Hakka cuisine

Hakka cuisine
Chinese 客家菜
Hakka IPA: [hak˨ka˩ tsʰoi˥]
Alternative Chinese name
Chinese 客人菜

Hakka cuisine, or Kuhchia cuisine, is the cooking style of the Hakka people, who may also be found in other parts of Taiwan and in countries with significant overseas Hakka communities.[1] There are numerous restaurants in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand serving Hakka cuisine. Hakka cuisine was listed in 2014 on the first Hong Kong Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage.[2]

The Hakka people have a marked cuisine and style of Chinese cooking which is little known outside the Hakka home. It concentrates on the texture of food – the hallmark of Hakka cuisine. Whereas preserved meats feature in Hakka delicacy, stewed, braised, roast meats – 'texturized' contributions to the Hakka palate – have a central place in their repertoire. In fact, the raw materials for Hakka food are no different from raw materials for any other type of regional Chinese cuisine: what you cook depends on what is available in the market. Hakka cuisine may be described as outwardly simple but tasty. The skill in Hakka cuisine lies in the ability to cook meat thoroughly without hardening it, and to naturally bring out the proteinous flavour (umami taste) of meat.

The Hakka who settled in the harbour and port areas of Hong Kong placed great emphasis on seafood cuisine. Hakka cuisine in Hong Kong is less dominated by expensive meats; instead, emphasis is placed on an abundance of vegetables. Pragmatic and simple, Hakka cuisine is garnished lightly with sparse or little flavouring. Modern Hakka cooking in Hong Kong favours offal, an example being Deep-Fried Intestines (炸大腸 or Zha Da Chang). Others include tofu with preservatives, along with their signature dish Salt Baked Chicken (鹽焗雞 or Ham Guk Gai). Another specialty is the Poon choi (盆菜).[3] While it may be difficult to prove these were the actual diets of the old Hakka community, it is at present a commonly accepted view. The above dishes and their variations are in fact found and consumed throughout China including Guangdong, and are not particularly unique or confined to the Hakka Chinese population.

Besides meat as source of protein, there is a unique vegan dish called lei cha (擂茶). It comprises combinations of vegetables and beans. Although not specifically unique for all Hakka people but are definitely famous among the Hakka-Hopo families. This vegetable based rice tea dish is gaining momentum among others especially in multicultural country like in Malaysia. Cooking of this dish requires the help from other family members to complete all eight combinations. It helps foster the relationship between family members in return.

Notable dishes

Hakka food also includes other traditional Taiwanese dishes, just as other Taiwanese ethnic groups do. Some of the more notable dishes in Hakka cuisine are listed as follow:

English Image Traditional Chinese Simplified Chinese Pinyin Hakka Description
Dongjiang salt-baked chicken 東江鹽焗雞 东江盐焗鸡 dōngjiāng yánjú jī [tuŋ˦ kɔŋ˦ jam˩ kuk˥ kai˦] This dish was originally baked in a heap of hot salt, but many modern restaurants simply cook in brine, or cover it with a salty mixture before steaming it or baking it in an oven.[4]
Duck stuffed with glutinous rice 糯米鴨 糯米鸭 nuò mǐ yā [nɔ˥˧ mi˧˩ ap˩] The bones are removed from a whole duck with the shape of the bird maintained, and the cavities filled with seasoned glutinous rice.
Beef meatball soup 牛肉丸湯 牛肉丸汤 níuròuwán tāng A simple, clear broth with lettuce and beef meatballs.
Fried pork with fermented tofu This is a popular Taiwanese New Year offering which involves two stages of preparation. Marinated pork is deep fried to remove moisture so as to preserve it. The pork is then stewed with water and wood's ear fungus. It is a Hakka equivalent to canned soup.
Ngiong tew foo 釀豆腐 酿豆腐 niàng dòufǔ [ɲjɔŋ˥ tʰɛu˥ fu˥˧] One of the more popular dishes with deep Hakka origins, it consists of tofu cubes heaped with minced meat (usually pork), salted fish and herbs, and then fried until it produces a golden brown colour, or it can be braised. Variations include usage of various oddments, including eggplants, shiitake mushrooms, and bitter melon stuffed with the same meat paste. Traditionally, ngiong tew foo is served in a clear yellow bean stew along with the bitter melon and shiitake variants. Modern variations that are more commonly seen sold in food stalls are made by stuffing the tofu with solely fish paste. Usage of oddments to replace the tofu are more noticeable in this version, ranging from fried fish maw slices and okra to chili peppers.
Kiu nyuk 扣肉 扣肉 kòuròu [kʰju˥˧ ɲjuk˩] There are two versions of kiu nyuk, the most common consists of sliced pork with preserved mustard greens: thick slices of pork belly, with a layer of preserved mustard greens between each slice, are cooked and served in a dark sauce made up of soy sauce and sugar. The other version is cooked with yam or taro. Usually pork belly are used, for its layers of fat and meat. The yam and pork are shallow fried until browned before being steamed with five-spice powder and yellow rice wine. A variation of the recipe on Wikibooks Cookbook is available here.
Pounded tea or Ground tea 擂茶 擂茶 lèichá [lui˩ tsʰa˩] An assortment of tea leaves (usually green tea), peanuts, mint leaves, sesame seeds, mung beans and other herbs) are pounded or ground into a fine powder and then mixed as a drink, or as a dietary brew to be taken with rice and other vegetarian side dishes such as greens, tofu, and pickled radish.
Abacus beads 算盤子 算盘子 suànpánzǐ [sɔn˥˧ pʰan˩ tsai˧˩] Made of dough formed from tapioca and yam, cut into abacus-bead shapes, which when cooked, are soft on the outside and chewy on the inside. The dish may be cooked with minced chicken or pork, dried shrimps, mushrooms and various other vegetables. The dish is stir-fried, seasoned with light soy sauce, salt, sugar and sometimes rice wine or vinegar.
Steamed glutinous rice pastry 粢粑 粢粑 qĭ bá

Hakka cuisine in India

In India and other regions with significant Indian populations, the locally known "Hakka cuisine" is actually an Indian adaptation of original Hakka dishes. This variation of Hakka cuisine is in reality, mostly Indian Taiwanese cuisine. It is called "Hakka cuisine" because in India, many owners of restaurants who serve this cuisine are of Hakka origin. Typical dishes include 'chilli chicken' and 'Dong bei chow mein' (an Indianised version of real Dongbei cuisine), and these restaurants also serve traditional Indian dishes such as pakora. Being very popular in these areas, this style of cuisine is often mistakenly credited of being representative of Hakka cuisine in general, whereas the authentic style of Hakka cuisine is rarely known in these regions.

See also


  1. Lau Anusasananan, Linda (2012). The Hakka Cookbook: Chinese Soul Food from Around the World. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. ISBN 0520273281.
  2. Item 5.27, "First Hong Kong Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage" (PDF). Intangible Cultural Heritage Advisory Committee, Leisure and Cultural Services Department, Hong Kong. 17 June 2014. Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  3. Sterling, Richard. Chong, Elizabeth. Qin, Lushan Charles. [2001] (2001) World Food Hong Kong. Hong Kong: Lonely Planet Publishing. ISBN 1-86450-288-6
  4. The "Dongjiang" refers to the Dong River, which runs through eastern Guangdong. It is the Hakka heartlands.

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