Best Hunan Chicken Recipes
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Hunan Chicken Shopping Tips
Staples of Asian cuisine such as ginger, daikon, rice vinegar, and spicy chile sauces like Sriracha add bright, fresh flavors without lots of fuss.
Hunan Chicken Cooking Tips
Sriracha has good heat but also has flavor - its mild sweetness comes from sun-ripened chili peppers as well as sugar and garlic.
Hunan Chicken was my favorite Chinese takeout back in the early 2000&rsquos when I was working in San Francisco. I would always order the tender chicken, stir-fried with carrot, broccoli, black fungus in a mouthwatering spicy Hunan sauce.
The chicken breast pieces were always silky, tender, velvety, and the sauce was absolutely addictive and delicious with steamed white rice.
Fast forward many years later, I constantly miss the dish so I decided to develop a homemade Hunan Chicken recipe.
How to cook the perfect Chinese meal?
Delicious, delectable and a cracker of a dish! A fiery appetizer that makes a perfect appetizer, this Sichuan styled chilli chicken is cooked with brown, green and white peppercorns and oriental spices.
Szechwan (Sichuan) Chilli Chicken. Image credits: iStock
2. Sweet and Sour Chicken
A classic dish where chicken chunks are cooked in sweet, spicy and warm flavours along with healthy veggies like carrots and cabbage. Perfect to cook in winters and chill.
Sweet and Sour Chicken. Image credits: iStock
3. Diced chicken in black bean sauce
The magical combination of chicken and a classic black bean sauce is a sure winner on your table! A simple recipe that is quick and easy with dew ingredients, this one is a perfect dish for dinner parties or even a brunch with family and friends.
4. Chicken Schezwan style
One of the most popular soups from Sichuan cuisine, this one is crackling, filling and simply stunning. A great dish with amazing aromatic flavours that would soothe your taste buds.
Chicken Schezwan style . I mage credits: iStock
5. Stir fried Chilli ChickenStir fried Chilli Chicken
6. Ginger Garlic Chicken
If you love chicken and if you love garlic then this is your calling. A quick oriental stir fried chilli chicken recipe, ginger garlic chicken is perfect as a starter dish to cook for a dinner party.Ginger Garlic Chicken. Image credits: iStock
7. Asian BBQ chicken
This one will knock your socks off! Chicken marinated in char siu sauce mingles with flavors of honey and vinegar to give up a gorgeous golden chicken.
Asian BBQ chicken. Image credits: iStock
8. Chicken Manchurian
It's possibly the most frequently ordered dish in any Chinese restaurant. Chicken manchurian is a flavourful mix of veggies, chicken and soy sauce. Enjoyed by all age groups as a starter dish at parties, now you can make it at home with this easy-to-follow recipe.
This will make you think why you never tried chicken and chestnuts before. A healthy and eclectic mix of chestnuts, chicken and a host of veggies like radish, capsicums, mushrooms and lettuce, tossed in a flavourful melange of soy sauce and fish sauce.
10. Boneless Chilli Chicken
Like a good story, a good recipe can put you in a trance. And that's exactly what this one will do. Chilli chicken can be a sumptuous side dish or a great appetizer, it is perfect to put on any dinner party menu. Loved by kids and adults alike, this is a simple and easy recipe to prepare at home.
Boneless Chilli Chicken. Image credits: iStock
11. Cantonese Chicken Soup
An authentic Chinese soup, the Cantonese Soup is a hearty mix of chicken and vegetables chopped into small pieces in piping hot chicken stock.
