Hunan style cuisine has received influnces from all surrounding regions.
The Hunan province in China is home to over 64 million people. Located near the center of this vast country, it has received cooking influences from far and wide. The agricultural areas produce rich harvests, lending additional variety. And, housing one of the largest freshwater lakes in China has also influenced the cuisine.
Discover new ingredients, new techniques, and truly delicious food.
All these ingredients from which to choose... So, it's no simple matter for Chinese chefs to simply throw some meat and vegetables into a stir fry and make a meal. Instead, the food in Hunan is prepared with great care, often taking hours to get the results just right.
Orange beef, a representative native dish, is a perfect example of this elaborate style. Made from beef marinated overnight in a mixture of egg whites, wine and white pepper, Hunan Orange Beef is justly world famous. Spicy, flavorful and a delight to look at as well as to eat. This is Hunan cooking at its peak.
Also typical of Hunan cuisine is the rich, strong spice that makes the dishes here hot, hot, hot. Hunan chefs use chiles liberally. With meals often containing ample slices of fresh chile peppers (and with skin and seeds thrown in to boot), be prepared for a mouth-watering, tear-producing dish. But those drops from your eyes won't be the result of sadness. A Hunan dish will make you jump for joy, while you jump up for a glass of beer. The oil that surrounds spice deflects water so drinking it is less effective.
As with many Chinese dishes, Hunan style cuisine often makes use of rice. Not true everywhere in China, by the way. Mandarin cuisine relies much more on wheat, for example. But as one of China's largest beef and pork producers, meat is commonly part of the menu, as well.
Of course, because of the large lake that is so prominent a part of the province, seafood (or, more accurately, lake food) is often included, too. Hunan is renowned for its shellfish, which diners will often find dressed with shallots and garlic.
Hunan chefs love to simmer and fry chicken, duck and other fowl. Making ample use of oils is also a provincial custom. Meats are often seared before being simmered or fried, which gives them a crispness unique to this region of China.
But steaming and stewing are also frequently employed techniques. Both allow the meat to exude juices that blend with added chile-based spices, which then wend their way back on and into the meat. This makes for a delicious and healthy meal. Using smoked and cured pork is a regional specialty. That produces results that is often darker than those of its Szechuan neighbors.
This is an example of the varied Chinese cuisine. The word 'variety' best sums up Hunan cuisine. During its summers, local spices help the body deal with the heat and humidity. Eating spiced meats opens the pores. In the winter, the style will often shift to a dish known locally as lover's hot pot. Have some and you'll be a lover of Hunan cuisine, too.