Hunan Chicken – A Spicy Chicken Stir Fry

Written by Peter Allen on . Posted in food

There are many Chinese chicken stir fry recipes which worth a try, but the recipe we are about to unveil today is known for its distinct taste and an appealing combination of vegetables with meat.

This recipe is not purely Chinese, it has become partly American, because of all sorts of new variations added to the traditional recipe. Yes! We are talking about Hunan Chicken. Like many Chinese recipes, it also serves both health and better taste in a single platter.

To put simply, it is made out of tender chicken slices cooked with a vegetable and tossed with a special sauce. So, it is not all solid, but a chunky and saucy combination of all. Today we are going to discuss all Hunan chicken, its amazing varieties and its different features.

The first time I heard about Hunan Chicken, was when I visited a Chinese restaurant. Hunan Chicken takeout is what my friend suggested me. And I still thank him for introducing me to this delicious combo. Previously I happened to try Szechuan chicken, and I simply loved it.

But the experience of having Hunan Chicken was completely different for me. At first, I was amazed by the variety of vegetables used in the recipe and the freshness of the ingredients made me fall for this dish. To further amuse you, let me tell you about the crispy chicken used with the vegetable.

The minute I took the first bite I knew I would want its recipe right away. And that is what I did, I searched for the recipe, and found so much variety with inspiring flavors. And I know, you too want to bring such an amazing experience to your home- to your family.

What is Hunan Chicken? Read On to Find Out!

To make it easier to understand, Hunan Chicken can be termed as the American version of General Tso’s chicken or Szechuan chicken.

It evolved from its traditional Chinese recipe into something more adaptable to American Palate. Today is served at every good Chinese restaurant in the state. Many people are still not familiar with the name Hunan Chicken though.

The dish may not be familiar to many, but the Hunan Chicken ingredients are all well known and basic. It takes less than 30 minutes to put them together into a luscious stir fry.

Getting the best out of Hunan Chicken

Boneless chicken breasts are used for the preparation of Spicy Hunan Chicken. And the chicken is fried with any of the flour batter or breadcrumb coating, like many other Chinese recipes, which gives its chicken a unique crisp and texture.

Besides the selection of a good meat cut, here are the following steps are important to follow to get the best Hunan spicy chicken at home:

Cut the Chicken Thinly: For Hunan chicken, the chicken used should look exactly like the meat in the Mongolian beef, thin sliced. The science behind cut the meat into thin slices is the better absorption of the spices and the marinade. For a nice cut, first, freeze the chicken breast in the freezer for about 1 hour.

Once the chicken is frozen, it gets easier to slice it into equal sized pieces.

Now cut the chicken breasts against the grain diagonally into slices. Do not slice too thin, as the chicken will turn soggy during cooking in that case. After cutting the chicken, let it sit at room temperature and do not add this chicken to the marinade until it gains the room temperature.

Only optimal temperature allows better absorption. When you dip the chicken in the marinade, keep it aside and cover the bowl during the process.

Special Chicken Marinade: The crispy of the Hunan Crispy Chicken comes from this special marinade. Unlike other marinades which are all sauce and spice, this marinade makes good use of whisked eggs. You know eggs are great to add texture to meat. The egg is beaten with the cornstarch and the spices, and the chicken is dipped into it.

This marinade does not only infuse flavors but also creates a nice coating over the chicken, rendering it crispier than ever. Remember this coated chicken is however not deep fried but seared lightly in a pan. So, it gets a combination of both soft and crunchy at the same time.

You cannot preserve this marinade for a longer duration because of the eggs. It is better to always prepare the fresh marinade for each session.

Chinese Hunan Sauce: Another important step that accounts for a delicious Hunan chicken is the special sauce used in the stir-fry. This sauce is nothing but a combination of all the right sauce mixed in a perfect proportion. This sauce is the signature ingredient of this recipe, and it is what makes a Hunan Chicken Hunan!

So, if you miss this sauce from the making, you will be missing everything. It is prepared by mixing oyster sauce, soy sauce, spices, stock, and sugars. Avoid directly adding these ingredients to the stir-fry, but first mix them well together and then add to the recipe. Cornstarch makes this sauce enough, so do not overcook, else it will get too thick or loose its perfect consistency.

Hunan on the Menu

There is always something unique that you can add to the table, by making just snitch of changes like adding some extra toppings or a delicious side dish and so on. Similar can be said about Hunan chicken. It can be served in wild varieties, depending on the flavors you enjoy the most.

Extra taste comes with extra creativity, but don’t get too caught up in that, as I am about to share with you all some of the exciting ways to add Hunan to the menu:

Super Spicy: Not everyone is a spice lover and especially the people of the region where Hunan was originated from. So, the basic recipe has a very balanced mix of spices which happens to be not too tangy.

