Love Hunan Chicken? This chicken stir fry recipe is easy to make and tastes just like your favorite Chinese take-out restaurant.
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Chinese Cooking Styles
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 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 the Sichuan province, 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 garlic 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.
What is in Hunan Chicken Chinese food?
Chinese Hunan Chicken has tender bites of chicken and colorful vegetables with a flavorful and spicy sauce. The spiciness of the sauce can be adjusted to your preference. Just increase or reduce the chilies in the sauce to your liking.
For this recipe, here is a list of Hunan Chicken ingredients:
This marinade will make the chicken crispy and coated with sauce.
- Chicken brest or skinless chicken thigh meat
Fresh vegetables add flavor, crunch, color, and healthy nutrients.
- Red bell pepper
- Oil for stir-frying
What is Hunan sauce made of? A delicious combination of sweet, salty, and spicy flavors.
- Mirin or seasoned rice vinegar
- Sambal oelek
- Soy sauce
- Chicken broth
- Chinese cooking wine
- Oyster sauce
- Cornstarch for thickening the sauce
- Chopped peanuts
- Sliced green onions
How to Make Hunan Chicken
- Combine a beaten egg, cornstarch, white pepper, and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Whisk or stir until well blended.
- Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces and add them to the marinade. Stir well. Marinate while preparing the sauce and vegetables.
- In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and cold water to make a slurry. Add Sambal Oelek, soy sauce, chicken broth, Chinese cooking wine, and oyster sauce. Stir until well combined.
- Wash the vegetables and cut them into bite-sized pieces.
- Drain the chicken pieces from the marinade.
- Heat a wok. Add oil and when the oil is warm, stir the oil around and up the sides of the wok.
- Add garlic and ginger to the wok, stirring rapidly, so the garlic and ginger does not burn.
- Add the chicken and cook it stirring frequently until it is cooked through. Remove the chicken from the pan.
- If necessary, add additional oil to the wok. Add the zucchini, red bell pepper slices, carrots, mushrooms, and broccoli. Stir the vegetables frequently until they are crisp-tender.
- Add the chicken and the sauce to the pan. Stir to coat everything with the sauce. Cook until the sauce thickens. Serve immediately.
- If you desire you could garnish with chopped peanuts, cashews, or sliced green onions.
To make Hunan Chicken and Shrimp, simply add peeled and deveined shrimp to the stir-fry.
How Spicy is Hunan Chicken?
You may wonder exactly how hot Hunan chicken is, thankfully it is not too spicy. The heat comes from fresh chilies and sometimes chili paste. Hunan chicken is balanced with the flavors of garlic and onions. So you aren’t tasting a mouthful of hot chilies.
When you prepare food at home, you get to control the spice. If you like it spicier be sure to add more chilies, if not, you can add less. This recipe is less spicy than your average jalapeno.
This easy Hunan Chicken recipe is the best because you can customize it:
- Use different vegetables
- Make it mild or really spicy
- Substitute pork or shrimp for the chicken
Hunan Chicken Chinese food is sure to be a favorite and you’ll want to make it often!
What does Hunan Chicken Taste Like?
If you have never taken a single bite of this tasty dish, you may wonder what it tastes like. This stir-fried chicken is spicy and savory at the same time.
The heat comes from a complex mixture of chili peppers, soy sauce, mirin, white pepper, and more. So the heat is a complex heat, but it isn’t too hot, the spice is just right!
Is Hunan Chicken Healthy?
Packed full of lean protein, and lots of fresh vegetables this dish is a great option for you. Low in calories, high in protein, high in vitamin A and potassium.
If you are concerned about the sodium level you could swap the regular soy sauce for reduced-sodium soy sauce.
Want to expand your Chinese recipe repertoire? Here are more copycat Chinese food recipes:
- Panda Express Firecracker Chicken Recipe
- PF Chang’s Orange Chicken
- Copycat General Tso Chicken Recipe
- Egg Flower Soup Recipe
- Easy Mongolian Beef Recipe
- Best Shoyu Chicken Recipe
- Crunchy Chinese Salad
- Chinese Spareribs Recipe
- Egg Foo Young
- Chinese Seafood Buffet Bake
- Panda Express Chow Mein Recipe
Popular Japanese Recipes
So many easy Chinese food recipes to make!
- 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.