Changsha is the capital of Hunan Province in south-central China. It is located on the lower reaches of the Xiang River, which is a branch of Yangtze River. Food in Changsha is famously described as Xiang Cai. As Xiang River is the main river that borders the city to the west, Xiang denotes not only the flavor and taste of the food but also of the land. Changsha
, like Sichuan is famous for spicy food with numbing affect of certain spices and pepper. Planning a Gourmet Tour to Changsha would be an interesting trip if you are fall over yourself for food. Hunan Cuisine is one of the eight famous kinds of cuisines in China, known for its delicate use of pepper, which results in a pungent flavor. Here I would like to introduce what and where to eat or find featured local cuisine in the city. Hope it is helpful for your Changsha trip plan.
What to Eat in Changsha
Steamed fish head with peppers
Steamed fish head with peppers is a unique dish in Changsha. It tastes delicious and spick, as the ingredients include fish head, as well as red pepper crusted tuna, onions, ginger, salt and cooking wine and peanut oil, etc. The huge fish head features splendid colors and bold flavors. And the fish head should be large, probably from an enormous carp or similar freshwater species, thus comical, and it should be frosted with the chopped blend of dried, fresh and fermented chiles that give Hunanese cooking its reputation for head-snapping heat.
Smelly Bean Curd
Steamed fish head
Smelly Bean Curd, or called Stinky tofu, is made from bean curd, bittern, winter bamboo shoots as well as starter wine. Soy sauce, sesame oil and other seasonings are added when Smelly Bean Curd is fried. After being fried in the boiled oil, it tasted crisp outside but tender inside, very delicious. But it has a strong odor, for those who do not stand up with it, they might not like it. It is a kind of snack that is usually found at night markets or roadside stalls or as a side dish in lunch bars, rather than in restaurants.
Kouwei Shrimp (Stir-fry Spicy Shrimp) is kind of unique snack in Changsha that earned it reputation from Nanmenkou and Jiaoyu street, then it spreads to the whole city, even the whole province. Now it is a popular choice for Changsha people, especially for midnight snack. In the beginning, it is more known in midnight snack stalls, now there are many speciality restaurants serving Kouwei Shrimp. The famous ones include Si Ai Jie in Nanmenkou, Sheng Ji and Mei Yuan in Ba Yi Bridge, etc.
The cooking of Kouwei Shrimp is not so complicated. First of all, the shrimps should be lightly boiled in hot water until they turn red. then they are sautéed in cooking oil, with hot chili, peppers, ginger, garlic sauce and salt, preserved bean curd and shallots for just twenty seconds when cooking wine and some water are added. The shrimps are then cooked for a further ten minutes to give them a spicy flavor. The resultant dish is spicy and hot, which earns it a "three peppers" indicator on the menu which means it is the hottest. But that's Changsha people's favorite. But you want to try the Kouwei Shrimp but do not want it to be so spicy, you can watch carefully what you take the order and tell the waitress about that.
Huang Ya Jiao
Smelly Bean Curd Kouwei Shrimp
Huang Ya Jiao is made of duck, by made of Yellow Catfish. Yellow Catfish is a kind of unique fish in Xiang River. The ingredients of it includes Huang Ya Jiao, pickle and perilla leaf. Huang Ya Jiao is a typical Hunan cuisine popular to local people. It is named after yellow ducks for it looks yellow and cry like duck when they are caught. This dish is known for its spicy flavor, fresh fish and surprisingly delicious taste. It would be best if you eat the dish with beers along the Xiangjiang River. It has become a hot choice in the restaurants.
Sauteed pork with pepper
Sautéed Pork with pepper is a classic dish in Hunan cuisine. The ingredients are very simple and only needs several commonly used sauces, including fermented flour sauce, pork, soybean sauce, cooking wine, sugar, broad bean paste, green onion, aginomoto, etc. It is cooked in country style and thus available in all kinds of Hunan restaurants. Easy to cook yet taste surprisingly good, do you want to have a try? Please kindly note that the proportion of pepper and pork is about 3:5.
Other most authentic Hunan dishes, such as Spicy Young Chicken, Chairman mao’s red-braised pork, Hand-torn cabbage, Hand-torn cabbage, Sister’s rice balls, Egg in sweet fermented rice soup, Spicy salted duck, Changsha-style rice vermicelli, Zuyan Sark's Fin, Braised Eel, Dove and Sparrow, Changsha Maren Crispy Duck, etc. are also worth trying.
Famous Food Streets in Changsha
Po Zi Street - 坡子街
Regarding to the source of Changsha’s snacks, Po Zi Street should assume such authority. Po Zi Street is located in Wu Yi Commercial Area. And it is home to modern catering of Changsha, as well as the distributing place of medicinal herbs. Po Zi Street is about 1500 meters long only, but it gathers all popular old-brand restaurants in Changsha, especially some leading official mainstream one-stop shops, such as Huo Gong Dian, Ru Xiang Qun, Qiang Min, Shuang Yan Lou, Yang Yuxing, etc. However, the popular ones are barbecue stalls near the entrance of the street, which has attracted diners all the time. This is street is always popular, no matter in the day or at night.
Nanmenkou Food Street -南门口小吃街
Po Zi Street
The most streetwise and cheapest food street in Changsha should be Nanmenkou Food Street. The street is located in the center of old town of Changsha and the mains area of Nanmenkou Food Street consists of Huangxing South pedestrian street and the surrounding streets. It is gathering place for a variety of local Hunan snacks. Wu Ai Jie, Yang Yan Jing, Si Xi Wonton are all famous restaurants in Changsha. Smelly Bean Curd, Kouwei Shrimp and spicy duck neck are popular food here. Barbecue is worhy trying as well. all kinds of classic gourmet snacks let you don't stop.
Wen Miao Ping Food Street
Nanmenkou Food Street
If you do not like the crowded, but still want to explore the authentic snacks, you can head to Wen Miao Ping Food Street. You can explore store by store to find out the tastiest food here. The food along the street is featured with cold dishes, shch as bean jelly, Hot and Sour Rice Noodles, etc.
Those are some popular food and famous places to eat in Changsha. if you are planning a gourmet tour to Changsha, do not miss the above must try dish and the famous Food Streets in Changsha are perfect destinations to taste them.