Knowing All about Hunan

Spicy snack heaven opens in Changsha

Updated:2024-06-04 10:22:38

Consumers form a huge line in front of a Lingshi Henmang store in Changsha, Hunan province, during this year's May Day holiday. [Photo provided to China Daily]

The first store selling only spicy snacks opened in Changsha, Hunan province, on Saturday, attracting a slew of heat-seeking food lovers.

The Lingshi Henla store — the name means spicy snacks in Chinese — was opened by the snack chain brand Lingshi Henmang. It sells more than 2,200 kinds of spicy snacks, ranging from spicy gluten strips to pork and stinky tofu, making it the store offering the largest range of spicy snacks in China.

Featuring spicy and bold flavors, including chili peppers, garlic and shallots, Hunan cuisine is considered one of the "eight great traditions" of Chinese cuisine. The spicy snacks have also found favor among people all over the country.

Hunan's Pingjiang county is the birthplace of the popular spicy gluten strips, which are made from wheat gluten seasoned with various spices, including chili peppers, Sichuan peppercorns and other flavorings to give them a spicy and savory taste.

According to market research firm Frost & Sullivan and the China Industry Research Institute, China's spicy snack market increased from 125 billion yuan ($17.3 billion) in 2017 to 172 billion yuan in 2021. According to research firm Nielsen, 7.57 billion servings of spicy gluten strips, weighing a total of 410,000 metric tons, were sold in the country last year.

Li Bin, the head of Lingshi Henla, said the store aims to inherit and promote the spicy food culture of Hunan and wants to cooperate with more spicy food companies and brands.

The store will also try to categorize the different levels of spiciness of its snacks, so that customers can find the ones that suit them best, he said.

Yang Xian, 29, from Changsha, bought three bags of snacks when she visited the store on its opening day.

"I was totally blown away by the number of different spicy snacks at the store, many of which evoke sweet childhood memories," Yang said.

The snacks at the store are cheaper than those sold at regular convenience stores, so she intends to be a regular visitor.

It is also very creative and symbolic of the spicy food culture of Changsha and Hunan, Yang said.

Yu Qiong, 28, from Yueyang, visited the store on Saturday. She said she often bought spicy gluten strips when she was a child and the store reminded her of the "good old days".

Yu said she was amazed by the amount and types of spicy gluten strips on sale at the store.

Although it was rainy on opening day, there were lots of customers at the store, and people needed to "fight" with each other to buy the snacks, she said.