Hunan Lunch

After our walk in the "Grand Canyon of Zhangjiajie" we decided to visit a nearby cave and to have lunch at a restaurant across the street. When we arrived at the restaurant, Steve and I both thought, "Oh dear, what is this that we have gotten ourselves into this time?"

But this turned out to be the best meal of the whole trip, so far.

We had the advantage of a guide to help us figure out a meal, but the real advantage was that we were out far enough that this was the real deal in terms of being representative of the local cuisine. We ordered smoked ham with peppers (one of Steve's specialities from a Hunan cookbook he has been using and something we knew from Henry's Hunan in San Francisco), cabbage (something I learned from Yan Can Cook many years ago) and half a chicken, stir-fried. I was busy chatting with the guide when Steve said "There goes your chicken. It has blue feet." That was when I started to get interested.

The chef (he really was a chef, not just a cook) had put the chicken into a wok full of boiling water to poach and then left it to go into the back kitchen to chop the other ingredients.  I had been trying not to pay attention to the fact that the back kitchen was this dark outside area behind the dining room, but once I went back there I realized that, even with a dirt floor, this was so neat and organized that this was a master's kitchen.

I proceeded to watch him as he expertly flipped the ingredients into the air with his wok:

and when done with each dish, rinse out the wok and just toss the dirty water out onto the ground (there are some real advantages to an outside kitchen).

The resulting meal was fresh, delicately seasoned and a true delight:

One thought on “Hunan Lunch

  1. Great food writing Michele! What is about the food you’ve had elsewhere that separates it form true local cuisine? Is it just a standard set of items designed to appeal to visitors from all part so the country? Sounds like you guys lucked out on your guide (luck and accepting what was before you)!

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