Hunan is one of the Eight Great Traditions of Chinese cuisine and is well known for its hot spicy flavor, fresh aroma and deep color. Common cooking techniques include stewing, frying, pot-roasting, braising, and smoking. Due to the high agricultural output of the region, ingredients for Hunan dishes are many and varied. The history of the cooking skills employed in Hunan cuisine dates back many centuries. During the course of its history, Hunan cuisine assimilated a variety of local forms, eventually evolving into its own style. It now contains more than 4,000 dishes.
Geographical Influences in Hunan CuisineHunan is a land of gentle hills, capable of producing a great deal of food. The northeastern section of Hunan falls in the the Middle Yangtze Plain, a fertile agricultural area. Chinas second largest lake, Dongting Lake, is located in the far northeast portion of Hunan province.
Also known as Xiang Cai, Hunan cuisine has already developed into a famous culinary school in China. Hunan dishes consist of local dishes from the Xiangjiang River area, Dongting Lake area and Western Hunan mountain area.
Characteristics of Hunan Cuisine
Hunan cuisine utilizes smoked and curing food in its dishes. Hunan is known for its liberal use of chilli peppers, shallots and garlic. Many Hunan dishes are characterized by a strongly flavored brown sauce. Some rely on sweetness from ingredients such as honey; sweet and sour sauces are also characteristic of the style.
Hunan food takes curing, simmering, steaming and stewing as the main cooking methods. Dishes of this style are usually tinged with a sour and spicy flavor.
Popular Regional Dishes
Hunan’s culinary repertoire consists of more than 4,000 dishes, including Dong’an Chicken, Crispy Duck, Orange Beef, and Spicy Frog’s Legs.
Difference Between Hunan and Szechuan Cuisines
People often get Hunan style confused with Szechuan style Chinese food. Hunan cuisine dishes are often more oily and look darker than Szechuan cuisine dishes. Both Hunan and Szechuan cuisine make extensive use of chili’s, to cleanse the palate and to cope with the humid climate. However, while Szechuan recipes frequently call for chile bean paste, Hunan dishes are normally made with fresh chili peppers, including the seeds and membranes which contain most of the heat.
Humbly submitted for your consumption,
—Mee Magnum (“Chop! Chop!”)