Ten cuisines you mustn't miss in Changsha
The scorching weather continues to beat down across Changsha, Hunan province, sapping energy and making daily life a challenge. However, the heat is sure to pass followed by mellower temperatures.
No matter what time of year, there is one thing in Changsha that is sure to restore energy and ignite passion among its people. It's Food.
Here are 10 classic Hunan dishes not to be missed all year round.
Sauteed pork with pepper (la jiao chao rou)
Sauteed pork with pepper [Photo/ Changsha.com.cn]
You would be hard pushed to find a single person in Hunan who didn't love this dish. Made from fresh slices of pork, green peppers and garlic, you may ask what makes this dish particularly Hunan in style. The secret comes from the local thin green or red peppers commonly found in the province. These peppers absorb the oil from the pork giving the dish a uniquely savory taste.
Yellow catfish (huang ya jiao)
Yellow catfish [Photo/ Changsha.com.cn]
The name of this dish is derived from the yellow color of the catfish and the strange duck-like noise they makes when they are caught. The dish itself is fried until crispy, and is beloved by Changsha locals for its fragrant, fresh and spicy flavor. The head of the fish is a delicacy in itself, and is often reserved for the most senior person at the dining table.
Steamed fish head with chopped bell peppers (duo jiao yu tou)
Steamed fish head with peppers [Photo/ en.changsha.gov.cn]
This Hunan classic, known across the globe, blends color and fragrance with fresh fish and spice. A large fish head is steamed and then covered in a heady mix of chopped bell peppers, garlic, coriander, onion, ginger and fermented soya beans.
Chairman Mao's red-braised pork (mao shi hong shao rou)
Chairman Mao's red-braised pork [Photo/ Changsha.com.cn]
This Hunan braised pork dish was said to be so beloved by Chairman Mao that he insisted that his chefs in Beijing cook it for him. Using belly pork cut into cubes and coated with a fragrant sweet and salty red sauce, the dish is best served with plain white rice and some stir-fried vegetables.
Steamed spare ribs with black bean and pepper (dou chi la jiao zheng pai gu)
Steamed spare ribs with black bean and pepper [Photo/ Changsha.com.cn]
For those who can't take the heat often associated with Hunan cuisine, this dish is a smart choice. The selected spare ribs are rubbed with spices and seasoning including starch, oyster sauce, chicken powder, black beans and red pepper. The ribs are then steamed and served in a rich soup.
Griddled chicken with peppers (gan guo ji)
Griddled chicken with peppers [Photo/ Changsha.com.cn]
This dish popular among locals is not only rich in nutrition but also a flavorful pot of crispy, sour, spicy and colorful surprises. The crispy griddled chicken is mixed with soft carrots, celery, lotus root and other vegetables that melt in the mouth. The unique smoky flavor of this dish comes from the chili oil and various spice extracts.
Stewed eel (huang men shan yu)
Stewed eel [Photo/ Changsha.com.cn]
Eel, famous for its tender, delicious and nutritious flesh, appeals to many foodies in Changsha. Combined with refreshing cucumber it is considered a great dish to combat the summer heat.
Steamed preserved meats (la wei he zheng)
Steamed preserved meats [Photo/ Changsha.com.cn]
This Hunan classic beloved by many, features as the name suggests, steamed preserved pork, chicken and fish. Preserved meat is a specialty of Hunan province and is complemented perfectly with rice to soak up all the thick juices.
Stir-fried cauliflower (da pen hua cai)
Stir-fried cauliflower [Photo/ Changsha.com.cn]
Combining cauliflower, preserved pork, red peppers and a spicy sauce, this simple dish packs a flavorful punch and is popular nationwide.
Roasted peppers with preserved eggs (shao la jiao pi dan)
Roasted peppers with preserved eggs [Photo/ Changsha.com.cn]
After the peppers are roasted, their skins peeled and the flesh finely chopped into slices, they are immersed in vinegar to give them a sour and tangy taste. When ready for serving they are placed atop a bed of sliced preserved eggs. This simple Hunan dish is popular among locals for its clean, fresh, slightly sour flavor.
By Owen Fishwick, Cao Yinan