Also known as Xiang Cai, Hunan cuisine has already developed into a famous culinary school in China. Hunan dishes consist of local dishes from the Xiangjiang River area, Dongting Lake area and Western Hunan mountain area.
While similar to Szechuan cuisine, Hunan Cuisine is often spicier and contains a larger variety of ingredients. Other characters distinguish Hunan cuisine from Szechuan cuisine is that in general, Hunan cuisine utilizes smoked and curing food in its dishes much more frequent than Szechuan cuisine. Hunan cuisine dishes are often more oily and look darker than Szechuan cuisine dishes. Hunan is known for its liberal use of chilli peppers, shallots and garlic. Many Hunan dishes are characterized by a strongly flavored brown sauce. Some rely on sweetness from ingredients such as honey; sweet and sour sauces are also characteristic of the style.
Hunan cuisine make extensive use of chiles, to cleanse the palate and to cope with the humid climate. (Hot foods such as red chili peppers dry out and cool down the body, making it easier to handle the heat and dampness). Hunan dishes are normally made with fresh chile peppers, including the seeds and membranes which contain most of the heat.
Hunan food takes curing, simmering, steaming and stewing as the main cooking methods. Dishes of this style are usually tinged with a sour and spicy flavour. Popular Regional Dishes: Hunan's culinary repertoire consists of more than 4,000 dishes, including Dong'an Chicken, Crispy Duck, Orange Beef, and Spicy Frog's Legs.