The 10 Popular Hunan Foods That You Must Try

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10 Must-Try Hunan Foods from the Hunan Cuisine

The 10 Popular Hunan Foods That You Must Try

The History of Hunan Cuisine

Hunan cuisine also called Xiang cuisine originated from the Hunan province in Southern Central China. The Xiang River runs from the south to the north of Hunan. The name ‘Hunan’ means literally “south of the lake”, referring to Dongting Lake in the northeast of the province. Hunan is located on the south bank of the Yangtze River. 


Hunan cuisine is often compared with Sichuan cuisine which is also known for its spicy flavours and the use of chilli peppers. However, there is a difference in the level of hotness each cuisine holds and the Hunanese dishes are known to be dry spicy, whereas the Sichuanese dishes are mutedly spicy with a flavour balance. 


Flavours of Hunan Cuisine

Hunan cuisine is one of the eight traditional cuisines of China and is known for its hot and spicy flavours. The cardinal ingredients in Hunanese cuisine include chilli peppers, garlic and shallots. 


The medley of flavours of Hunan cuisine includes: 


1. Spiciness: Hunan cuisine is renowned for its fiery and pungent flavours. Chilli peppers, both fresh and dried, are a staple in many dishes, adding a distinct heat to the cuisine. Chilli peppers are so integral to Hunan cuisine that it is often referred to as "the land of fish and rice, the home of pepper and spice."


2. Rich Aroma: Hunan dishes are often rich and aromatic, utilising ingredients like garlic, shallots, and various spices to enhance the flavours. The cuisine is known for its skilful use of pickled and fermented ingredients, contributing depth and complexity to the dishes.


3. Diverse Ingredients: Hunan cuisine makes use of a wide range of ingredients, including freshwater fish, pork, chicken, and a variety of vegetables. The province's abundant natural resources, including rivers and lakes, contribute to the availability of fresh ingredients that add to the flavours of Hunan foods.


The common cooking techniques of Hunan cuisine include smoking, curing, simmering, steaming and stir-frying. Meats are often smoked, steamed or cured with tea leaves, giving them a unique flavour profile and the vegetable stir-fries are a hit among the people of Hunan. 


With Hunan at Home sauces, you can bring the flavours of Hunan cuisine to your home. Try our exclusive range of sauces and make your regular meals and dishes flavoursome and drool-worthy. 


The 10 Best Hunan Foods that You Must Try


1. Dong’an Chicken

Source: Cooking for Keeps


Dong'an Chicken, or Dong'an Ji is a classic dish in Hunan cuisine. This flavourful chicken dish is well-known for its aromatic spices, tender chicken, and the perfect balance of savoury and spicy flavours.


The ingredients used to make this renowned Hunan dish are chicken, garlic, ginger, shallots, star anise, cinnamon, chilli peppers, Sichuan peppercorns, soy sauce, sugar and sesame oil.


Serving:

Dong'an Chicken is typically served hot and can be accompanied by steamed rice or noodles. 


Dong'an Chicken exemplifies the essence of Hunan cuisine, showcasing the region's love for spice, rich aromas, and the skilful balance of flavours. Its popularity extends beyond Hunan, as the dish's delicious combination of tender chicken and bold spices has made it a favourite in Chinese restaurants worldwide.


2. Steamed Fish Head

Source: Pinterest


The steamed fish head is a classic Hunan dish that highlights the delicate flavours of fish, combined with aromatic seasonings, all cooked through the gentle method of steaming. This dish is not only popular for its taste but also for its nutritional value and the artful presentation of a fish head, which is considered a delicacy in many Chinese culinary traditions.


Serving:

The steamed fish head is often served directly from the steamer to the dining table, maintaining its presentation and keeping the fish tender.


3. Red Braised Pork Belly

Source: chinasichuanfood.com


Red Braised Pork, known as Hong Shao Rou in Chinese is a classic Hunan dish that involves a slow-cooking pork belly in a flavourful mixture of soy sauce, sugar, rice wine, and aromatic spices. The result is succulent, melt-in-your-mouth pork with a glossy, reddish-brown coating. The sweetness of the sugar complements the savoury soy sauce, creating a harmonious balance of flavours. 


Red Braised Pork is a beloved dish throughout China, but its preparation can vary regionally, and the Hunan version is known for its bold and robust taste.


Serving: 

Red Braised Pork is often served in bite-sized pieces accompanied by steamed white rice and roasted vegetables or served as part of a larger meal with other dishes.


4. Fried Chilli Pork

Source: slurrp.com


Fried Chili Pork, also called La Rou in Chinese is a spicy and flavourful dish that showcases Hunan's love for heat. Thinly sliced pork is stir-fried with a generous amount of chilli peppers, garlic, and other spices. The dish is known for its bold, fiery flavour profile, making it a favourite among those who enjoy the intense heat characteristic of Hunan cuisine. The pork is typically cooked until it's crispy, creating a satisfying contrast to the spice.


