Pieces Of A Wunderkind's Mind

Snippets of Life, Love, Food, Travels, Discoveries, and Whatnot

Hunan Hunt

on February 12, 2010

I have first came across it in a Sunday lifestyle magazine of a leading newspaper sometime in November last year. But like most Filipinos, I was not accustomed to this particular Chinese cuisine, Hunan, and whatever establishment offers it. So on I went with my reading until I finished the whole paper and totally dismissed the thought of the newly gathered restaurant information.

Early last month, again, I stumbled upon the Hunan place through the reviews of two of my favorite food bloggers. Coincidentally, these two famed food writers published entries on their sites about the same restaurant, on the same day, with the same general opinion that food there was really good. It was then that I decided to try the restaurant out for myself.

This restaurant is one of those hidden in plain sight. There were no signs, whatsoever. But thanks to the food blogs, locating the restaurant was made easy. We got there in no time. There was limited parking space, though, for there were no available slots other than the side of the road. The restaurant itself had no name. From the outside, it did not even appear to be a restaurant. The place was actually an apartment, the ground floor being the restaurant.

Hunan cuisine, sometimes called Xiang cuisine, is one of the eight regional cuisines in China and is well known for its hot spicy flavor, fresh aroma and deep color. Common cooking techniques include stewing, frying, pot-roasting, braising, and smoking. The fiery flavors of Szechuan and Hunan cooking are renowned for their intensity. But as opposed to the more familiar Szechuan cuisine to which it is often compared, Hunan cooking is known for its liberal use of chilli peppers, shallots, and garlic and for being purely hot. Szechuan cuisine frequently employs peppercorns along with chillies which are often dried, and utilizes more dried or preserved ingredients and condiments. Hunan, on the other hand, is often spicier by pure chilli content. It contains a larger variety of fresh ingredients and tends to be oilier yet is said to be purer and simpler in taste.

Hunan cuisine dates back to the 4th century. During the course of its history, Hunan cuisine assimilated a variety of local forms, eventually evolving into its own style.

This “House of Hunan” thrives on customers who discover the place by word-of-mouth. Their clients are predominantly Chinese, making you feel like either you’re suddenly out-of-place or you have left the Philippines as you enter the restaurant doors. The menu is printed in Chinese while there is a photo menu available for its Filipino and non-Chinese patrons where you can just point to the waitresses the dishes you want.

At the time, I went with Francis and a former classmate in college, who luckily happens to share our passion for food [and quests for new dining hotspots]. After flipping through the photo menu, we ended up ordering the following:

The canned Chinese herbal iced tea came in two variants. One was with gulaman bits, the other without. While the men opted for the jelly-mixed tea, I settled with the plain. To my surprise, my “iced tea” tasted like sago’t gulaman minus the gulaman. It was far from the conventional iced tea I was used to. I envied the men’s choice. Their iced tea went perfectly with the jelly bits, letting them enjoy a full concoction of sago’t gulaman in can. Haha!

Our choice of soup got us curious that was why we ordered it in the first place.  We asked for the seaweed soup — a piping hot broth with seaweeds and swirled beaten egg. It was brine-y. I found it bland although it complemented the sharp flavors of the other dishes we had. It was good for 4-5. We weren’t able to finish our soup.

We got an order of steamed dumplings. We were delighted to see that a generous portion of plump dumplings were brought to our table and it was priced at P120 only. This became our favorite instantly.  The dumplings were made with kuchay [chives] and ground pork and you can really taste the freshness of the ingredients. It was served with a black vinegar & chilli dip, which was so yummy. It made the already delicious dumplings divine. The dumplings were gone in an jiffy.

We asked for a serving of Mapo Tofu. I was expecting it to be really spicy considering the newly discovered background on Hunan cooking but much to my dismay, it was underwhelming. It lacked that bite I was looking for. We finished it just the same. Nevertheless, it was a gratifying part of the meal despite the subdued seasoning. Francis and John Ray enjoyed it.

The highlight of our meal would have to be the braised pork. It compensated for my disappointment with the Mapo Tofu. Arranged neatly upon a bed of smoked mustard leaves are slices of slowly cooked pork bathed in a piquant dark sauce. The sauce alone can serve as ulam and is perfect for dipping mantao into. This dish, highly-flavored, was really scrumptious. The only downside is that you tend you consume much more rice than usual. It was unanimously agreed upon that this was the best dish among all our orders for the night.

Hunan Lutong Bahay, as the restaurant is known among Filipinos, gives you a run for your money. Aside from the unusually large servings, taste is exceptional. Plus it offers unlimited servings of rice. There is a spot near the kitchen area where a rice cooker is strategically placed. Self-service is required, though.

Personally sampling the wonders of Hunan cooking is a whole new experience for us. It was something that opened our minds and palates to another vast complexities of flavors and a different world of oriental cuisine, which, I am pretty sure, is just waiting to be discovered by other food lovers out there.

You Jie Xiao Chao Chinese Food AKA Hunan Lutong Bahay
6404 Camia St., Makati (near Rockwell and Metroclub)
0915 4252972 / 0927 7876999
Open Monday-Sunday, 10am-10pm.



4 responses to “Hunan Hunt

  1. […] the black vinegar dip we are accustomed to. Mey Lin’s dumplings are comparable to that of Hunan Lutong Bahay. It was juicy and plump. The pork was sweet and it matched the chives well. We didn’t bother […]

  2. […] had the place to ourselves when we got there. It looked a lot like Hunan Lutong Bahay not just because of the simple wooden chairs and tables, but also because of the table numbers and […]

  3. Smarla says:

    Thanks for sending me this link 🙂 Thank you so much for the detailed comparison of Hunan and Szechuan cooking. I always appreciate new information on food

    Hmm okay, I’ll definitely order the dumplings and the braised pork tomorrow. Thanks again 😀

  4. […] the black vinegar dip we are accustomed to. Mey Lin’s dumplings are comparable to that of Hunan Lutong Bahay. It was juicy and plump. The pork was sweet and it matched the chives well. We didn’t bother […]

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