Thursday, May 15, 2008

Hunan Food

I grew up on Chinese food. It was in Ghana (West Africa) but it was cooked by real live Chinese people who migrated there like my grandfather did. Every blessed Sunday we were at one of the numerous Chinese restaurants in Accra for lunch with the whole family, all 30 of us. Those were some of the best days of my life, playing games in the parking lot while our parents got liquored up waiting for appetizers. Eventually we joined them inside, on our own private kids table where we tortured each other spinning wicked concoctions around on the lazy Susan. In case you have not played this game, the person who the drink stops on has to have a sip of it. But yeah, Chinese food was a part of my upbringing. When I moved to Indonesia the Chinese food there was quite similar, except with a lot more tofu. Instead of Boajin, Dynasty, and Hinlone like we had in Ghana, we now ate at Ming, Taipan, and Cilantro. I thought I had seen all the Chinese food there is until of course I moved to China. I now know that I had not even glimpsed the tip of the iceberg. And of all the local Chinese food I have sampled to date, Hunan is my favorite. And this restaurant in Tian He Guangzhou has become the family joint.

Hunan is the place where Chairman Mao came from. And that is the entirety of my knowledge of Hunan. Other than that in my mind I liken it to Padang, because Hunan food is known for being fucking spicy, and the girls from Hunan are equally pedas. This is all hearsay but if they are anything like the girls from Padang, I believe it. You gotta love those hot headed beauties. And for anyone who thinks they might have sampled Hunan food outside of China, you are fooling your soul mate. This shit only goes down BEHIND the wall! This right here is a cold starter we always kick off with, cold cucumbers in a thin spicy sauce. These bad boys are not cut to size; they are cracked with a wooden stick onto shards. They go awesome with cold beer.

The vermicelli coated in spicy sauce again, with minced pork is out of this world. It is served in a sizzling plate and keeps hot throughout the meal. This puts any other flour based noodle or pasta I have ever tried to shame. To fucking shame I tell you!

Another popular dish amongst the crew is the spicy beef. It is a simple dish, lightly cooked beef in spices. And if the theme of spices spiciness is sounding monotonous to you, buckle up son. This is the way it goes down in the Hunan. But every spice has its own unique flavor that I am not skilled enough to describe in simple words. The real beauty of this dish is that the beef is never over cooked. It actually maintains that medium rare status.

This here is not one of my favorite dishes, but it is a damn good pastime. It is similar to the ‘Kung Pau’ as in it is boneless chicken meat with diced nuts and chilli. Only you have to spend the better half of your meal fishing your smaller than bite size pieces of chicken from the sea of red hot dried chilli. Good fun when you are having a few Sunday beers with your mates, but not when you have a one hour lunch break from work. A much better alternative here would be the boiled eggs that are thin sliced then dipped in a spicy batter and deep fried… It may sound twisted, but I swear it is out of this fucking world, kind of like having your nipples twisted in a clamp while a hot chick nibbles on the tip of your penis.

On this particular afternoon we decided to sample a new fish dish as well, this sucker pan fried, smothered in peppers, and presented in a woven basket. I don’t know what type of fish this was but it was good. She had bones, but not too many. The top side with skin on it had been seared in oil so it was a bit crispy, the rest of the fish seemed like it had had been dipped momentarily in hot oil. Again not the best dish I have sampled at this particular establishment but still better than any similar attempt I have tried in Indo or Ghana.

All this was the type of food you do not even need white rice as a compliment to eat. The perfect lay out for lunch on a weekday so you don’t get all heavy and sleepy. And brother did we do justice. Between 4 people we cleared this spread in under 60 minutes. And I even made it back to the office. The Hunan Restaurant has so much to offer that I could put up a monthly post about them. I just wish I had more adventurous friends so we could really get nitty gritty with that menu. And if you ever visit me I the GZ you can rest assured that this is probably one of the first places you will end up eating at.

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