The battle of the spices heats up

We chose four representative spicy dishes from Sichuan and Hunan provinces and invited some of our Chinese and foreign staff to taste them.

Filmed by Zhou Shengjie. Edited by Zhong Youyang. Translated by Tan Xinru. Polished by Andy Boreham.

This time, our Guide Battle column held a spicy food competition. We chose four representative spicy dishes from Sichuan and Hunan provinces and invited some of our Chinese and foreign staff to taste them. Do they think these dishes tasty or inedible? Which is hotter, Hunan food or Sichuan food? Who loves the spice and who prefers it cool, Chinese or foreigners? Let’s see where the heat’s at!

The chart shows the pungency of the four spicy dishes as voted by our six tasters.

Steamed fish head with chopped pepper

Steamed fish head with chopped pepper, a representative Hunan cuisine (one of the eight great Chinese cuisines) is well known for its spicy (or simply hot) flavors, fresh aromas and deep colors.

The dish is prepared with the head of a silver carp, red pepper, ginger, green onion and other seasonings. The fish should be salted and then steamed with the pepper and other ingredients. 

Steaming allows the fresh flavor of the fish head to be kept and the taste of the pepper is infused into the fish just right. The dish is fatty, but not greasy, spicy and palatable. 

It is said to date back to the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) when a member of the anti-Qing literati accidentally had it made by a peasant woman on his escape. After he made it to freedom, he asked his chef to improve it, and it became the famous dish.


Recommended restaurants: 

Xuye Duojiaoyutou 许爷剁椒鱼头

Address: 988 Quxi Rd

Average cost: 128 yuan (per person)


Xiangxuan Restaurant 湘轩酒楼

Address: 411 Liuzhou Rd

Average cost: 97 yuan (per person)

Fried pork with chili

Fried pork with chili is a home-style dish from Hunan and it is very popular in the whole country for its easy cooking method and delicious taste. 

The dish is made with chilies and streaky pork as the main ingredients, fried with fermented soy beans, garlic, soy sauce and whatever comes to hand. 

The meat has been marinated in wine before frying, so the dish contains a hint of wine, which makes for a special taste. 


Recommended restaurants:

Yan Jia Restaurant 严家菜馆

Address: 98 Husong Rd

Average cost: 79 yuan (per person)


Gu Dao Cun Luo. This is Hunan 古道村落.这就是湖南

Address: 863 Hongmei Rd S.

Average cost: 77 yuan (per person)

Diced chicken with hot peppers

Unlike the spices of Hunan, Sichuan cuisine has a hot and numbing taste, which is easy to become addicted to. 

Diced chicken with hot peppers is one of the traditional dishes of Sichuan. You can not imagine how many red chilies are used in this dish. 

It combines crispy chicken breast with peppercorns, toasted sesame and dried bird’s eye chilies. All ingredients are fried together and it can get really, really hot. 

The dish has a bright brownish red color and a strong spicy taste and is a little bit salty.


Recommended restaurants:

Yuxiang Kitchen 鱼香厨房

Address: 168 Lujiazui Rd W.

Average cost: 100 yuan/US$14.55 (per person)


South Beauty 俏江南

Address: 1378 Huamu Rd

Average cost: 192 yuan (per person)

Mapo tofu

Mapo tofu is a popular dish from Sichuan Province. It is a combination of tofu, spicy chili and bean-based sauce, which is typically a thin, oily, and bright red suspension. It is often cooked with fermented black beans and minced pork or beef. 

The cooking method is frying and the dish highlights the spicy characteristic of Sichuan: hot and numbing.

In the word “Mapo,” ma stands for pockmarks, and po means an old woman or grandma. Mapo is an old woman whose face is pockmarked. It is said that the dish was created by the owner of a small restaurant named Chen Liu whose face is pockmarked and so it is sometimes called Chen mapo.


Recommended restaurants:

Maurya Sichuan Cuisine 孔雀川菜

Address: 1515 Nanjing Rd W.

Average cost: 151 yuan (per person)


Youth Restaurant 青年餐厅

Address: 341Tianshan Rd

Average cost: 81 yuan (per person)

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