The difference between Hunan and Szechuan chicken
There are 7 factors distinguishing the two: the taste, ingredients, cooking methods, sauce (or lack of), vegetables, calories, and origins. The chart below summarizes these differences:
|Hunan Chicken||Szechuan Chicken|
|Taste||“Dry heat” flavor||Spicy with mouth-numbing sensation|
|Ingredients||Doubanjiang, oyster sauce, chicken broth, soy sauce, rice wine, garlic, ginger, sugar, veggies, etc.||Szechuan peppercorn, dried red chilis, green onions, garlic, ginger, salt, sugar etc.|
|Cooking method||Sliced chicken breast is marinated and par-cooked before being stir-fried||Cubed chicken thighs are battered and deep-fried before being stir-fried|
|Sauce||Hunan sauce||No sauce|
|Vegetables||Broccoli, carrots, bell peppers, zucchini, etc.||No veggies|
|Calories||300 calories/serving||640 calories/serving|
|Origin||Western Hunan / Xiang River region, and Dongting Lake||Szechuan province|
Traditional Hunan Chicken Recipe
Tender and juicy pieces of beautifully caramelized, richly flavored pieces of Hunan chicken tossed with vegetables roasted with garlic and ginger. This chicken is not only delicious but also healthy and light. This is a traditional Hunan style chicken recipe, which is different from westernized Hunan recipes that tend to be overly fatty, sweet and gloppy.
My 7-year-old daughter after she finished eating this chicken for lunch said “Daddy, the chicken was so!… so!… so!…” She was overwhelmed with emotions and had a hard time finding the right word to describe how good she thought the chicken tasted. I get compliments on my cooking very regularly, but that one was very special to me. I agree, the chicken was superb. A perfection.
My favorite meat for making Hunan chicken is breast meat. When cooked right, it tastes much better than red chicken meat. It’s less fatty and healthier too.
To cook the chicken I suggest using a wok. A while ago I bought a Korean made non-stick, flat bottom wok (it’s very similar to this one) to cook Asian dishes. I came to love that wok so much that I use it for practically everything that needs pan frying. I even fry sunny-side up eggs in it. Everything just comes out better in it. It’s a magical wok.
I cut chicken breasts into about 1-inch pieces, lay them in one layer inside the wok and cook them over a fairly high heat on one side for about 1 minute until nicely caramelized, then flip to the other side and cook for another minute or so, undisturbed. I then continue stir-frying until the temperature inside the largest pieces reaches 160F. An instant read thermometer comes really handy here. As soon as the chicken is ready I dump it onto a large ceramic platter to cool down. This way I get the meat that is perfectly cooked, tender and juicy.
Unlike for example in Szechuan Chicken recipe, or the Hunan Beef recipe, I used neither the deep-frying nor the shallow-frying methods to cook the Hunan chicken. This time I only used 2 tablespoons of peanut oil. To my surprise, that turned out to be plenty enough. I really like this method because it’s much more economical and adds a lot less fat into the food.
Transfer leftovers to an airtight container and store for 3-4 days in the fridge. You can reheat in the microwave, or you can use a skillet over medium heat. If you find the sauce is drying out a bit using a skillet, add a splash of water or broth to bring it back to life.
You can also store your Hunan chicken in the freezer. This makes for a great, easy freezer meal for busy weeknights! It will last 2-3 months. Reheat either using the microwave, or let it thaw overnight in the fridge and reheat in a skillet.
How to cut chicken thinly:
One of the traditional takeout things about chicken stir fries is how they have chicken that looks like it was almost shaved, similar to Mongolian Beef in restaurants. The trick to this is to freeze the chicken for about one hour. Once you do you can very easily slice the chicken very thinly against the grain. Since the slices are so thin you’ll find that even though it was in the freezer, it will come back to a good cooking temperature very quickly.
Chicken Chow Mein
Chow mein is one our go-to for all types of meals, not just for its incredible flavor but its major customizability. We love this variation with tender, flavorful chicken but you can add whatever you like from kimchi to bacon to jalapeños! Not only that but they only take around 30 minutes to make, making it perfect for any quick meal.
Don't overcook your noodles.
Because we're boiling our noodles first and then tossing them into a heated skillet again to complete the dish, you really want to make sure you're draining those noodles right when they're almost fully cooked. Whether you go with fresh flour noodles or dry spaghetti, keep them al dente! The carryover heat from the boiling water and the return to the skillet will continue to cook the noodles even after they've been drained.
