Love Hunan Chicken? This Chicken Stir Fry recipe is easy to make and tastes just like your favorite take-out restaurant.
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Everyone loves Chinese food, but you may be surprised to know that the average Chinese takeout place only gives you the Americanized versions of popular Chinese dishes. In fact, in China itself there are many different styles of cooking. Chinese chefs have identified eight culinary traditions that are regarded as the very best.
What makes Hunan Style Cuisine Unique?
People in the Hunan region of China can’t seem to live without chilies, and no dish is complete without them. In fact, Chairman Mao Zedong, who was born in spice-loving Hunan province, famously said: You can’t be a revolutionary if you don’t eat chilies. It was reported that Mao loved chilies so much that he even sprinkled some ground up chilies on slices of watermelon.
What is the Difference Between Hunan Chicken and Szechuan Chicken?
Both Hunan chicken and Szechuan chicken are spicy with Hunan generally regarded as being the spicier of the two. There is an old Chinese joke recounted in a cookbook called the Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook (which features Hunan dishes) that goes like this:
The Sichuanese are not afraid of chili heat; No degree of hotness will frighten the people of Guizhou, but those Hunanese are afraid of food that isn’t hot.
Hunan food is different from Szechuan in two major ways:
- It doesn’t make use of the tongue-numbing Sichuan peppercorns.
- Savory dishes aren’t as sweet as their Szechuan counterparts.
What this boils down to is that Szechuan diners favor many kinds of spicy-sweet-savory combinations, including garlicy paste and fish-fragrant flavors, while the Hunanese prefer tastes that are bold and savory, chili-hot, and hot and sour. Take your pick – both cuisines are delicious.
The Hallmarks of Hunan Flavor – Chilies
Summers in Hunan province are hot and humid while winters are cool and damp. This helps to explain Hunan cuisine’s predilection for chilies. There is a popular Chinese saying which goes: Without chilies, you can’t eat rice. In Hunan, different varieties of chilies are used in different kinds of ways. Here are a few of them.
- Fresh chilies add color and heat to steamed and stir-fried dishes.
- Small and pointy dried chilies (gan la jiao) are sliced lengthwise to release their flavor into broths.
- Chili flakes (gan jiao mo) are widely used as an all-purpose seasoning.
- Vinegar-pickled chilies with salt (duo la jiao) is a hot, salty, and sour concoction that is enjoyed as a relish on steamed fish heads and noodles.
Want to expand your Chinese recipe repertoire? Here are more copycat Chinese food recipes:
- Panda Express Fire Cracker Chicken
- Chinese Imperial Palace General Tso’s Chicken
- Chinese Imperial Palace Egg Drop Soup
- Mongolian Beef
- Easy Hawaiian Chicken Shoyu
- Chinese Crunch Salad
- Chinese Spare Ribs
- Egg Foo Young
- Chinese Buffet Seafood Bake
- Panda Express Chow Mein
- Imperial Palace Egg Drop Soup
- Chinese Almond Cookies
- Chinese Buffet Style Donuts
Easy Hunan Chicken
- 1 beaten egg
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
- 1 pound chicken breast cut into bite-sized pieces
Stir Fry Vegetables
- 2 teaspoons wok oil or vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon minced ginger
- 1 small zucchini sliced in half and cut into half moons
- 1 red bell pepper sliced into thin strips
- 1 carrot sliced
- 10 ounces mushrooms sliced
- 2 cups broccoli florets
Hunan Chicken Sauce
- 1 teaspoon mirin or rice wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons sambal oelek or 4 to 5 dried red chilies
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1/4 cup chicken broth
- 2 teaspoons Chinese cooking wine or Shaoxing wine or dry Sherry
- 1 tablespoon Oyster sauce
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch dissovled in 1/4 cup water
- Prepare marinade by combining egg, 1 teaspoon cornstarch, white pepper, and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Beat egg mixture until well blended. Add 1 pound of bite-sized pieces of chicken into the egg mixture. Stir well, allow the chicken to marinate while you prepare the vegetables.
- In a small bowl combine mirin, the Sambal Oelek, soy sauce, chicken broth, Chinese cooking wine, oyster sauce, and the cornstarch slurry. Stir until well combined. When you use the sauce give it a good stir before you pour it into the wok.
- Prepare the vegetables by washing them, and cutting them into pieces you will stir-fry. Heat a wok. Add wok oil or plain vegetable oil, when the oil is warm stir the oil around the wok and up the sides of the wok. Add garlic and ginger to the wok stir rapidly, do not allow the garlic and ginger to burn. Drain the chicken and place the chicken into the wok. Cook the chicken by stirring frequently until it has cooked through. Remove the chicken from the pan.
- If necessary add additional oil to the wok. Add in the zucchini, red bell pepper slices, carrots, mushrooms, and broccoli. Stir the vegetables frequently when they have cooked through, (the broccoli will be tender), add the chicken and the sauce to the pan. Cook and heat through until the sauce thickens.