Serving:

Fried chilli pork is typically served on a plate or in a bowl along with steamed rice or as part of a larger meal, balancing the spiciness with the complementary flavours of other dishes.


5. Hunan Rice Noodles

Source: Pinterest


Hunan Rice Noodles is a popular staple in Hunan cuisine known for its bold and fiery flavours. These thin rice noodles are typically served in a spicy and flavourful broth, often with a variety of toppings such as sliced meats, pickled vegetables, and fresh herbs. The broth is rich and aromatic, usually infused with chilli peppers, garlic, and sometimes fermented soybean paste.


Serving:

Hunan Rice Noodles are typically served in a bowl, with the thin rice noodles submerged in a spicy and flavorful broth. Toppings such as sliced meats, pickled vegetables, and fresh herbs are arranged on top.


6. Changsha Stinky Tofu

Source: Pinterest


Changsha Stinky Tofu also known as bean curd is a traditional Chinese dish known for its strong aroma. Tofu is fermented until it develops a distinct, pungent smell, and then it's deep-fried or braised. Despite its strong odour, Stinky Tofu is appreciated for its unique flavour and is often served with spicy and savoury accompaniments, such as pickled vegetables or chilli sauce. It's a dish that reflects the diversity of tastes found in Hunan cuisine.


Serving:

Changsha Stinky Tofu is served as bite-sized pieces, either deep-fried or braised. It is commonly accompanied by dipping sauces such as soy-based sauces with garlic or chilli for added flavour. 


7. Hunan Shrimp

Source: whiskaffair.com


Hunan shrimp is a flavourful dish that typically features large shrimp stir-fried in a medley of aromatic ingredients such as chilli bean paste, garlic, ginger, and scallions. What sets Hunan Shrimp apart is the generous use of chilli peppers, providing a fiery kick to the dish. The shrimp are often cooked until they are tender and succulent, absorbing the vibrant flavours of the seasonings.


Serving:

This dish is commonly served as part of a larger meal with rice or noodles.


8. Soy-roasted duck

Source: whatscookingella.com


Soy-roasted duck is a delectable dish that combines the rich flavours of tender duck with the savoury notes of soy sauce. The duck is marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, honey and other seasonings before being roasted to perfection. The result is a succulent and flavourful duck with a beautifully glazed exterior.


Serving:

This dish is often served as slices of roasted duck, allowing diners to enjoy the contrast between the crispy skin and the juicy, well-seasoned meat. Soy-roasted duck is a popular choice in both casual and festive settings.


9. Pearl Meatballs

Source: redhousespice.com


Pearl meatballs also known as zhen zhu wan zi is a unique and visually appealing dish. These meatballs, typically made from a mixture of minced meat, such as pork or beef, water chestnuts, ginger, spring onions, Shaoxing wine, cornstarch, white pepper and sesame oil are coated in a layer of glutinous rice or rice flour, resembling pearls. The meatballs are then steamed or boiled until they are cooked through. The result is a delightful combination of tender meat and a slightly chewy outer layer.


Serving:

Pearl meatballs are often served with a dipping sauce, and their distinctive appearance makes them a favourite for special occasions and family gatherings.


10. Hunan Spicy Beef

Source: tablefortwoblog.com


Hunan Spicy Beef is one of the healthy and popular dishes of the Hunan cuisine. Thin slices of beef are stir-fried with a combination of chilli peppers, garlic, and other spices, creating a dish that is both spicy and savoury.


The use of Hunan sauces which is a mixture of oyester sauce, soy sauce, rice vinegar, honey, chilli paste and beef broth sets this dish apart, offering a spicy kick that is characteristic of the region's culinary style. The beef is typically tender and juicy, making it a popular choice for those who enjoy robust and spicy meat dishes.


Serving:

The Hunan beef is commonly served with steamed rice or noodles.


Conclusion

Now, with that, we come to the end of our popular Hunan dishes that are sure to tantalise any taste bud and satisfy any spicy cravings. If you are wondering about trying new Chinese dishes then keep in mind the Hunan cuisine and its exotic medley of flavours, you’ll not be disappointed. 


And, if you are still far from trying these dishes but would love to taste the flavours of Hunan, then Hunan at home is the magic element that you need to make even spice up your Indian dishes. Explore our range of Hunan sauces that will help you prepare restaurant-style dishes easily at home with a touch of the Hunanese flavours. 


Hunan at Home’s sauce range includes black pepper stir-fry sauce, fried garlic dipping sauce, burnt chilli oil stir-fry sauce, chilli garlic stir-fry sauce, hot basil stir-fry sauce, oriental BBQ sauce, Thai herb dipping sauce, Sichuan chilli paste.


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