake is a traditional dish of the Han ethnic group in Hunan province. The spicy snake coated with sauce is so tender and soft that you can get rid of the bones with only one bite. The dish is covered with chili peppers which make it taste hot but addictive.

The traditional Tasty Snake is braised with tea oil, chili powder, garlic and ginger. In recent years a new kind of Tasty Snake, Tasty Snake Braised with Green Pepper, is created and has become a specialty in many Hunan restaurants.

Steamed Fish Head with Diced Hot Red Peppers


Steamed Fish Head with Diced Hot Red Peppers is a traditional dish of the Han ethnic group located on the border between Hunan and Jiangxi province. The white tender fish head meat is covered with red diced chili peppers. It is not only visually appealing but also mouth-watering.

The delicacy is well preserved and the hot flavor of the diced chili is fully penetrated in the fish head when steaming. It is savory and at the same time helps lowering blood fat, increase brain power and anti-aging, which is why the dish is so popular.

Steamed Preserved Pork, Chicken and Fish


Steamed Preserved Pork, Chicken and Fish is a traditional dish in Hunan province. The main ingredients (preserved pork, preserved chicken and preserved fish) are steamed with chili powder and fermented salted soybeans. Preserved duck, beef and preserved sausage can also be steamed in this way. It is salty and sweet with a special taste of preserved meat. Many locals use the leftovers after Spring Festival to cook the dish.

Steamed Preserved Pork, Chicken and Fish is spicy and has a smoked taste which is good to go with rice or wine.

Griddle Pork Intestines


Griddle Pork Intestines is a traditional Hunan dish which is popular in provinces of Hunan, Hubei , Jiangxi, Sichuan as well as Chongqing.

Pig bowels are cut into pieces of the same length and are braised with high quality soybean sauce and Hunan chili sauce to make the Griddle Pork Intestines which are shiny red, salty and spicy. 

The dish is chewy and savory with an endless aftertaste. Its spiciness makes it a good choice to go with rice.

Stir-fried Shredded Pork and Vegetables


Stir-fried Shredded Pork and Vegetables is a popular traditional dish of the Han ethnic group which is mouth numbing and spicy with very tender shredded pork. The main ingredients are marbled pork, green pepper and red pepper. Stir fry them together and you’ll have the delicious dish.

Here are the detailed cooking procedures: Cut the marbled pork into slices, chop green and red peppers into dices. Add oil in the wok to fry two types of Sichuan peppers. Then stir fry with marbled pork and dry chili peppers. Add scallions, ginger, garlic, salt, cooking wine, soybean sauce and fine broth. Finally add green and red pepper dices to stir fry until done. Add some vinegar before serving.

Stir-fried Shredded Pork and Vegetables is quick and easy. This not only refers to the procedures, but also the heat and the time spent on the dish. If you cook too slowly or on a very high heat, the tenderness of the marbled pork will be greatly affected.

Braised Pork in Brown Sauce, Mao’s Family Style


Braised Pork in Brown Sauce, Mao’s Family Style is a famous Hunan dish which is visually appealing as well as savory. The main ingredient marbled pork is seasoned with sugar and cooking wine to make the sweet, salty and spicy Braised Pork with beautiful golden brown sauce.

Mao Zedong, the late Chairman of PRC, used to enjoy dishes cooked with soybean sauce. However, he once witnessed the unhygienic making process of soybean sauce in a small workshop and so he stopped having dishes with soybean sauce ever since. Cheng Ruming, a chef in Zhongnanhai, the central government's headquarters in Beijing, came up with a good idea. He used sugar and salt instead of soybean sauce to give the pork a brownish color. In this way, the marbled pork tastes much better than before and is greatly enjoyed by Chairman Mao.




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