Hunan Slurp is a Chinese restaurant in New York City that is known for their delicious Hunan regional noodles. The eatery puts a contemporary spin on beloved traditional Chinese meals. Owner Chao Wang is a talented chef who is known for his superb artistic sensibility.

Chao Wang discussed his restaurant and more via an exclusive interview on January 9, 2019.

Cuisine, China and restaurants

Meagan Meehan (MM): When did you first realize that you were destined to be a chef?

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Chao Wang (CW): I've always been in school studying painting, but my family has always been in the restaurant business. I first realized that maybe I could be a chef when I got the idea of opening Hunan Slurp in 2017.

MM: How long did it take you to master the art of Hunan cuisine?

CW: Growing up, I've always been by my grandma's tableside when she cooked. It's hard for me to say how long it took me to master Hunan cuisine, but I've always been influenced by my family in this case.

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MM: What differentiates Hunan food from dishes hailing from other areas in China?

CW: On top of being spicy (different than the famous Sichuan numbing spicy), Hunan cuisine is famous for its fresh fish and mifen. My hometown Hengyang, Hunan, is a city where three waterways meet. This special terrain gave us abundant rice and freshwater fish, resulting in specialty Hunan cuisines such as Mifen (noodle made out of rice) and fish dishes.

MM: What's your personal favorite Hunan dish and which is the most difficult to prepare?

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CW: Hometown Lu Fen is my favorite dish, and Fish Fillet Mifen is the most difficult to prepare.

MM: How did you establish Hunan Slurp and how tough is it to keep a restaurant going in Manhattan?

CW: The idea of opening up Hunan Slurp emerged when I realized no restaurant in Manhattan focuses Hunan Mifen, a popular category back in China. I did it partially to quench my homesickness, but also to bring authentic Hunan cuisines to those who have a similar background to me in New York.

It's quite tough to keep a restaurant going in Manhattan. Even though we are lucky enough to have customers love us and keep coming back, issues like high labor expense, the increasing price of ingredients, the lack of Hunan-native ingredients are consistent.

Chinese New Year and the future

MM: The Chinese New Year is coming up soon, so what does this holiday mean to you and how is it celebrated in Hunan?

CW: Chinese New Year means family and gathering for me.

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Good food, red envelopes, and fireworks are essentials everywhere in China, but in Hunan, we have to have a few specific dishes on the table: Handmade Fishcake, Sweet Chicken Soup, and Ricecake with soybean powder and brown sugar.

MM: Will Hunan Slurp be offering any specials in honor of the Year of the Pig (2019)?

CW: Yes! Two pork specials will be offered: Mao's Braised Pork (Mao's indicates a specific cooking method that was adored by Chairman Mao, whose hometown was Hunan Province), and Pepper Stir Fried with Berkshire Pork Topped with Pan-Fried Egg.

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MM: What are your biggest hopes regarding the future of Hunan Slurp?

CW: I hope Hunan Slurp can expand to other parts of NYC or even the U.S., so more people can get a taste of Hunan/contemporary Chinese ambiance.

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