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Fine Prints of Sichuan and Hunan Cuisine

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The cuisine of Hunan and Sichuan represents a great history and tradition that translates into the produce of that area and eating habits. The regional cuisine boasts of a vast range of taste and flavours but, to sum it up, the dishes are mainly spicy and sour. Pickling, smoking and drying are the widely practiced preservation methods prevalent in these regions.

The guiding principle behind dishes is their cuisine that brings in various cooking methods and a range of ingredients specific to these regions. These techniques and dishes reflect the essence of their culture. The people of these regions are primarily rice eaters and their food menu has evolved from spices like mustard, various kinds of chilli, preserved beans, a wide range of vegetables, chicken, pork, and river and lake fish.

Cultural Influence and Diversity
As far as the geographical topography of Sichuan and Hunan is concerned, it bears a close resemblance to India, thus leading to a similar nature of food in terms of spiciness and sourness. Yet, the food is different in terms of the range of ingredients used, the tools applied in cooking and the treatment meted out in cooking the food. Unlike Indian food, Chinese starters are traditionally cold and the food is not very saucy, while a typical Indian dish is abundant in gravy. Also, the cuisine in China predominantly is non-vegetarian, while in India, it revolves around vegetarianism.

It is a known fact that the history and culture of both countries have had a significant influence on their respective cuisines, which are supreme in terms of richness, tradition, scientific value, variety, and global acceptance. In both India and China, the socio politics, economy and trends of life have influenced every aspect of society at large – whether it is the country’s produce, profession or the way the population lives and eats. These trends have further led to establishments of eating habits and, subsequently, to cuisine. It was the advent of business and international activities that catapulted their cuisine and religion beyond geographical boundaries.

Menu Trend
Some of the famous dishes in Sichuan and Hunan cuisine are cold five-flavoured lamb salad or chicken tossed with dry red chillies or Chong Qing mushrooms to start with. The main course includes Hunan-style steamed pork or dry pot of chicken or vegetables. Throughout China, dessert is not an essential requirement, but there are certain traditional offerings like moon cake and sweet bean dumplings, while nothing surpasses the popularity of glutaneous rice dumplings filled with dates. Generally, in both these cuisines, starters are served cold and there is a good variety of soups, which is served last because the food tends to be dry owing to its less saucy nature. The main course primarily exhibits a wide range of food made up of meats and vegetables, since the regions have no access to sea. However, good use is made of lake and river fish.

Cooking Style and Eating Habits
The prevalent methods of cooking are wok deep frying, stir frying, steaming, smoking, stewing, and braising. A lot of emphasis is also laid on raw cuisine due to salads, and methods of pickling and sun drying. As far as cooking methods are concerned, it is commendable the way Chinese chefs and the local populace have held on to the traditional and time-tested methods, except for the advent of modern science in baking and steaming. The Chinese way of cooking still excels with traditional tools and equipment.

Traditionally, the guests are engaged with a salad and served the meal promptly with the dishes coming in one after the other rather than serving it all in one go. This way the guests are able to focus on and enjoy all the dishes. The utensils are user-friendly and chiefly comprise bowls and platters, with all guests helping themselves with chopsticks or spoons.

An ideal Sichuan or Hunan meal consists of some cold starters or salads, which are followed by a choice of meats and vegetables – these could be stir-fried or long braised depending upon the choice of the guests. The choice of food is mostly traditional so that the guests can enjoy themselves and have a great meal. Hot pot is an important tradition which makes it an enjoyable experience for families feasting together.

Sichuan and Hunan Cuisine in India
Chinese cuisine in India has been presented not only by Chinese chefs but also by chefs from Singapore, Hong Kong and various other parts of the subcontinent. This has led to many misconceptions regarding traditional Sichuan and Hunan cuisine, a fact clearly evident from the menu offerings of various Chinese restaurants in India. Hot pot is also a significant milestone which has been neglected by most of such chefs. At Ano Tai, it is kept in mind that the food offerings reflect the true essence of cuisine. Not only Indian guests but even guests from other countries love the authentic Sichuan and Hunan dishes.

The growth factor of Sichuan and Hunan cuisine in India is simply due to the fact that Indians love spicy food and Sichuan and Hunan cuisine brings a host of such dishes through its cooking methods and range of ingredients. It is a success story that is half explored, only due to the fact that Cantonese cuisine arrived earlier than Hunan. Put together, Sichuan and Hunan cuisines are a far superior bet considering the preferences of Indian guests.

So, if you are eyeing to set up a Sichuan and Hunan cuisine restaurant, you must be apt in choosing the right kind of utensils, ingredients, equipment and, above all, the team of chefs. Also, the menu should amply explore and offer the cuisine for its wide variety.

Since food lovers are always on the lookout for true taste and flavour, the dishes should not be customised unless and until a guest demands so. However, such demands are, by and large, very few because Indian guests are considerably flexible when it comes to trying different kinds of dishes and they do have a tremendous liking for spicy food that is as varied as Sichuan and Hunanese.

Since Chinese cuisine is well established in India, it is not so difficult to find staff but the training thereafter is critical to establish a benchmarked standard.
At Ano Tai, there is an in-depth training system in which cooking style, standard recipes and presentations play a key role.