But those of you who love to enjoy a spicy ting every now and then can have more by adding an extra teaspoon of hot sauce or chili sauce. You can also add some white pepper or black pepper ground stead. Whatever you need to spice it up, should be added to the sauce and mixed well before adding to the chicken.

Rice Bowl: the most popular and commonly enjoyed way of serving Hunan chicken is to top with over a bowl of rice. These can be plain white boiled rice or mixed vegetable fried rice. If you want to serve the chicken with the rice, make sure to keep it saucy enough.

You can do that by adding some extra liquid to the sauce. Brown rice or cauliflower rice are some healthier options to serve the chicken with. To add a little crisp, sprinkle some crispy popped rice on top.

Hunan with Noodles: Most people especially the young and young adults love to have Hunan chicken with noodles. These can either be egg noodles or any type you want to serve it with. Simply boil the noodles or spaghetti, and top a bowl it with freshly prepared Hunan chicken.

There is yet another way to add more nutrients to your platter.

Take zucchini and pass it through a spiral, this will give you zucchini noodles. Parboil these noodles and serve them with the chicken. Serving the chicken with noodles makes this recipe even more tempting and exciting. I am telling you it is worth a try.

A drizzle of Cheese: if you want to add a rich and earthy twist to the recipe, there is a new and inspiring way to do so! Cheese lovers will love this idea. It is merely the outcome of my creation, but I and my family certainly enjoyed it. Once the chicken is cooked, you can serve it with a drizzle of finely shredded parmesan on top.

This method adds up to the nutritional value of the chicken. Besides a little cheese never hurts anyone. You can also try it with other varieties of shredded cheese. Make sure to keep it to just a drizzle.

Nut Crunch: There is always a way to add some extra crunch to the recipe. Sesame seeds are usually sprinkled on top of the basic recipe; you can replace this topping with the finely chopped nuts or other seeds. You can use practically any variety, from chopped pecans to almonds, cashews or crushed walnuts.

Remember to not to go overboard with this, keep it just as a slight topping. Toasted coconut flakes can also be used for the crunch but the taste does not really go well with the chicken, you can use it as per your personal preference.

Hunan Chicken Vs. Szechuan Chicken – Lets Satisfy Your Curiosity!

To this day, the confusion between the Hunan chicken and Szechuan chicken exists. Many people mistakenly order the latter in place of the former. While we are talking about Hunan chicken today, it is essential to settle the case and remove all of your confusions.

There are many differences between the two, from flavors to the method of preparation, preservation, serving, and ingredients. Here we will share all those differences one after another while establishing the fact that just how different Hunan chicken is from the rest.

This Sino American dish is not something to be confused with. We have already discussed Hunan chicken at length, but when it is compared to other Chinese recipes, its origin has to be taken into consideration. The Chinese cuisine is basically divided into eight different traditional cuisines which belong to different regions of China.

These include Anhui, Cantonese, Fujian, Zhejiang, Shandong, Jiangsu, Hunan, and Szechuan. Each of these regions has its own culinary traditions, and that is why a single recipe is cooked differently in all of these regions. The Hunan chicken was originated from the Hunan region of China and from it become culturally popular in the entire country.

The Hunan chicken is termed as one of the warming recipes of the region because it has hot and spicy nature. It is slightly oily as both the chicken and the vegetables are sautéed in some oil, sesame oil in most cases. Then you use ginger, peppers, scallion, chicken, cornstarch, sauce, and other vegetables.

This dish is spelled differently in every language.

Sichuan, Szechwan are few of the other names of this recipe. As the name indicates it, this chicken stir fry was originated from the Sichuan province of Southwestern China and later the recipe was named after it, when it got popular outside of China. This region is famous for its strong spicy flavors.

The Szechuan chicken thus has a profound impact of that, and the locals add special ‘Sichuan peppercorn flavor’ to the recipe to lift up the spice. This peppercorn spice is quite aromatic, and it has a strong tangy taste with citrus like effect. So, when it is added to the chicken, it becomes sweet and spicy like other Sichuan recipes. The use of sauces is different in this chicken.

It has dry sherry, egg whites, brown sugar, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, cornstarch, red bell pepper, green onions, chicken, chili paste, red chili, and cayenne pepper. You see there is a great use of so many spices and sauce. The chicken is first battered and then pan-fried with vegetables along with the sauces.

How Nutritious is this Dish?

Let’s talk a little about the nutritional values of its ingredients. With that many colorful vegetables in the platter and the saucy chicken with it, this dish is far more nutritious. With veggies comes a dozen essential vitamins, minerals, and dietary fibers. And you can also enhance the nutritional value by adding more vegetables to the recipe.

