Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Chinese cuisine----Hunan cuisine

While mentioning Hunan cuisine, the first word coming into mind must be hot for most people! It’s so hot that tears and nose are running down the first time I taste it.

Hunan cuisine, also called Xiang cuisine, is one of the eight regional cuisines of China and is well known for its hot spicy flavor, fresh aroma and deep color.

Due to the high agricultural output of the region and the special location, ingredients for Hunan dishes are abundant, such as game, fish, shrimp, crab, and turtle. It’s said that Hunan cuisine consists of more than 4,000 dishes, among which more than 300 are very famous.

With liberal use of chilli peppers, Hunan cuisine is known for being hot. 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 cold.

Compared to another well-known Chinese cuisine------ Sichuan cuisine, Hunan Cuisine is often spicier by pure chili content, contains a larger variety of fresh ingredients, tends to be oilier, and is said to be purer and simpler in taste. The Sichuan cuisine, known for its distinctive málà (hot and numbing) seasoning and other complex flavor combinations, frequently employ Sichuan peppercorns along with chilies which are often dried, and utilizes more dried or preserved ingredients and condiments.

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 lover's hot pot is famous for splitting the pot into a spicy side and a milder side.

Hunan cuisine is consisted of three styles: Xiang River style which is represented by dishes of Changsha, Dongting Lake style which is represented by dishes of Hengyang, and western Hunan style which is represented by dishes of Xiangtan. Common cooking techniques include stewing, frying, pot-roasting, braising, and smoking.

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