What is the Difference Between Hunan Chicken and Szechuan Chicken?
Hunan chicken and Szechuan chicken are two popular Chinese chicken dishes known for their delicious taste and simplicity of cooking. Mostly served with steamed rice, these two dishes are perfect for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Hunan chicken uses spicy chili bean paste known as doubanjiang, which is also used for Szechuan cooking. The distinction between the two is evident, especially with the fusion of chili onto the chicken meat.
In this article, we are going to explore the differences between Hunan and Szechuan chicken.
History of Hunan and Szechuan Chicken
The Hunan chicken dish is derived from Xiang cuisine which originated in the Xiang River region of Hunan Province.
Though at present many Chinese provinces claim Hunan chicken came from different regions, what binds them all together is the use of a hot spice known as mala.
This dish tends to have a pure and simple taste, but with a spicy kick. Considered a staple dish during winter, Hunan chicken is also oily and very juicy.
Apart from the meat, other ingredients include shredded ginger, chili peppers, scallions, chicken broth, cornstarch, soy sauce, sherry, wine vinegar, sugar, salt, and powdered anise pepper.
Hunan chicken’s distinction is the dry, spicy flavor that comes from doubanjiang or chili paste.
The spice can numb the tongue but tastes delicious when paired with steamed rice. Chinese locals love drizzling the spicy oil which comes from cooking the meat with spices.
Meanwhile, Szechuan chicken originated from Sichuan Province, known for its bold, spicy flavor that comes from the Sichuan peppercorn.
This particular Chinese dish has an intense citrus-like fragrance and creates a tingling and numbing sensation inside the mouth. It is not only spicy but also sweet and flavorful.
The ingredients for this dish are similar to Hunan chicken, only with the absence of the doubanjiang.
The ingredients include Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, minced garlic, carrot strips, egg, cornstarch, dry sherry, chopped green onions, vegetable oil, cayenne pepper, crushed red chilies, and soy sauce.
Szechuan chicken is easy to prepare and cook and best served with steamed rice or hand-pulled noodles.
Hunan vs Szechuan Chicken
The first difference between these dishes is the ingredients. Hunan chicken has doubanjiang, plus it doesn’t require Worcestershire sauce to thicken the sauce.
Additionally, it uses bite-sized chicken meat, unlike Szechuan, which requires full chicken breasts.
The preparation also differs between the two. For Hunan chicken, the meat is marinated first in soy sauce, ginger, and sherry, and then stir-fried until the vegetables and meat are cooked.
It is only sautéed to make the meat tender. On the other hand, Szechuan chicken is cooked by frying the battered meat first then stir-frying it with the rest of the ingredients.
Evident to these preparations is the crunchiness of Szechuan chicken as compared with the Hunan dish.
As for taste and flavor, Hunan is spicier because of doubanjiang, not to mention oiler.
However, when the spice has settled, the taste is pure and simple. Meanwhile, Szechuan chicken has a sweet-spicy note and has a more flavorful taste.
This is probably due to the fusion of Worcestershire sauce, minced garlic, and sesame oil.
Additionally, Hunan chicken has a dry, spicy heat flavor, while the Szechuan dish gives a mouth-numbing sensation.
Hunan has a hint of tanginess, while the other tastes saltier. The fermentation process of the doubanjiang paste provides the earthy, fiery flavor.
In contrast, the red chili peppers provide a citrusy tone, adding numbness to the mouth.
Hunan chicken has no sauce, while Szechuan chicken has a spicy, savory, and sweet sauce. For the most obvious distinction, the Hunan dish contains stir-fried broccoli, carrots, bell peppers, mushrooms, and even zucchini.
Meanwhile, Szechuan has no veggies other than the seasoning garlic, ginger, and chopped green onion.
Which Is Healthier?
For people who want to eat a lower calorie dish, go for Hunan chicken as it’s stir-fried rather than deep-fried.
When it comes to a healthier dish, both contain essential spices, but Hunan has more veggies, which makes it a good choice.
The fermented chili bean paste has plant-based protein that is proven to lower blood pressure and prevent osteoporosis.
Meanwhile, the peppercorns enhance the absorption of nutrients and improve digestive health.
Hunan and Szechuan chicken are delicious Chinese meals that are both spicy and flavorful. The two dishes are distinct from one another, with different ingredients, manner of cooking, and a number of calories.
Some of the notable differences between the two include a crispy texture of meat for Szechuan chicken and the healthier stir-fried dish of Hunan chicken.