Clovis News

Secret menu at Hunan Chinese Restaurant offers traditional dishes

Chongqing Style Chicken is seasoned with chili pepper. It looks spicier than it is, says Jim Chi, manager of Hunan Chinese Restaurant.
Chongqing Style Chicken is seasoned with chili pepper. It looks spicier than it is, says Jim Chi, manager of Hunan Chinese Restaurant.

Hunan Chinese Restaurant offers customers a tasty adventure.

Diners can experience traditional dishes served in China but not usually found in the Chinese restaurants of America.

“Most places offer things like broccoli chicken and sweet and sour pork,” said Hunan manager Jim Chi. “Our job is to introduce different foods and let customers try them.”

So Hunan, located at the southeast corner of Clovis and Herndon avenues, has all the Chinese dishes that Americans expect plus the unexpected traditional ones.

Take Kung Pao chicken, a spicy stir fry made with chicken, peanuts, vegetables and chili peppers. That’s how it’s served in the United States – and Hunan follows that recipe.

But the restaurant also offers a spicier Kung Pao with no vegetables.

Diners accustomed to American-style Chinese food may want to go slow in making the switch, Chi said: “We try to be gradual with people. You can jump too fast.”

But a menu full of interesting dishes awaits those who take the leap. There is, for example, Hunan’s Szechwan Style Boiled Spicy Fish.

“That’s real Chinese food,” Chi said with a smile.

The dish begins with cabbage on the bottom of a bowl, and flounder in a sauce is added. Garlic and chili peppers are sprinkled on top. The Spicy Fish is priced at $12.49.

“It looks spicier than it is,” Chi said. And it’s only available when ordering from Hunan’s traditional Chinese menu. Customers must ask to see that menu. Otherwise, they are presented with the menu that features American-style Chinese food.

Some dishes are listed on both menus.

Hunan opened in Clovis four years ago. Owners Stella and Jennifer Pang are from Taiwan, and the two sisters came to Fresno-Clovis because of friends living here.

Their restaurant specializes in the Hunan and Szechwan cuisines, both known for spicy flavors. Hunan cuisine comes from Hunan province of south central China, while Szechwan cuisine is from Sichuan (formerly Szechwan) province of southwestern China.

In contrast, many Chinese restaurants in the United States serve Cantonese cuisine, which features lightly cooked fresh vegetables and meat, and sweet sauces.

Hunan chef Jimmy Liu, an award-winning cook in China, designed the menu. Liu works primarily at Hunan’s sister restaurant at Cedar and Herndon avenues in Fresno. But he trained David Liu (no relation), who presides over the kitchen in Clovis.

Chi has managed both restaurants for the last year, and for nearly two decades before that, he owned and operated Delly Bean Sandwich & Coffee in Clovis.

His favorite dish from the traditional Chinese menu is the Hunan Style Braised Pork, priced at $9.99.

Hunan offers two duck dishes.

Peking Duck must be pre-ordered one day in advance, and it’s priced at $33 on both of Hunan’s menus. It is a whole duck, and its skin is served crispy while the meat is thinly sliced and served with plum sauce and onion.

Tea-smoked Duck also is featured on the traditional Chinese menu. It’s first cooked in hot water and then placed in a smoker with tea leaves. It is $27 for a whole duck and $14.99 for a half.

One of the appetizers on the American-style menu is Bao Tze ($7.99), a combination of seasoned pork, cabbage and onions wrapped in dough and steamed. On the traditional Chinese menu, Spicy Pork Ear ($7.49) is one of the appetizers.

Soups on the American-style menu include, but are not limited to, Sizzling Rice, Egg Drop and Wonton. They are priced at $7.99 (small portion) and $12 (large). The traditional Chinese menu has many soup offerings, including Fish Lips Soup ($8.99 or $14). Vegetarians can enjoy Broccoli Tofu Soup, which begins with pureed cooked broccoli. “It’s very unique,” Chi said. The prices are $7.99 and $12.

Seafood Noodle Soup ($9.59) is a popular lunch choice on the traditional Chinese menu because it offers customers a filling noontime meal, Chi said.

Dinner specials are offered on the American-style menu for a minimum of two people. Six selections, ranging in price from $15.49 to $19.49 per person, are available.

One of the specials is the House Dinner Special at $18.49 per person. It features pot stickers and chicken salad, Sizzling Rice Soup or Hot & Sour Soup, Butter Cream Prawns and Szechwan Hot Pot Chicken. Other dishes are added for parties of more than two people.

Hunan is at 950 Herndon Ave., Suite 111. The telephone number is (559) 322-9831. The restaurant, which offers take-out service, is open 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday; 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday; noon to 10 p.m. Saturday; and noon to 9 p.m. Sunday. The website is hunanwme.com.

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