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Mar 31, 2012 11:05 AM

Are all Hunan and Szechuan food spicy?

I will be visiting San Francisco in September with my wife and kids.. I love spicy food, and would like to try both Hunan and Szechan food, as I've never tried it before, and can't get it where we come from (Denmark, Europe).

BUT my wife doesn't like spicy food.. At all! So does any of you expert know if all the Hunan and Szechuan dishes are spicy? Or if there any mild ones for her and the kids to try?

I'm considering trying the two restaurants Hunan Homes (Hunan food) and The Pot Sticker (Szechuan food).


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  1. No, both cuisines have traditional mild dishes. I like Z&Y Garden for Sichuan and Henry's Hunan (Sansome St. location not far from Chinatown is by far the nicest).

    Hunan Home's OK for generic Cantonese / Chinese-American dishes, but despite the name I don't find the place very strong on Hunan cooking.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      This is a useful site for Henry's Hunan, the author ate and posted about every dish:

      I highly recommend the smoked pork and hot and sour beef. They're seasoned to be eaten with lots of plain rice.

      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        RL: Thanks for the link for Z&Y Garden. Love the photo of the beef "tender" (tendon) on their website. Have never seen it served that way on it's little rack... Has anyone tried it and do they really serve it that way?

      2. Robert Lauriston hit the nail on the head. You should be aware that (1) San Francisco Chinatown has historically (i.e. for over 150 years) been Cantonese and only recently has there been any decent non-Cantonese style food there and (2) there's Hunan and Sichuan and there's what I call faux Hunan and Szechuan. Faux Hunan and Szechuan was probably discovered in the 1970s in Manhattan and has led to the use of the terms "Hunan" and/or "Szechuan" to be a substitute term for Americanized Chinese food. Real Hunan and Sichuan food has arrived more like in the past decade or so, so be sure you're getting the real thing before stepping into a Hunan or Sichuan style restaurant. I believe Pot Sticker has the additional bonus of offering Guilin style rice noodle soup, a wonderful, non-spicy dish.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Chandavkl

          The Guilin rice noodle is a dish from Guangxi, so wouldn't be spicy.

          1. re: limster

            Right--I was addressing finding spicy and nonspicy at the same restaurant.

          2. re: Chandavkl

            The first Hunan restaurant in SF opened in 1974. The Chung family serves pretty much the same menu today at Henry's Hunan. I don't think it's very Americanized.

            Prior to that there were "Szechuan" places such as the old Soon Lee on Bryant that served food that was nothing like the real Sichuan food we get today but was a step up from chop suey.

            1. re: Chandavkl

              China Village (east bay), known as an early local purveyor of szechuan, has a set of "classic chinese" dishes on their menu. Things like lemon chicken. I once took a party of 12 family members there, everyone found something they liked - a few adventerous eaters were amazed, most other people stuck to the tried & true. You and your wife should find peace & harmony. I don't think I would send you to Spices --- I'm not sure there's a tame dish there --- but XY will be fine.

              1. re: bbulkow

                You're gonna have to skip china village, at least for a while:

            2. If I take it that Fuchsia Dunlop's book on the food of Hunan province is 'the real thing', then you will not find Hunanese food anywhere in the Bay Area. Believe me, I've been looking

              1 Reply
              1. re: arktos

                Some of the recipes in Revolutionary Chinese Cooking sound very similar to dishes I've had at Henry's Hunan.

              2. Thanks for all your replies! That's much appreciated..!

                After reading your comments, I think I've changed my plans, and will visit Z&Y Garden and Henry's Hunans instead.