The Hakka Cookbook Abstracts

large version of cover of The Hakka CookbookThe Hakka Cookbook Chinese Soul Food from Around the World

By Linda Lau Anusasananan
Art by Alan Lau
Foreward by Martin Yan
312 pages, 40 illustrations  $39.95 cloth
ISBN 978-0-520-27328-3
Editors and writers: These abstracts give you a quick overview of the book. Questions? Please leave a message in the box below and I’ll send a reply.

The Hakka Cookbook Abstract

Recipes, stories, memoir, history–this book traces the journey of a Chinese-American food writer, Linda Lau Anusasananan, searching for the roots of her grandmother’s kitchen. Her grandmother was from a group of Chinese known as Hakka  (Kejia in Mandarin). Centuries ago, this group was displaced from their northern home in the cradle of Chinese civilization and migrated south. They acquired the name “guest family or people” because they had no place to call home for centuries. More unrest in the 19th to 20th century sent these nomads throughout the world.

These Chinese pioneers brought their traveling kitchen to their new homes in Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, India, Peru, the Caribbean, Canada, America, and many other countries. The author tastes the food at its home in China then follows the global Hakka diaspora. Learn about the history of these Chinese nomads through their stories and taste their rustic Chinese comfort food through their recipes. Discover detailed recipes for Hakka classics such as salt-baked chicken and stuffed tofu. Learn to make seldom-seen recipes for regional Hakka specialties such as Pounded Tea (lei cha). Artwork from her brother, Alan Lau, weaves a visual trail throughout the pages.

Keywords: Hakka, Kejia, guest people, guest family, Chinese nomads, Hakka cookbook, salt-baked chicken, lei cha, Alan Lau, Chinese-American, Chinese pioneers

Introduction Abstract

The author, Linda Lau Anusasananan, describes her childhood background and quest to find her Hakka Chinese identity through food. She discovers how the unique history of the Hakka migration shaped the independent spirit and the traveling kitchen of these hardy Chinese pioneers. In her journey from Gold Mountain (California) to China and throughout the world she follows the Hakka diaspora to taste the food that comforted the soul of these hardy migrants. Her Hakka recipes come from many Chinese— home cooks to professional chefs— who share their memories, food, and stories.

Keywords: Hakka Chinese identity, Hakka migration, Hakka diaspora, Hakka recipes, Chinese pioneers, Gold Mountain

Chapter 1:  California: Popo’s Kitchen on Gold Mountain

From Angel Island to Paradise, California, Anusasananan traces her grandmother, whom she calls Popo, as she embarks on a new life. In spite of the Chinese Exclusion Act, Popo was admitted to Gold Mountain in 1921 as a wife of merchant. When Popo came to live with her daughter’s family in northern California, she tried to teach her grandchildren to be Hakka without much success. Decades later, long after Popo’s language lessons were forgotten, memories from her kitchen nudged Anusasananan to learn more about Hakka food. She also discovers the frontiers her father conquered to live in Gold Mountain. She recalls comfort food from her childhood such as Five-Spice Potatoes or Stuffed Tofu.

Chapter 1 keywords: Angel Island, Chinese Exclusion Act, Stuffed Tofu, Hakka food, Gold Mountain, comfort food

Chapter 2: China: Hakka Cooking in the Homeland

In China, Anusasananan finds her ancestral roots in Meixian in the southern province of Guangdong. In this Hakka heartland, she tastes true Hakka food at its source from earthy, robust flavors to unadulterated natural simplicity. She follows the Hakka trail of food to Beijing where the food is more refined for urban tastes. In Luodai, a Hakka village in Sichuan province, regional ingredients contribute chiles to the cuisine. In Hong Kong, rustic and nouvelle versions of Hakka dishes appear. She tastes popular Hakka dishes such as Pork Belly with Preserved Mustard Greens, Salt-Baked Chicken, and a feast served in a wash basin known as puhn choi.

Chapter 2 keywords: Hakka heartland, Meixian, pork belly, salt-baked chicken, puhn choi, Hakka food, Luodai, Guangdong, Hong Kong

Chapter 3: Leaving the Mainland: Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, and Mauritius

Away from the mainland, the author finds the cuisine expands as it leaves a singular society and encounters a broader palette of new, fresh ingredients. In Taiwan, a movement to preserve the Hakka culture reinvents dishes to attract tourists such as a popular ceremony based on a sweet version of Pounded Tea, lui cha or lei cha. Singapore and Malaysia promote a healthy rice bowl, based on a savory pounded tea. Other Hakka classics include ginger-infused Wine Chicken and Taro Abacus Beads (sort of a Hakka gnocchi made with taro). The introduction of more seafood and a lighter approach find favor with the younger generation.  On the island state of Mauritius, a multicultural society adds fusion elements and new ingredients to Hakka dishes.

