Fiery servings of mapo tofu, beef tendon swimming in chile oil, and peanut-y kung pao chicken can be found in nearly every neighborhood these days as Sichuan has gradually become NYC’s most popular Chinese cuisine. But for diners craving a wallop of heat, it should not be forgotten that Hunan cuisine is even hotter.
Surrounded by mountains, the province lies on the south bank of the Yangtze River north of Guangdong and southeast of Sichuan. While its recipes rarely use Sichuan peppercorns, they make frequent use of fresh green chiles, pickled chiles, red chile oil, white peppercorns, and dried chiles. A good number of dishes also deploy many ingredients preserved by salting, drying, pickling, and smoking.
Originating in Hunan but eaten throughout China, the sweet-and-succulent Chairman Mao’s pork belly nods to the communist leader’s ties to the province. Another classic dish is the fish head with diced red peppers seen on many menus. While the cuisine of Hunan arrived here in the 60s with less fanfare than Sichuan, these dishes prove it is every bit as good — and more varied.
Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission.Read More