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Hunan cuisine is famous as ¡°Xiangcai¡±in Chinese

Editor:Sharon Lee
Source:enghunan.gov.cn
Updated:2011/7/14 14:37:07

Hunan cuisine, sometimes called Xiang cuisine, is one of the eight regional cuisines of China. The cooking skills employed in Hunan cuisine reached a high standard 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 hot and sour flavour, fresh aroma, and deep colour. It consists of three styles: Xiang River style, Dongting Lake style and western Hunan style.

Hunan cuisine is hot because the air is very humid which makes it difficult for the human body to eliminate moisture. The local people eat hot peppers to help remove dampness and coldness.

The Xiang River style is represented by Changsha, Xiangtan and Hengyang. This region boasts good transportation, talented people, and abundant resources. Local dishes are delicately cooked with plentiful ingredients, cutting skill, degree of cooking, colour and appearance all being of the utmost importance. Cooking methods include stewing, simmering, curing, steaming, stir-frying, frying, and quick-frying. The flavours are pungent, fresh and fragrant. Such dishes as hot and spicy chicken, stir-fried tripe slivers, tripe in duck's web soup, and dried scallops with steamed egg-whites are all typical food.

The Dongting Lake region, surrounded by Changde, Yiyang and Yueyang, is a tourist area. The Story of Yueyang Tower, written by Fan Zhongyan, a man of letters and statesman during the Song Dynasty, stressed the beauty of the landscape and gave cultural meaning to the making and naming of local dishes. The dishes are famous for sea food, livestock and poultry with a deep colour and hot and salty flavour. Representative dishes are Xiaoxiang Turtle, Wuling snake, Dongting wild duck and jade-belt fish roll.

Western Hunan refers to the western mountainous area. As this area is rich in mountains, it has abundant mushrooms and fungi. The mountain dwellers also make smoked and cured meats that are salty, fragrant, hot and delicious. Representative dishes are steamed cured meat, Double Ninth Festival fungi and deep-fried loach, all of which have special flavours.

Hunan specialties:

Dong'an Spring Chicken

Created by the Dong'an people of Hunan Province as early as the Tang Dynasty, it has a history over 1200 years. This kind of dish is attractive in shape, color and nutritionally rich. It tastes hot, crisp, sweet, tender and tart.


Crispy duck

Another popular dish is crispy duck. The duck is seasoned with peppercorns, star anise, fennel and other spices, steamed and then deep-fried.

Zu'an Shark's Fin


One of the traditional Xiang dishes, the prepared shark's fin is simmered together with dried scallop soup, Shaoxing wine, salt and clear soup. It is nice in colour and delicious in taste.

Chairman Mao's Red-Braised Pork


Red-braised pork is a dish in memory of Chairman Mao. Many restaurants call it "The Mao Family's red-braised pork." Mao Zedong loved it and insisted his Hunanese chefs cooked it for him in Beijing. It is best eaten with plain steamed rice and simple stir-fried vegetables. The sweet, aromatic chunks of meat are irresistible.

Tortoise and Mutton Soup

Mutton and tortoise meat are boiled in a pot  with crystal sugar, lanceolata, angelica, scallion and ginger. This soup can strengthen your body and refresh your spirit.

Lotus seeds with Crystal Sugar


A famous dish in the valley of the Xiang River and Dongting Lake area, it is prepared with lotus seeds, dried longan pulp, diced pineapples, green beans and cherries through steaming and boiling. This dish is bright in colour with a sweet and refreshing taste.
Kouwei Shrimp

The shrimp is stir-fried with pepper, aniseed, fennel, garlic, ginger, wine and other seasoning. It is very spicy, but one cannot help eating it again and again.

Pungent Tofu

Pungent Tofu is made of Liuyang fermented soybeans,  bittern,  winter bamboo shoot, dried mushrooms and koji wine. The pungent fried tofu  is crispy outside and tender inside. It is delicious to eat with capsicum oil, castor oil and sauce.

Deyuan Steamed Bun

Deyuan Steamed Bun has thin skin and lots of stuffing. The sweet stuffing is made of candy, rose candy or sweet-scented osmanthus candy and the meat stuffing is made of pork, dried mushrooms and jelly oil. Nowadays, it is well known for eight different kinds of stuffings, which are Rose and Sugar, Dried Mushroom and Pork, Sugar and Salt Vegetable, Crystal Sugar, Sesame, Shrimp and Pork, Seashell and Pork, and Barbecued Pork Baozi.

Liu Defang Tangyuan (Dumpling in Soup)

Liu Defang Tangyuan is a famous snack from Changsha City. It is only sold in Liu Defang Tangyuan Restaurant established in the Daoguang Period (1812-1850) of the Qing Dynasty. Liu Defang, nicknamed Liu San, was born in a poor family and sold tangyuan to make a living. Due to its good quality and nice taste, his tangyuan became very famous. In 1852, Liu Defang went to buy flour and found that there was a sycee in the flour. So he went to buy another six bags of flours and found another six sycees. With the silver, he bought a restaurant for tangyuan. The restaurant became very popular because of the delicious taste of its tangyuan.

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