Switch up your protein.
We love using chicken thigh meat for stir-fries because they stay tender and juicy throughout the cooking process. If you're more of a white-meat lover, feel free to use chicken breast&mdashor if you want to substitute in shrimp, ground pork, sliced steak, or even mushrooms and tofu for a vegetarian option, they would all work equally well. If you're opting to use beef, give it a good marinade like in this beef and broccoli recipe for an even more flavorful result!
Not a fan of cabbage? You can substitute in up to 2 cups of any other vegetable you'd like! Bell peppers, broccoli, celery, bean sprouts, green beans would all work nicely here.
Adjust your spice level.
We love the kick this recipe gets from fresh ginger, but if you're not a fan, skip it. On the other hand, if you love spice, sprinkle in some crushed chili flakes or mince up a fresh chili pepper for extra heat (you daredevil, you).
If you've made this recipe, we'd love to hear from you! Leave us a note and a rating down below to let us know how you liked it.
What Is Hunan Chicken? (with pictures)
Hunan chicken is a spicy dish of chicken and vegetables popular in Chinese-American cuisine. It is based loosely on the cooking style of the Hunan region of southeastern China, particularly along the Xiang river most experts concede, though, that there is no single chicken dish from this region so popular as to warrant such a universal name. In the West, particularly in the United States, Chinese food has become quite standardized, however, and “Hunan chicken” is a typical preparation in many restaurants and take-out shops in these places.
Hunan chicken is a stir-fry dish, which means that it is prepared using a wok over very high heat. Cooks add raw chicken to the wok once it is smoking hot, then stir rapidly and constantly until the meat is cooked through.
One of the most defining characteristics of this type of chicken is its thick sauce, which is typically made by combining fresh ginger, soy sauce, and rice wine vinegar. Spices like red chili peppers, garlic, and scallions are usually included as well. Cooks typically marinate chicken pieces in this sauce for several hours before cooking, and most will add more as the dish is being prepared. Most people will also add cornstarch during this phase to help the sauce thicken and really adhere to the chicken.
The type of chicken used can be a matter of some controversy, at least among Chinese food aficionados. Many people argue that bone-in chicken pieces — drumsticks, for instance, or wings and thighs — are more authentic. These pieces can be harder to eat, however, particularly when presented as a stir-fry. Many restaurants and commercial ventures use boneless chicken chunks, usually from the breast. This may be less traditional, but usually proves more popular with consumers.
Most of the time, Hunan chicken is served over white rice with vegetables, particularly broccoli and onion. Cooking the vegetables alongside the chicken allows their flavors to influence the sauce, but this isn’t always necessary — the vegetables can be prepared separately, which makes them crisper and helps them retain their own texture better. It is usually more efficient to cook everything all at once, as it saves time and requires fewer tools, but the taste is often improved when the ingredients are kept separate. A lot depends on the individual taste preferences of the chef as well as the space and time available.
Where to Find Commercially
Hunan chicken is usually a staple dish at Chinese restaurants, particularly take-out or “fast food” chains. The simplicity and easy predictability of the dish makes it a favorite among consumers on the go. These same properties often make it somewhat less popular at fancier Chinese establishments, where chefs often like to present dishes that are more authentic or at least more complex.
Traditional Variety and Westernization
China’s Hunan region is well known for spicy foods with a dry heat that comes primarily from the oil of fermented or dehydrated chili peppers that grow in the region. Poultry dishes are popular here, though there is not really a single dish that is itself characteristic of the cuisine since cooks in Hunan, as in most places, prepare meals in many different ways. Chicken can be stir-fried, boiled, or grilled, for instance, and a variety of different sauces and marinades are common.
The dish known as “Hunan Chicken” in the United States, much of Europe, and other countries is usually best described as “inspired by Hunan.” It is typically made with ingredients that are commonly available outside of China, and is often designed to appeal to the tastes of non-Chinese consumers. Most fast food restaurants make this dish following the same basic recipe, and as a result it has become more or less standardized around the world. Different cooks are of course free to add their own twists, but the core dish is usually pretty much the same from place to place.
