Friday, November 23, 2007

A Taste of Hunan

I was in Asia once again last month, but I'm just now getting around to posting some photos. I spent the first few days in China, briefly hit Hong Kong, and finally ended up in Kyoto, Japan for some sightseeing.

While in China, I was fortunate to have dinner with a friend from Hunan province. We were able to find a random Hunan style restaurant in downtown Dongguan City. Many westerners have heard of Sichuan (sometimes spelled Szechwan) cuisine, which is often misrepresented in American Chinese restaurants, but nevertheless correctly known for it's fiery spiciness. Most, however, are less familiar with Hunan cuisine, who's spiciness is equal to, if not stronger than that of Sichuan. I had never had the opportunity to eat Hunan style cooking before, but I was in for an interesting experience.

I took a few photos to give you an idea of what we had.

Beef, fresh chilli peppers, and cilantro - a fresh, light, and tasty dish (and oh yeah, spicy to boot).

Pig tails with fresh chillis, garlic, nuts, and an unknown Chinese vegetable - This dish had great flavor. The chunks of pig tail, however, had fairly tough skin, a microscopic layer of meat, and then a core of bone, so they were not exactly going to fill anyone up.

Duck feet with intestines and vegetables, served in a sizzling iron wok - No one eats duck feet to get full. There's maybe one or two bites of skin that can be gnawed off of these things before you are just pretending. It wasn't clear from the menu that this dish was going to have innards, so the intestines were somewhat of a surprise. Amazingly, despite all this, this dish had outstanding flavor. I can't tell you what was in that sauce, but I can tell you that it would make just about anything taste awesome.

Whole shrimp, fried and covered with 3 types of hot peppers - This dish was pretty straightforward. Heat was provided by the heaping mound of fresh cherry peppers, dried chillis, and the mouth numbing Sichuan peppercorn (typically used in Sichuanese cooking, oddly enough). I think this dish would make great stadium food - it's tasty, convenient to eat, and easy to pop down one after another. Of course, the heat adds up pretty fast.

For more Hunan food fun, see my report on Mao's Family Restaurant (Mao Jia Fan Dian).

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