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Hunan Cuisine

Hunan cuisine, sometimes called Xiang cuisine, is one of the eight regional cuisines of China. The cooking skills employed in Hunan cuisine reached high standards as early as the Western Han Dynasty, over 2,100 years ago. Hunan cuisine consists of more than 4,000 dishes, among which over 300 are very famous. It is characterized by its spicy and sour flavour, fresh aroma, and deep colour.

The cuisine gives priority to abundance, fatness, smoothness and moistness, mostly featuring chili as the main garnish. Hunan cuisine is purportedly spicy due to the high humidity of the local climate,which makes it difficult for the human body to eliminate moisture. The local people eat hot peppers in order to alleviate feelings of dampness and coldness.

Hunan cuisine consists of three styles: Xiang River style, Dongting Lake style and western Hunan style.

The Xiang River style is represented by Changsha, Xiangtan and Hengyang. Local dishes are meticulously cooked with plentiful ingredients, cutting skill, degree of cooking, colour and appearance all being of the utmost importance.

The Dongting Lake region is surrounded by Changde, Yiyang and Yueyang. The dishes are famous for sea food, livestock and poultry with a deep colour and hot and salty flavour.

Western Hunan refers to the western mountainous area. As this area is rich in mountain forests, it has abundant mushrooms and fungi. The mountain dwellers also make smoked and cured meats that are salty, fragrant, hot and of course, delicious.

Fish Head

A common (and frightening) sight in Hunan restaurants is the classic ‘fish head’ dish: a steamed whole fish (complete with head!) cut in half and cloaked in a sheet resplendent with red chillies. While you may be alarmed at first, the red chillies prove quite addictive and soon you’ll be coming back for more!

Dong’an Chicken

Dong’an Chicken is one of Hunan’s most famous dishes. It a delicacy consisting of parboiled chicken, chili peppers, and spices, all stir-fried with vegetable oil and rice vinegar which is said to have originated in Dong’an county. Well-prepared, it is fragrant, sweet, sour, hot, tender and crisp. Dong’an chicken is one of the signature dishes of Hunan chefs.