Hunan: A Lifetime of Secrets from Mr Peng’s Chinese Kitchen *
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Founded in 1982 by Mr Peng, Hunan is a legendary London restaurant which attracts customers from all over the world.
At Hunan, diners don’t choose – they simply say what they don’t eat and how spicy they like their food. Mr Peng then does the rest, serving up small portions with the emphasis on sharing many courses. The orders are hand-written and are sent down to the kitchen by a chute and the food travels up in a dumb waiter. Mr Peng is a firm believer in simplicity.
Hunan is a landmark book that captures the essence of a unique menu from a unique character. Among the 70 must-have recipes are Mr Peng’s ‘absurdly delicious’ prawn dumplings, lettuce wraps filled with diced chicken, ‘which you just pop into your mouth and scrunch’ and mouth-melting double-cooked pork.
As Mr Peng says: ‘I often say to people I’ve only just met: I’m a very strange person. And then I have to explain: food is my life. Despite being close to 70 I’m still in the kitchen at Hunan, on the floor almost every day doing prep, working the wok and talking to guests, most of whom have been regulars for years. The food is the only thing which has changed, and which changes almost daily. It is really about bringing out the most in the ingredients. Subtle blends of chilli and Sichuan peppercorns push enormous pearly scallops to the edge while the gentle salty miso cuts through the tenderest slivers of corn-fed chicken. It is possible because the ingredients I use are fresh and of faultless quality.