Hunan cuisine, also known as Xiang cuisine, consists of the cuisines of the Xiang River region, Dongting Lake and western Hunan Province in China. It is one of the Eight Great Traditions of Chinese cuisine and is well known for its hot and spicy flavours,[1] fresh aroma and deep colours. Common cooking techniques include stewing, frying, pot-roasting, braising and smoking. Due to the high agricultural output of the region, ingredients for Hunan dishes are many and varied.


The history of the cooking skills employed in Hunan cuisine dates back to the 17th century.[1] During the course of its history, Hunan cuisine assimilated a variety of local forms, eventually evolving into its own style. Some well-known dishes include fried chicken with Sichuan spicy sauce (麻辣鸡丁; 麻辣雞丁; málà jīdīng) and smoked pork with dried long green beans (干豆角蒸腊肉; 干豆角蒸臘肉; gāndòujiǎo zhēng làròu).

Hunan cuisine consists of three primary styles:


Known for its liberal use of chili peppers, shallots and garlic, Hunan cuisine is known for being gan la (干辣; gān là; "dry and spicy") or purely hot, as opposed to Sichuan cuisine, to which it is often compared.[1] Sichuan cuisine is known for its distinctive ma la (麻辣; má là; "spicy and numbing") seasoning and other complex flavour combinations, frequently employs Sichuan pepper[1] along with chilies which are often dried. It also utilises more dried or preserved ingredients and condiments. Hunan cuisine, on the other hand, is often spicier by pure chili content and contains a larger variety of fresh ingredients. Both Hunan and Sichuan cuisine are perhaps significantly oilier than the other cuisines in China, but Sichuan dishes are generally oilier than Hunan dishes. Another characteristic distinguishing Hunan cuisine from Sichuan cuisine is that, in general, Hunan cuisine uses smoked and cured goods in its dishes much more frequently.

Another feature of Hunan cuisine is that the menu changes with the seasons. In a hot and humid summer, a meal will usually start with cold dishes or a platter holding a selection of cold meats with chilies for opening the pores and keeping cool in the summer. In winter, a popular choice is the hot pot, thought to heat the blood in the cold months. A special hot pot called yuanyang huoguo (鸳鸯火锅; 鴛鴦火鍋; yuānyāng hǔogūo; "Mandarin ducks hot pot") is notable for splitting the pot into two sides – a spicy one and a mild one. One of the classic dishes in Hunan cuisine served in restaurants and at home is farmer pepper fried pork. It is made with several common ingredients: pork belly, green pepper, fermented black beans and other spices.

Chilies are an entire class of flavourings in Hunan cuisine.[1]

List of notable dishes

English Traditional Chinese Simplified Chinese Pinyin Notes
Beer duck 啤酒鴨 啤酒鸭 píjǐu yā
Changsha-style rice vermicelli 長沙米粉 长沙米粉 Chángshā mǐfěn
Changde-style stewed beef with rice vermicelli 常德牛肉米粉 常德牛肉米粉 Chángdé níuròu mǐfěn
Changsha-style stinky tofu 長沙臭豆腐 长沙臭豆腐 Chángshā chòu dòufǔ
Cured ham with cowpeas
Dong'an chicken 東安子雞 东安子鸡 dōng'ān zǐjī
"Dry-wok" chicken 干鍋雞 干锅鸡 gānguō jī
Homemade-style bean curd 家常豆腐 家常豆腐 jiācháng dòufǔ
Lotus seeds in rock sugar syrup 冰糖湘蓮 冰糖湘莲 bīngtáng xiānglián
Mao's braised pork 毛氏紅燒肉 毛氏红烧肉 Máo shì hóngshāo ròu
Mala chicken 麻辣子雞 麻辣子鸡 málà zǐjī
Mashed shrimp in lotus pod
Pearly meatballs 珍珠肉丸 珍珠肉丸 zhēnzhū ròuwán
Pumpkin cake 南瓜餅 南瓜饼 nánguā bǐng
Shredded pork with vegetables 農家小炒肉 农家小炒肉 nóngjiā xiǎo chǎoròu
Smoky flavours steamed together 臘味合蒸 腊味合蒸 làwèi hézhēng
Spare ribs steamed in bamboo
Steamed fish head in chili sauce 剁椒蒸魚頭 剁椒蒸鱼头 duòjiāo zhēng yútóu
Stir fried duck with blood 炒血鴨 炒血鸭 chǎoxuéyā
Stir fried meat with douchi and chili peppers 豆豉辣椒炒肉 豆豉辣椒炒肉 dòuchǐ làjiāo chǎoròu

See also