I used to go to a Chinese restaurant near my house for years and I usually ordered what they called "Hunan Chicken". It was breaded chicken pieces, similar to what you'd get with Sweet & Sour Chicken, but with a very sweet, very hot sauce, and diced onion and bell pepper. It was nothing like any other Hunan Chicken I've had before or since.

I'm looking to make this myself, as I haven't been able to find it again anywhere else, and I think I can use chicken bits like from Sweet & Sour Chicken, but I just can't figure out the sauce.

Is there a golden, clear, honey and chili oil-based sauce in Chinese cuisine that I can use as a starting point to try to recreate this dish?

  • Outside of China (actually, inside China, too!), "Chinese" food varies quite a bit. General Gao's chicken is a top selling "Chinese" menu item in the US, but not very authentic Chinese. Including where in the world you live may prove helpful in identifying the mystery sauce, as it could be local to you, rather than authentic Chinese.
    – AMtwo
    Commented May 28, 2020 at 12:11
  • I figured that tagging the question "chinese-cuisine" was my best bet since I don't have more specific information. I am located in Toledo, Ohio, United States, and since it is unlike any other "Hunan Chicken" I've had locally (as I stated in the original post) I don't think it is something related to my region. Unfortunately, with one exception, I've never thought to order it when traveling anywhere. It could have been something "peculiar" to the chef, but over the course of thirty-odd years and several chefs, the Hunan Chicken at this particular restaurant stayed the same.
    – gnicko
    Commented May 28, 2020 at 15:02

1 Answer 1


Could it be a standard sweet and sour sauce, but with Chili's / Szechuan peppercorn added?

Perhaps experiment with this sauce with various chili blends (using both fresh and dried).


Chinese peppers aren't usually insanely hot.

The below recipe has some pictures of peppers that I often see in Hunan food, and the fermented sauce might add a certain something to your dish.


Another possibility is the inclusion of Szechuan flavors, such as mala, from various types of Szechuan peppers. Let me know if you need more information on this. Szechuan peppercorn powder lack the punch and are just floral.

  • Thanks for your suggestions. The chili sauce seems like a contender, but the "Hunan" sauce is much less complex than Sween & Sour sauce. Mostly it was just "sweet" and "very hot" but not too much of either one. And it was essentially clear to slightly golden colored. It was almost like just honey and chili mixed into a sauce, but there were some other flavors in there that made it more "rich" than just honey and peppers. I don't think it was ginger, maybe a touch of lemon? Or maybe it was a flavor coming from the peppers.
    – gnicko
    Commented May 29, 2020 at 16:51

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