Food + Beverage
China has Eight Great Cuisines, and Hunanese cuisine is one of them. Noted for its spiciness, Hunanese cuisine packs a punch. Expects lots of chilies and lots of garlic.
Fried potatoes with Fatty Beef is a favoured Hunanese dish. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.
Next to Cantonese cuisine, the two most widely known styles of Chinese cooking outside mainland China are Sichuanese, known in Putonghua as Chuan Cai (川菜), and Hunanese, known as Xiang Cai (湘菜).
The name is derived from the Xiang River, which flows through the province.Shenzhen is awash with restaurants serving dishes from both provinces.
Both cuisines are fiery, both have strong flavours, and both can be outrageously oily so it is highly recommended to request less oil when ordering.
Sichuan Cuisine vs Hunanese Cuisine
The peppers favoured by Sichuanese chefs differ markedly in taste from those used in Hunanese fare. Their unique numbing quality, known in Putonghua as ma la (麻辣), is so distinct that there is no English translation for the term.
The sensation it causes in the mouth is practically impossible to describe.
“Chuan cuisine features ma la and the generous use of fragrant oils,” Ng Wing-kun, executive Chinese chef at the Futian Shangri-La, Shenzhen, China.
“Condiments such as chili peppers, black pepper, huajiao （花椒）and ginger are often used to enrich the taste. As for Xiang cuisine, it is made using a wide variety of ingredients, often featuring smoked meats and spicy chilies. The use of oil is generous and the colours are vibrant.”
Curing, simmering, steaming, and stewing are the main cooking methods used by Hunanese chefs. Popular dishes include Dong’an chicken, orange beef, and spicy frog’s legs.
Chairman Mao was born in Hunan Province. Interestingly, many peasant uprisings in China’s long and tumultuous history broke out in the region. Mao once commented that the spicy food that the people in his native province ate made them a bit rebellious.
China’s Eight Great Cuisines: an Introduction
Foodie Challenge: Can I Eat My Way Around China Without Leaving Shenzhen?
Eight Great Cuisines of China (中国8大菜系 )
Cantonese Cuisine: China’s Most Popular Cooking Style (粤菜)
Chiu Chow Cuisine: Regional Cantonese Food (潮州菜 )
Hakka Cuisine: Regional Cantonese Food (客家菜)
Shun Tak Cuisine: Regional Cantonese Food (信德 菜)
Hunanese Cuisine: Chairman Mao’s Favourite (湘菜)
Sichuanese Cuisine: Famous for Numbing Peppers （川菜）
Jiangsu Cuisine: Huaiyang Food (Part 1) （蘇菜）
Zhejiang Cuisine: Huaiyang Food (Part 2) （浙菜）
Anhui Cuisine: China’s Best Kept Culinary Secret? （徽菜）
Shandong Cuisine: This Is Where Peking Duck Originates （魯菜）
Fujian Cuisine: Popular in Taiwan（闽菜）
What is your favourite style of Chinese cuisine – and why?
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