Xiang(湘) Cuisine – One of The Eight Chinese Regional Cuisines
Xiang Cuisine is the local flavor of Hunan Province with a long history. It dated back to the Warring States Period (475 B.C.-221 B.C.), developed into its own system in the Han (206 B.C.-220 A.D.) and Tang (618-907) Dynasties and reached its golden times in Ming ( 1368-1644 ) and Qing Dynasties (1644-1911) and formed its own style. Xiang Cuisine is heavily oily with deep colors and recognized for its sour, hot spicy, fresh taste and fragrant and strong smoking aroma.
Xiang Cuisine consists of three local cuisines, the Xiang River region, the Dongting Lake region, and western Hunan Province. Xiang River region cuisine, the most notable division of Xiang Cuisine, stems from Changsha, Hengyang, and Xiangtan. It is very oily and deep in color but accessible in price. The sought aftertastes are fresh and fragrant, sour and spicy-hot, tender and soft. The simmered dishes and smoked dishes are best-known. Dongting Lake cuisine stems from Changde and Yueyang. It is noted for the freshwater delicacies and poultry. The salient feature is the large quantity and heavy oil, saltiness, spicy-hotness, fragrance, and softness. It is good at stewed and braised dishes. A steaming pot on the mud oven, the ready food is taken out while new ingredients are added. The food is hot and tasty, and the dinners eat with gusto. Western Hunan cuisine consists of the local flavor of the ethnic minorities of western and northern Hunan. It specializes in cooking the mountain delicacies, making smoked and wind-dried meat and poultry. It favors the sour, salty, spicy-hot and fragrant tastes, typical of the wild flavor.
Xiang cuisine has many categories with different cooking methods, including roasting, sauteing, stewing, simmering, steaming, smoking and others. It excels at simmering, almost to the perfection. The dishes simmered with a light soup, creamy soup, and thick soup are tangy.
Xiang Cuisine is well-known for the pure spicy-hotness. Hunan is humid and hot due to geological conditions. People are fond of eating peppers to get rid of the dampness within the body. Sourness and spicy-hotness are favored flavors. The dishes with peppers and seasoned with pickles open the appetite and are welcomed broadly. The smoked flavor is the other loved one. Hunan has a long history of smoking the meat. As early as the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-220 A.D.), the ancestors made dishes with smoked meat. In the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), smoky flavors steamed together had become the hallmark of Hunan cuisine. Now there is numerous smoke food, like smoked pork, smoked chicken, smoked fish, and rice with smoked flavors. A fish head dish is another specialty. All kinds of fish head dish stewed or steamed with dressing are welcomed for their tenderness, softness, and fragrance. The typical is steamed fish head with diced hot red peppers.
Lawei Hezheng (Smoky Flavors Steamed Together)
It is one of the traditional Hunan cuisines. Smoked pork, smoked fish, and smoked chicken are mixed in one bowl and covered with seasoning. Add in chicken soup and steam until it is done. Smoked goods are the specialty of Hunan, including smoked pork, beef, chicken, fish, and duck. Steaming three kinds of smoked goods together is called Lawei Hezheng (Smoky Flavors Steamed Together). The dish tastes salty but not greasy with a strong smoked aroma. It is the first choice to go with rice.
Zu’an’s Shark Fin
The dish originated from the family cuisine of Tan Yan kai, a warlord in Hunan. Tan Yan kai, his courtesy name being Zu’an, was a gourmet. Having cooked according to his ideas and requirement, the chef can always make unique flavors. People then call the dishes zu’an’s Cuisine, which is famous in Hunan. Zu’an’s Shark Fin is made by simmering shark fin with chicken and pork rib and tastes soft, glutinous, tender, pure and thick.
Stone Pot Fish
Its cooking method is unique. Braise the fish in a granite pot with two ears and add in the supplement ingredients and restorative herbs and a large number of peppers. After a series of complicated procedures, the delicious stone pot fish is ready. Legend says that Emperor Kangxi ( 1654-1722 ) got very satisfied with the dish and conferred it Jinfu Yu (Gold and Fortune Fish). It is called the other name hereafter.