Hunan cuisine, sometimes called Xiang cuisine, consists of the cuisines of the Xiang River region, Dongting Lake and western Hunan Province. Hunan cuisine is one of the eight regional cuisines of China and is well known for its hot spicy flavor, fresh aroma and deep color. Common cooking techniques include stewing, frying, pot-roasting, braising, and smoking. Due to the high agricultural output of the region, ingredients for Hunan dishes are many and varied.
Known for its liberal use of chili peppers, shallots and garlic, Xiang cuisine is known for being dry hot or purely hot, as opposed to the better known Sichuan cuisine, to which it is often compared. Sichuan cuisine is known for its distinctive mala (hot and numbing) seasoning and other complex flavor combinations, frequently employ Sichuan peppercorns along with chilies which are often dried, and utilizes more dried or preserved ingredients and condiments. Hunan Cuisine, on the other hand, is often spicier by pure chili content, contains a larger variety of fresh ingredients, and tends to be oilier. Another characteristic distinguishing Hunan cuisine from Sichuan cuisine is that, in general, Hunan cuisine uses smoked and cured goods in its dishes much more frequently.