Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Hakka Cuisine Taiwanese Style

The heart-stopping Hakka dish of braised pork belly with pickled mustard greens
Taiwan has many Hakka (客家) or kejia, literally "guest families". They are Han Chinese who speak Hakka language and were said to migrate from northern and central China to the south.
Marinated fresh bamboo shoots
Some famous Hakka are Dr Sun Yat-sen, Soong Ching-ling, Deng Xiaoping, Lee Kuan Yew and Chow Yun-fat.

In Taiwan 15-20 percent of the population is Hakka, making them the second-largest ethnic group on the island.

As a result Taiwan has some great Hakka restaurants like the one we tried in Chungli in Taoyuan County. It's an unassuming place, the staff are relatively friendly and if the restaurant's not busy, the kitchen will churn out dishes faster than you can eat them!

Curried soft-shell crab with small cubes of potato underneath
For starters we had bamboo shoots, fresh and large, lightly marinated and crunchy, followed by half a goose and half a chicken served cold.

Fantastic braised eggplant cooked Thai style
Next came the highlight of slices of dongpo rou or braised pork belly with pickled mustard greens that were placed in steamed flat buns. It was very greasy and not good for cholesterol levels, but very tender combined with the sweetness of the meat and savoury from the pickled greens.

There was also curried soft-shell crab that was slightly spicy, the flavours delicious and the sauce was also soaked up by small potato cubes. Intriguingly the dish was served with Western-style soft slices of bread but they went well together.

An array of mushrooms in a soup with a flavourful broth
One of the vegetable dishes featured a green one whose texture was similar to a soft celery, stir-fried with mushrooms, and braised eggplant was fabulous Thai style with a bit of chilli.

My favourite was the soup that was made using various kinds of mushrooms, including button, shiitake, and ones that looked like the eroded rock sculptures at Yehliu. They were cooked in a simple yet tasty broth I had to have seconds.

Our final course was like a Chinese-style pasta dish, with short noodles about an inch in length, stir-fried with julienne carrots, spring onions and minced pork.

I have the name card but it's all in Chinese... will have to get a translation!
Stir-fried short noodles with carrots, spring onions and pork

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