Flavors of China > Hunan cuisine
Hunan cooking is rooted in Szechuan cuisine
Hunan means “south of the lake” and the region is nicknamed “the land of fish.” With the Dongting, a true natural basin, and the rivers which flow into it, fishermen here find a seemingly-inexhaustible catch. It is agriculture, however, that is the province’s primary occupation. Changsha, the capital, is famous for its orange groves.
The basics of Hunan cooking can be found in the culinary style of Szechuan. However, poultry here takes on a unique flavor since it is cooked in a special earthenware pot. Steamed or fried noodles or breads are often served instead of rice. Braising is a cooking technique that is central to Hunan cuisine. The slow-simmered stew, called wei, will tenderize virtually any cut of meat, while flavoring it with mandarin peels, sweet peppers and a large amount of pepper and chilies.
Hunan’s salted foods are famous, particularly carp, meat and poultry which are initially marinated in salt, sugar, pepper and wine for 6 or 7 hours. They are then brushed off and hung for 12 hours before being smoked over a walnut shell fire.
Traditional Hunan cooking includes game, swallows, bear’s claws, turtle and snails. Many recipes call for walnuts, chestnuts, peanuts and large amounts of sesame seed.
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