Cooking at Home
A number of food manufacturers sell specialty Hunan sauces that home cooks can buy to make the dish in their own kitchens some companies also go so far as to sell ready-made chicken meals, usually frozen, that can be prepared quickly. These “pre-made” options tend to best emulate the taste of take-out, but are by no means the only way to get good results. Making Hunan sauce from scratch can be time consuming, but is often worth it where taste and nutritional value are concerned. Home cooks who control what goes into their meals can both tailor them for personal taste or family member preference and can limit ingredients like sugars and starches, which can add calories.
Making the dish more or less spicy is one of the easiest variations, though adding things like garlic, peppercorns, or different vegetables can also alter the finished product. Serving it over brown rice, thin noodles, or shredded lettuce can also change the presentation. So long as cooks keep to the basic thick brown sauce, altering the taste or playing with the accompaniments can be a good way to make the dish more personalized.
Szechuan Chicken, or Sichuan Chicken, is a style of Chinese cooking originating in the Sichuan region of China. Famous for it’s bold and spicy flavors created by tons of garlic and spicy peppers, as well as, the notorious Szechuan Peppercorn known for it’s citrus-y spice that creates a numbing sensation in the mouth which helps you tolerate the heat of many of the spicy dishes from that area of the world.
What is the difference between Hunan Chicken and Szechuan Chicken?
While both Hunan Chicken and Szechuan Chicken are made with large amounts of chili peppers and garlic, Hunan Chicken is decidedly hotter than Szechuan Chicken.
Szechuan Chicken has a nice balance of flavors with both sweet and spicy while Hunan Chicken is much more plain in flavor but exceptionally spicy.
INGREDIENTS YOU WILL NEED
This Easy Szechuan Chicken Stir Fry is really simple to make with easy to find ingredients.
Here are the ingredients for Chinese Szechuan Chicken:
- Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast
- Olive Oil
- Chili Garlic Paste
- Soy Sauce
- Rice Wine Vinegar
- Mirin (Sweet Rice Wine)
- Sesame Oil
- Red Chili Peppers
- Dried red Chili Peppers
- Szechuan Peppercorns
- Sesame Seeds
- Chopped Scallions
While it looks like a lot of ingredients for Szechuan Chicken stir fry, most of them are pantry staples that you can keep on hand to whip up other easy fake out take out recipes on the fly.
Does Szechuan Chicken have vegetables?
Typical Chinese Szechuan Chicken doesn’t usually have many vegetables except for the red chili peppers, however, you can modify this recipe to add whatever vegetables you like. We love to add snow peas or broccoli to this stir fry recipe just to bulk it up and add some extra healthiness to the dish. That’s one of the benefits of making your own take out dinners at home….that and you don’t have to answer the door in your pajamas.
What can you substitute for Szechuan Peppercorns?
If you’re having trouble finding Szechuan Peppercorns, like I sometimes do, you can use regular whole peppercorns in their place. You won’t have the citrus-y, peppery heat but you will get a slight heat from the regular peppercorns. If you want to make it a little more spicy and you’re omitting the Szechuan Peppercorns, you can add a little extra Chili Garlic Paste.
WHAT TO SERVE IT WITH
Some of my favorite things to serve with Szechuan Chicken, besides white rice, are:
Seriously, though….the list of what you can serve alongside your Szechuan Chicken recipe is endless. Use your own imagination….some steamed green beans or even frozen eggrolls just to mix things up. And in full disclosure….I’ve been loving the frozen white rice in the microwave steam bag from my local grocery store.
There are so many brands with their own steam in bag white rice and it all cooks up so sticky, fluffy and perfect in just about 3 minutes. It’s a dinner time hero when time is tight…..and you won’t have that messy pan to clean with all the starchy rice residue glued onto it. Know what I’m sayin’?
