Food & Drink

Hunan Chicken

Hunan chicken is an Asian dish that originates in the Xiang River of China. It has spicy taste but not too hot and it does not contain a lot of vegetables as is common in other Chinese dishes. There are typically four vegetables in traditional Hunan chicken, though some variations of the dish will have seasonal vegetables.

Basic Information About Hunan Chicken

There can be a number of variations of Hunan chicken, but there are certain characteristics of the dish that are always present. These characteristics are:


The sauce is thick and made from soy sauce and rice wine vinegar, combined with fresh ginger, garlic, scallions and red chili peppers. The chicken is usually marinated in this sauce for several hours before cooking. More sauce will be added while the dish is cooked quickly in a wok. Cornstarch may also be used as a thickener for the sauce and to help it stick to the chicken.


Some people believe that chicken pieces with the bone in drumsticks and wings are more authentic to the dish, but this can make it hard to eat. It can also increase cooking time which does not necessarily work for this dish. Most restaurants will use boneless chicken breast that has been cut into bite-size pieces to make it.


Traditionally, Hunan chicken is served with broccoli and onions over white rice. Depending on the cook, the vegetables will be cooked with the chicken in the sauce or separately to retain crispness and flavor.

Traditional Variety

The Hunan region of China is known for its spicy foods. Chili peppers are grown in this region and are then dried. In many cases, oils are made from the dried chilies and used in many dishes. Chicken dishes are particularly popular in this region as it is a versatile meat and can be cooked many ways. Traditional Hunan chicken is a bit different in China and the United States.


In the United States and Europe, the dish known as Hunan chicken is more likely inspired by traditional Hunan chicken without actually being the original dish. It is designed to appeal to non-Chinese people and uses ingredients widely found outside of China. Most restaurants follow a standard recipe that is generally the same around the world. We will talk about the recipe in the next part.

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