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May 12, 2010 06:28 AM

Szchewan & Hunan Provinces. Foods & Restos?

Our son is teaching in Seoul and will be spending the month of August traveling & hiking Szchewan & Hunan provinces. I just received an email from him and he is researching typical foods and he has asked for my help. Have you any suggestions for foods very typical of or special to these provinces and suggestions for rests. in the cities? He's a real hound. Thanks.

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  1. This is wide open, he could spend the whole month in Chengdu and not get through the place, even if I make assumptions of low budget and zero Chinese. Does he want stuff he can't get anywhere else or does he want to eat things like gong bao ji ding and mapo tofu, decent versions of which can also be eaten everywhere else in the world, at the source? The smaller cities close to the hiking areas also have their specialties, any idea where he will be going?

    One thing I would not miss in either place is the local bacon (Sichuan bacon is amazing, but have heard Hunan's is also great).

    1 Reply
    1. re: pepper_mil

      Yes! Thanks so much. He is a very adventurous eater; he loved balyut in the Phillipines. (He actually cooked Martha Stewart her birthday dinner when he was 16!)
      His itinerary is wide open.

    2. Here is a link to several of the prominent tourist cities in Hunan. If you click on a city, another link on the left will direct you to food info. You can do the same for the Sichuan Province.

      Hunan is a real breadbasket, so the list of ingredients and styles of cooking is very long. It is also considered the spiciest cuisine so don't be surprised at hot pots covered with a thick layer of fresh chili peppers. Be on the look out especially for preserved/ smoked/ pickled foods. The hunan version is quite distinctive.

      Look especially for the first two characters in front of the third: 蒸腊肉

      In Sichuan province, be on the lookout for my favorite dish, fish boiled in oil (shuizhuyu).
      This is served at many Sichuan restaurants in the US, but the version in China has a lot more going on than I usually find here.

      1. I'm living in Chengdu right now. My advice: you CAN'T get anything like the Sichiuan versions of Sichuan outside of China. Try the gong bao ji ding, the mapo dofu (at Chen's famous restaurant where it was invented- I was never impressed with it until I had it the branch on Ke hua bei lu). Get the spicy beef steamed in crushed sticky rice, the tea smoked quail or duck, the hui guo rou (sounds like "hwey gwo row", pork belly slices, black beans, spicy hot bean paste). Oh- yu xiang rou si! "Fish flavored pork" is really amazing also- hot, sour, sweet, nutty..DON'T MISS THE SNACK STREETS, endless food stalls in places such as Jinli street, and the amazing snack complex near Chunxi Lu- the street food can be just as interesting as anything in the restaurants. Get ready for hua jiao, the mouth numbing "pepper corn" that is usually really potent here, enough that we used to think we were suffocating because our esophagus' were going numb. And be sure to try to go to upscale places if you're eating hotpot... 1/10 meals in china are made with "sewer oil", oil that is, yes, harvested from leftovers and from the sewer and processed with carcinogens and put back into use through a giant black market industry. But we'll live, I'm sure.. Also, there is some great Sichuan/Tibetan food to be had in the Tibetan district (Wuhouci Heng Jie), and most of those places have English menus. The spicy pickled radishes and yak, potato curry and *pan fried ground yak meat pie* makes me very happy. I could go on for far too long, already have...

        8 Replies
          1. re: Passadumkeg

            Having a ltitle trouble with that link...

          2. re: jrom250

            Wish I was there now! Actually, the Yu2 Xiang1 Rou4 Si1 (渝湘肉丝)- does not mean "fish flavored pork," which I know has been wickedly used on many, if not every translation in western menus. 渝 Yu2 is an ancient term for the Jialing River in Sichuan and a current abbreviation for the city of Chongqing, as well as for Hunan itself. 湘 Xiang1 refers to the Xiang River in Hunan and today has come to also mean Hunan. So the real name of this dish would be "Sichuan-Hunan Pork Threads" - mixing "the piquant flavors for which Sichuan and Hunan are best known" according to Barbara Tropp

            1. re: scoopG

              Finally another convert to the truth about yu xiang.

              1. re: scoopG

                I really don't put any stock in that etymology.

                It's not a problem with translations on Western menus. 渝湘肉丝 is just not the name of the dish. You will never see it written that way on a menu.

                1. re: DylanLK

                  And you put no stock in that etymology because...? Pray don't tell me you too dropped out of the Chinese Ph.D program at Princeton after years of intensive study in China to open a Chinese restaurant because that was your real passion too! It is not translated as 渝湘 on western menus because Chinese is full of too many homophones and generations of semi-literate Chinese immigrant restaurant workers to the west rendered 渝湘 yu2 xiang1 as 魚香 yu2 xiang1, hence "fish fragrant." Nothing fishy about it! . . . or is there?

                  1. re: scoopG

                    Haha, this is way off topic, so I hope no one minds.

                    Well, I just wonder what her source for the claim is. Chinese cuisine is full of these kinds of just-so stories. Then they get repeated until they sound something like fact. Chinese is rife with folk etymologies that usually turn out to be false.

                    You're making it sound as if the REAL name is 渝湘肉丝 and that name is still being used in China. I guess I would be satisfied if anyone could show me an example of menus or writing on food in Chinese that use 渝湘肉丝. I think it would be hard to find many (any?) examples. When you Google the phrase, one of the top results is this thread!

                    鱼香肉丝 is a fairly recent invention, too, so it's not as if the origins have been lost in the sands of time.

                    I'm more apt to believe that it gets its name from having ingredients that someone thought went well with fish. Just a catchy menu name. Is there anything really weird about the flavor of 怪味鸡?

                    1. re: DylanLK

                      Not sure of her source other than her own vast knowledge and the fact that there is absolutely no hint of fish sauce in the dish. None! The dish could have even started out as 渝湘肉丝 years ago but then later morphing into 鱼香肉丝. Same dish, different name. Oh, there was for a brief while in NYC a small restaurant named 怪味 Strange Taste!

            2. I was in China a year ago. Here is my ChengDu report. Many of the street vendors may have changed, but it will give your son an idea of where to look. If your son wants to splurge, Yu Bo's restaurant is not to be missed.