Chairman Mao Zedong’s home province of Hunan is renowned throughout China for its fiery flavors. Also called “Xiang” cuisine, it consists of cooking styles from the Xiang River region (near the capital of Changsha), Dongting Lake (near Changde) and western areas, such as Zhangjiajie.

Contemporary cooking skills date back as far as the 17th century. Over the course of its history, Hunan cuisine collected a variety of local forms, eventually evolving into its own unique style. Today, it’s rumored to contain over 4,000 dishes, with chili peppers being an entire class of flavorings alone.

Today, it’s rumored to contain over 4,000 dishes, with chili peppers being an entire class of flavorings alone.

Hunan food is known for being either dry hot or purely hot, as opposed to Sichuan cuisine, of which it’s often compared. The two provinces are very close to each other, separated only by the municipality of Chongqing, which once was a part of Sichuan.

Hunan food is often spicier by pure chili content and contains a larger variety of fresh ingredients. While, both Hunan and Sichuan cuisines are perhaps significantly oilier than other cuisines in China, Sichuan dishes tend to contain a lot more oil than items from Hunan. Another characteristic distinguishing Hunan from Sichuan is that smoked and cured goods are found much more frequently in Hunan dishes.

One unique feature of Hunan food is that the menu changes with the seasons. In a hot and humid summer, a dinner will often start with cold dishes or a platter holding a selection of cold meats with chili to open the pores and keep cooler.

During winter, a popular choice is hot pot, which is thought to heat the blood in the cold months. A special type, called “lovers’ hot pot” (鸳鸯火锅; yuanyang huoguo), is notable for splitting the pot into two sides—one spicy, one mild. A welcome get-out-of-jail card for those not able to take the heat.

A classic Xiang dish is Farmer Pepper Fried Pork, which is made of several common ingredients: pork belly, green pepper and dòuchǐ (豆豉)—a type of bean commonly found in Hunan. All of these are combined with various spices to expectedly raise the temperature.

Other staples include the infamous stinky tofu (臭豆腐; chòu dòufu), beer marinated duck (啤酒鸭; píjǐu yā) and smoked pork with dried long green beans (干豆角蒸腊肉; gāndòujiǎo zhēng làròu). It’s worth noting that the “la” in làròu does not refer to spicy as one may think, but rather to the fact that the pork hangs for days, while smoke is infused into the meat.

Chef’s Specials
冰糖湘莲 / bīngtáng xiānglián / Lotus seeds in rock sugar syrup
毛氏红烧肉 / Máo shì hóngshāo ròu / Mao’s braised pork
南瓜饼 / nánguā bǐng / Pumpkin cake

Where to find it
The Food Is Delicious 饭菜真湘
Phone: 2868 9500
Address: 3/F, A2 Zone, South China Mall, Wanjiang (close to Tianhe Department Store)
万江华南摩尔美食广场A2区3楼 (近天和百货)

Shui Mo Tian Yuan 杨裕兴?水墨田塬
Phone: 2211 0669
Address: No. 215, 2/F, Podium Building 2, One Mall, First International, Hongfu Rd, Nancheng

Chai Huo 柴火酒家
Phone: 8117 2088
Address: Zhongshan Middle Rd, Hengli Town (opposite of Huixin Furniture Fair)
横沥镇中山中路汇鑫家具博览会对面 (久记猪肚鸡旁)

See Guangdong cuisine here
See Fujian cuisine here
See Jiangsu cuisine here
See Zhejiang cuisine here
See Anhui cuisine here
See Sichuan cuisine here
See Shandong cuisine here

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