Changsha cuisine, to be more precise the Hunan cuisine, is known as the “Xiang” cuisine. It belongs to one of the eight cuisines of China. It has a fine and delicate appearance featured with a hot, spicy and strong flavour. The chefs cut the vegetables into fascinating shapes and patterns and use them to create a handsome assortment of cold dishes. Each dish tells its own story.
The major part of the Hunan Province has a humid climate due to the location in a lowland area like China’s south-western Sichuan Province. This is why, the Hunan people have developed the fondness of eating capsicum to combat the humidity and evoke the feeling of coolness, just like the Sichuanese. The famous seasoning called Liuyan Lobstr Sauce is representing for the Xiang cuisine’s taste. It is a kind of bean sauce made with pepper and capsicum that is often added to dishes to create a hot flavour.
Steamed Nesting Birds (三层套鸡 – San Ceng Tao Ji)
This name, however, may seem a little strange and does not tell the story clearly. The origin of this dish lays in a story occurred in 1920s. An official’s wife was afflicted with a stubborn headache. A doctor suggested that she buy a sparrow, a pigeon and a black-bone hen as ingredients for a Chinese herbal medicine soup. The doctor first put the small sparrow into the pigeon and then put the pigeon into the hen (hence the name Steamed Nesting Birds). Then the tree birds were steamed with herbs for a long time. The finished dish compromised both soup and meat to eat. However, the story does not tell whether the lady’s headache was cured or not.
Crisp Sesame Duck (麻仁香酥鸭 – Maren Xiangsu Ya)
A duck golden, crispy duck, fried in peanut oil. Spicy seasonings and sesame oil are then added to the fired duck. The duck is cut into pieces and made into assorted cold dishes. It is crisp, tender with a savoury taste.
Non-Yolk Eggs with Mushroom (Huagu Wu Danhuang)
No one will be surprised by a plate of eggs with a mushroom soup. However, when you try it, you will find the tender eggs have no yolk inside and the delicious soup will melt in your mouth.
The chef makes a tiny hole in the bottom of the eggshells and removes the eggs. Then the egg white with a prepared chicken soup and salt are put back into the shells again and cooked. The most delicate of these will have a smooth cover and tender taste.
Spicy Chicken Cubes (麻辣子鸡 – Mala Ziji)
This is probably the most typical local dish. It is said that one has not eaten that dish comes equal to one has never experienced the taste of Hunan Cuisine.
The dish is simply stir-fried chicken dices with pepper, capsicum, vinegar, shaoxing wine over high heat. The finished dish has a bright color and spicy favour. Eventhough the description sounds fairly easy, it is hard to cook. The best place to enjoy this particular dish is Yuloudong Restaurant. It is this restaurant that brought the famous Spicy Chicken Cubes into the life of Changshas people and visitors throng to sample this typical dish.