Hunan Cuisine
The cooking skills employed in the Hunan cuisine reached a high standard as early as the Western Han Dynasty, giving it a history of more than 2,100 years. Hunan is located in southeastern China along the middle reaches of the Yangtze River, north of the Five Ridges. It contains rivers, lakes, mountains, rolling hills, plains, and pools, which provide abundant delicacies, such as game, fish, shrimp, crab, and turtle. Making full use of these rich resources, local people created a wide variety of delicacies. Hunan cuisine consists of more than 4,000 dishes, among which more than 300 are very famous. Hunan food is characterized by its hot and sour flavor, fresh aroma, greasiness, deep color, and the prominence of the main flavor in each dish. It consists of regional cuisines from the Xiangjiang River Valley, the Tongting Lake region, and the western mountainous area.

Human food 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.

The Xiangjiang River Valley is represented by Changsha, Xiangtan, and Hengyang. The region has good transportation, talented people, and abundant resources. Local dishes require meticulous care of the raw materials and stress cutting skill, length and degree of cooking, color, and appearance. Cooking methods include stewing, simmering, curing, steaming, stir-frying, frying, and quick – frying. The flavors are pungent, chili, fresh and fragrant, and thickly fragrant. Such dishes as fried chicken with hot and spicy sauce, stir – fried tripe slivers, tripe in duck’s web soup, dried scallop and egg-whites, and dog meat in hot pot are all typical foods.

The Dongting Lake region, surrounded by Changde, Yiyang, and Yueyang, is a tourist area. The Story of Yueyang Tower, written by Fan Zhongyan, a man of letters and a statesman during the Song Dynasty, stressed the beauty of the landscape, and gave a cultural aspect to the making and naming of local dishes. Representative dishes are Xiaoxiang Turtle, Wuling snake in its own soup, mashed shrimp in lotus pod, Tongting wild duck, jade – belt fish roll, and fish fillet in velvet. Deep color, hot and salty flavor, aroma, softness, and beautifully shaped and patterned serving dishes characterize these famous local dishes.

Jishou, Huaihua, and Dayong represent the western mountainous area. Because this area is mountainous, it has abundant game, mushrooms, and fungi. Its dishes are simple, rich, and pure. The mountain dwellers also make smoked, cured meats that are salty, fragrant, hot, sour, and delicious. For example, steamed cured meat, Double Ninth Festival could fungi, deep – fried loache (a fish similar to a carp), and hot and spicy frog legs all have the rich flavors of this mountainous region. Hunan cuisine stresses a pungent flavor, and dishes made of cured products also make an important contribution to Hunan food.

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