Hunan cuisine has already developed into a famous culinary school in China. Hunan dishes consist of local dishes from the Xiangjiang River area, Dongting Lake area, and Western Hunan mountain area. Hunan's culinary specialties are akin to those of the chili-rich Sichuan dishes, but generally even spicier. It is also characterized by a thick and pungent flavor. Chili, pepper, and shallot are usually necessities in this division. However, chili, peppers, garlic (suan), and an unusual sauce called the "strange-flavor" sauce (guai wei jiang) are on some menus to enliven many dishes with a somewhat drier intensity than that of their Sichuan counterparts.
Hunan is known as "the land of fish and rice". Like the west in latitude, it has the added bonus of lowlands for rice cultivation and a rich ocean's edge for catching fish.
Flavors — Hot, Sour and Salty
Hunan food is characterized by its hot and sour flavor, fresh aroma, greasiness, deep color, and the prominence of the main flavor in the dishes. Hunan food is hot because the climate is very humid, which makes it difficult for the human body to eliminate moisture. The local people eat hot peppers to help remove the dampness and the coldness. The main cooking methods for Hunan dishes are braising, double-boiling, steaming and stewing. It is also renowned for its frequent use of preserved meat in cooking.
Hunan cuisine's famous dishes are: Dong'an chicken (东安子鸡), sugar candy lotus (冰糖湘莲), steamed pickled meat (蒸腊肉)， steamed fish head with diced spicy red peppers （剁椒鱼头）.