People add a little variety by adding some corn kernels or sliced mushrooms, sesame seeds or chopped nuts, etc. one of the great things about all the stir fry’s is that you can mold the recipe easily as per your own health preference, like reduce the sodium or substitute the sugar, omit the spice, etc.

If you calculate the caloric count of Hunan Chicken, a single serving or a bowl of it provides as much as 385 calories. This is sufficient to satisfy your energy needs during the day or at night. 120 of these calories come from the fat. There is not much use of fat in the recipe except for the oil, which is used for sautéing.

The major macronutrient present in the recipe is the fats, carbohydrates and the proteins. A single bowl can provide about 13 grams of carbohydrates. And this value increases if the chicken is served with rice or bread.

As there is not only chicken used in the stir-fry but a black bean mixture is also used in the sauce, it makes the Hunan chicken a good source of proteins. A single bowl of Hunan chicken can give you about 51 grams of proteins. And that makes the highest value among all the nutrients.

Fat is present in a considerable low amount and constitutes 14 grams of the total nutrients. Luckily the amount of saturated fats is also quite low, i.e., 3 grams per serving. The Chicken only contains 135 mg of the cholesterol. This makes this recipe idea for people suffering high cholesterol levels.

One negative which demerit the nutritional value of Hunan chicken is its high sodium content. This fact is important to consider if you are suffering from hypertension or any other sodium-related disorder.

It contained about 1040 mg of sodium per serving. SO, reduce the sodium content you can simply cut the salt or replace soy sauce with other low sodium substitutes. And patients with hypertension this recipe should not only take this recipe at seldom.

The contribution of Hunan Chicken towards adding more minerals and vitamins to our cuisine is commendable. Like I have said, the sound of vegetables is always good news, as they are rich in all sorts of minerals especially potassium, and phosphorous. Bell peppers are a great source of vitamin B and carrots can give you vitamin A.

Super Delicious Hunan Chicken Recipe

Finally, we are about to make some Hunan Chicken. Grab your notepads and write down something you will need before your next meal. However, pretty much everything used here is basic, and you will easily find it your pantry. As far as vegetables are concerned, only use fresh and organic ones for best taste and aroma.

Do not go overboard with the sauce, keep the soy sauce in a small amount as it is rich in sodium. If you are on sodium free diet, you replace it with coconut aminos. Here zucchini is used with the combination of red bell pepper and carrot.

Well, you can also use other vegetables of your choice like broccoli florets or some cabbage, etc. Always serve fresh for the best experience.

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 pound skinless (boneless chicken breast, chopped bite size)
  • 1 large egg (whisked)
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 clove garlic (minced)
  • 1 thumb size ginger (peeled and finely chopped)
  • 2 cups mix of zucchini, red bell pepper and carrot (sliced bite size)

For the Sauce:

  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons chili bean paste or chili paste (such as tobanjan, Sambal Oelek)
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup low sodium chicken stock
  • white ground pepper

Instructions

The journey towards a spicy Hunan chicken starts from here. Take a bowl and whisk the egg with cornstarch, salt, and pepper. Mix well until the mixture is smooth in consistency. Add the chicken pieces to this egg marinade and let it sit for 5 minutes to infuse all the flavors.

Meanwhile, you can mix all the ingredients for sauce in a bowl and blend them well to get a smooth sauce. Set this sauce aside.

Take a large non-stick pan and heat it with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Now add the marinated chicken pieces to the pan and sauté these pieces until golden brown and al dente. Transfer these pieces to a plate lined with paper towel.

Set the chicken aside for a while.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of vegetable oil in the same pan over medium-high heat. Add ginger and garlic. Stir cook for 1 minute then stirs in vegetables. Sauté all the vegetables for 5 minutes until they are soft and al dente.

Add the sautéed chicken and prepared the sauce to the vegetables. Continue cooking the mixture for 1 minute with constant stirring. Then put off the heat.

Your Hunan chicken is ready. Serve it with steaming white rice.  Or you can also serve the dish with a warm piece of bread.

Conclusion

Hunan chicken is an excellent entrée to serve on all occasions. It is a pretty mix of colorful vegetables and spicy chicken. It is normally served with boiled white rice, which sounds irresistible when served immediately. The marination of the chicken in the egg mixture gives better taste and texture to the chicken.

What makes this recipe special is the use of a sweet and savory sauce. This sauce adds quite a peculiar flavor to the entire assembly of vegetables with chicken. Enjoy with your folks and family.

Tags: , , ,

Peter Allen

Peter Allen

Peter's path through the culinary world has taken a number of unexpected turns. After starting out as a waiter at the age of 16, he was inspired to go to culinary school and learn the tricks of the trade. As he delved deeper, however, his career took a sudden turn when a family friend needed someone to help manage his business. Peter now scratches his culinary itch on the internet by blogging, sharing recipes, and socializing with food enthusiasts worldwide.

Leave a comment

//