State of Hunan Cuisine in the SGV? Favorites?

What (if any) consensus is there as to (b)est Hunan restaruants in the SGV? Is Hunan Mao still ranked as the favorite? Is Hunan Chili King runner-up by virtue of its broad menu?

I know there has been a bit of discussion here (and at the other place) and positives about Hunan Spicy Taste in San Gabriel and Xiang Cuisine, but what about other places? I know TonyC used to recommend Xiang Wei Lou, despite a smaller menu.

Full disclosure: it’s for a possible article. I have my picks, but I’m seeking input from those here for their thoughts/recommendations, for any of the above or any not mentioned.

And I can’t promise a mention won’t get edited out (thanks for throwing me under the bus on that one Euno! :laughing: )

i’ve been to xiang (which i enjoyed the most), hunan mao (meh), dong ting chun (double meh), hunan spicy taste (which people seem to love or really hate)

can not speak for hunan (mall with shun fat market) or hunan chilli king. can’t think of any others.

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Can’t help you there. I haven’t been to enough of them to make a judgment.

Xiang Yuan.

Just first have to wrap your mind around the fact that you’re at the Cheesecake Factory of Chinese restaurants with cuisines ranging from dim sum to Cantonese to Hunan.

I noticed that. Truly one of the oddest combos seen in the SGV. Hunan and Cantonese, who’d have thought it?

Any recommended dishes?

barry, ray, thanks. This is kind of proving my point about how little buzz there is when it comes to Hunan cuisine. Or, really, many Chinese regional cuisines beyond a few.

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It is a shame. My introduction to Hunan cuisine was at the original Hunan in San Francisco 40 years ago. My brother and I wandered in and sat at the counter while three elderly Chinese women moved like lightning as “breath of the wok” erupted and they turned out orders in seconds. So good. The woks were hinged to tip back over a sink so they could rinse them immediately after use. I have been in love with it ever since.

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from what i’ve learned about hunan cuisine, i think i’d appreciate the spicy/sour flavor palate that comes from the use of pickled ingredients and vinegar, though i do admit i’m not a big fan of spicy just for spiciness’ sake. in general i try to identify dishes which are supposed to exemplify the characteristics.of that regional cuisine, but i’m not sure i’ve actually experienced truly authentic hunan cuisine.

as for my take on the other of the eight great regional cuisines:

i’ve already mentioned my lack of enthusiasm for ennui, er, anhui cuisine. which seem to be mainly hot pots.if it went beyond it, i never really saw examples of that.

cantonese/HK, if i had to say so in 20 words or less: rice staple crop, lots of seafood, emphasis on fresh ingredients, so rarely heavily seasoned. nothing beyond black bean/ shrimp paste.

sichuan - i suspect that most people think nothing but over the top spicy. mapo/kung pao some folks might associate dandan noodles.

though not one of the eight great, i’d be curious to see how people categorize taiwanese cuisine. empirically, i’d say smaller servings of more intensely flavored dishes. not above claiming other’s regional dishes as their own, like XLB.

speaking of XLB i’m not sure many people go beyond XLB when they think of shanghaiese which is a subset of jiangsu. i think that the international settlement being in shanghai had a big impact on their cuisine resulting a higher level of refinement than you see in most chinese cuisine.

if someone is asked about hunan food, they might know it’s supposed to be spicy like sichuan, but i doubt they’d know about the vinegar and pickling of ingredients. .

shandong? to save my life, i could only suggest the shandong chicken at earthen. and the two branches of shandong dumplings. the beef roll might have shandong in its roots, but so many places serve them now.

and fujian is non-existent out here, fuzhou cusine not withstanding.

i’d say we’re more aware of uighur/shaanxi/shanxi because of the noodles which have a western analog. dongbei more for what it shares with korean cooking maybe?

nanjing? only for the duck.

Kind of interesting, I find that Hunan is more hip/trendy in the Bay area for some reason, while Sichuan is more popular in SoCal. Sichuan restaurants in the Bay Area target more of an older audience, Hunan restaurants a younger crowd. Sort of the opposite here. Hunan is more amenable to western palates I feel like, because the spice flavor is less numbing and more upfront, often mixed with sweeter flavors as well.

Good point. In last year’s Beard Award winning study of Chinese food in the Bay Area, the San Francisco Chronicle listed Hunan food and dim sum as the only two genres where the Bay Area trumped the Los Angeles area for Chinese food.

That’s odd, I don’t think of Hunan as being either sweet or vinegary. John Huang, the “Johnny Pepperseed” of Hunan cuisine in Los Angeles, complained that other Hunan restaurants used sugar, which he said Hunan dishes are not supposed to have. I concur that, aside from the overwhelming heat, Hunan seems more familiar. The smoked meats remind of American fare.

I wonder how much Clarissa had to argue that point? :smiley: Though, perhaps there were others on the project that agreed and spoke up on behalf of Los Angeles’ Chinese food scene.

Went to Hunan Mao recently - haven’t been to any of the others so I can’t compare. Was very excited to try Hunan Mao, but was completely underwhelmed by the food. There were huge gaggles of Chinese high school students there though, if that means anything.

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Give me some time, and I’ll figure it out. My main problem is that not too many of my circle of friends are willing to eat food that spicy. Even one of my Mexican friends thought Hunan Mao was too spicy.

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The last time I went there for lunch, they ditched the dim sum and moved exclusively to Hunan food. I didn’t find their food to be that noteworthy. The spiciness was there, but something was missing. It might have been the quality of the ingredients or cooking technique, but something wasn’t clicking with their dishes.

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:laughing: I totally get that. Once, I ate at the owners previous restaurant, Hunan Seafood, when I hadn’t had any spicy food for some time. While it tasted great, it was truly like a gut punch. One has to train to handle spicy on that level.

While I respect his opinions greatly, and he has steered me to some dishes I otherwise wouldn’t have tried, I always have a nagging doubt that ipse is pranking me :thinking::grinning:


I didn’t find the food at Hunan Mao too spicy, but then sometimes I snack on raw chilies. I agree that the quality of the ingredients wasn’t there, which may have been the problem.

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Circling back to inquire if anyone has any updates as far as other Hunan restaurants/dishes to recommend.

I can confirm that John Huang no longer owns Hunan Mao (or Mao Jia as the signage now reads out front), but I still rank it the “(b)est”* SGV Hunan place.

*TM TonyC