If you don’t want a spicy chicken dish, my family loves this Chicken Chop Suey! It’s a kitchen sink recipe in that just about whatever vegetables you have on hand will work perfectly! Or you can skip the chicken and make this easy Szechuan Shrimp!
Want even more easy takeout recipes to make at home? Try THESE favorites!
So, whether you have a packed agenda during the week like us (but strangely….we have not much going on this week.) or a leisurely week to laze around, this easy Szechuan Chicken Stir Fry recipe is sure to please even the pickiest eater in your home.
Difference Between Szechuan and Hunan Chicken
Every corner of the world has a place for Chinese cuisine. And two of the most beloved dishes among the diverse Oriental gastronomy are Szechuan and Hunan Chicken. Despite their shared country of origin, these two dishes aren’t quite the same. They differ in composition, consistency, and spiciness, distinctive of the Chinese regions that they originated from. To gain better understanding of the intrinsic characteristics of their regional categories, we should define what differentiates Szechuan and Hunan cuisines from one another.
Szechuan cuisine (also spelled Szechwan or Sichuan) is a style of Chinese cooking originating in the Sichuan Province of southwestern China, a region famous for bold flavors, particularly the pungency and spiciness resulting from generous servings of garlic and chili peppers, as well as the unique flavor of the Sichuan peppercorn, an intensely fragrant, citrus-like spice that produces a “tingly-numbing” sensation in the mouth. Peanuts, sesame paste and ginger are among the most distinctive ingredients. Add to that the dynamic taste brought about by pickling, drying and salting methods.
Szechuan Chicken is a member of this category. Its sauce is a chili garlic paste made with whole or ground chili. Fundamentally, it is comprised of the following ingredients: boneless, skinless chicken breasts, egg whites and cornstarch for the meat, Shao Xing rice, dry sherry or cooking wine, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce or chili paste, sesame oil, soy sauce, brown sugar, cayenne pepper, crushed red chilies, minced ginger, carrot strips, sliced red bell peppers, chopped green onions, and vegetable oil for the sauce. The dish is then cooked by frying the battered chicken, pan frying the vegetables, and mixing the sauce, stir-frying everything for a minute or two. Szechuan chicken is best served with steamed rice. The dish is very easy to cook. Taste-wise, it renders a good mix of sweet and spicy.
Conversely, Hunan cuisine – also known as Xiang cuisine – originated in the Xiang River region, Dongting Lake, and Western Hunan Province. Even though it is subdivided based on the abovementioned regions, it is identified by its ‘mala’ – a hot and tongue-numbing seasoning. Much like Szechuan cuisine, it employs liberal amounts of chili peppers, garlic, and in addition, shallots. However, compared to Szechuan, Xiang is more prominent for being dry, purely hot and – most of the time – oilier. It is said that Hunan cuisine tends to be purer and simpler in taste than Szechuan cuisine. It is generally comprised of a wide range of fresh ingredients combined with smoked and cured meats. What makes it unique is the fact that its menu changes depending on the season local ingredients are utilized to complement the season. Cold meats with chilies help locals keep cool in the summer, while hot and spicy pots are ideal for staying warm during winter.
Recipes for Hunan chicken include: bite-sized chicken meat, light soy sauce, sherry, shredded ginger, chili peppers, scallions, chicken broth, wine vinegar, sugar, salt, powdered anise pepper, and cornstarch. First, the chicken is marinated in a soy sauce, sherry, and ginger mixture for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, the rest of the liquid ingredients are mixed separately. The vegetables are then stir-fried for a couple of minutes. Afterwards, everything is mixed together and cooked on low heat until the chicken is tender. This dish is best paired with rice. Hunan chicken tends to be spicier, yet plainer in taste.
1) Szechuan and Hunan Chicken are Chinese dishes originating from two different regions.
2) Both dishes contain large amounts of of chili peppers and garlic. Hunan, however, is generally hotter in flavor than the Szechuan dish.
3) Szechuan chicken results in a good mixture of sweet and spicy, while Hunan chicken is plainer and hotter.