Chapter 3 keywords: Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, Mauritius, lei cha, taro abacus, Hakka culture, Hakka classics, wine chicken

Chapter 4: Across the Pacific: Peru, Hawaii, and Tahiti

Many Hakka crossed the Pacific and settled in Peru, Hawaii, and Tahiti. In Lima, signs of the Chinese legacy appear in the faces of many Peruvians, in their diet, in Chinatown, and in the many chifas (Chinese restaurants). Hakka there hold their culture tight and prepare traditional standbys such as Steamed Radish Cake or Salted Mustard Greens. In multicultural Hawaii, many Hakka assimilate into the mainstream yet still cook favorites their grandmothers made such as Steamed Pork Hash. One resident, originally from Tahiti, shares her experiences there where the Hakka presence dominated other Chinese groups. She cooks traditional Hakka food as well as those that merge Tahitian and Hawaiian tastes and ingredients such as her raw fish salad.

Chapter 4 keywords: Peru, Hawaii, Tahiti, Chinatown, chifa, radish cake, salted mustard greens, pork hash, raw fish salad, Hakka

Chapter 5: Multiple Migrations: Toronto and New York

After leaving China, some Hakkas or their descendants migrated more than once. Many came to North America. In Toronto, Canada, Anusasananan meets a Hakka community  from the Caribbean, Malaysia, Mauritius, South Africa, and India. They form cultural associations such as Tsung Tsin to keep their Hakka culture and cuisine alive.

Some of the immigrants are chefs from India who brought an Indo-Chinese hybrid cuisine with them. Many live in the Toronto area, but the author also finds a family near New York City where favorites such as Chile Chicken, Tangra Beef, and Hakka Chow Mein draw customers in.

Chapter 5 Keywords: Toronto, Caribbean, Malaysia, Mauritius, South Africa, Tsung Tsin, Indo-Chinese cuisine, chile chicken, tangra beef, Hakka chow mein, Hakka community, Chinese associations

Chapter 6: Return to Gold Mountain

Anusasananan’s journey returns to where she started, Gold Mountain. In California, she finds a Hakka mentor in an old friend, Fah Liong, to school her in the basics of the Hakka kitchen. Fah generously shares recipes, many from her mother in Indonesia. The author also meets the owners from two restaurants in San Francisco, William Wong from Ton Kiang and Chef Jin Hua Li from the Hakka Restaurant. At Ton Kiang, she learns how to make salt-poached chicken, a short cut version of salt-baked chicken. Chef Li tells her how to make an everyday classic Chinese Broccoli with Sweet Rice Wine. From her teachers, she learns to cook Hakka food with a California accent.

Chapter 6 keywords: Hakka kitchen, Ton Kiang, the Hakka Restaurant, salt-baked chicken, Fah Liong, Chinese broccoli

The Hakka Kitchen

Learn about the tools, techniques, and basic recipes you’ll need to cook Hakka food. Sections on the wok, steamers, clay pots, and cleavers tell you how to buy and use these tools. Learn how to season a wok, set-up a steamer, and cure a clay pot. Understand the fundamentals of stir-frying, deep-frying, braising, steaming, and cutting. Recipes for basics used in the Hakka kitchen include chicken broth, sweet soy sauce, chile sauce, and steamed rice.

Keywords for The Hakka Kitchen:  Hakka kitchen, wok, steamer, clay pot, cleaver, stir-frying, deep-frying, braising, steaming, sweet soy sauce, steamed rice

The Hakka Pantry

The Hakka pantry includes preserved and pickled vegetables, various types of dried ingredients, soy sauces, fresh vegetables, tofu, seasonings, and wines. Many of the ingredients are common to the Chinese cuisine, others have a strong Hakka connection. Use this list as a shopping guide to find Asian ingredients. Chinese characters and descriptions help you to locate the right product. Descriptions explain how to use the ingredient and offers supermarket substitutions when possible.

Keywords for The Hakka Pantry: Hakka pantry, Asian ingredients, shopping guide, Chinese ingredients, soy sauce, Asian vegetables, tofu, substitutions for Asian ingredients

5 thoughts on “The Hakka Cookbook Abstracts

  1. Hi Linda,
    I am a hakka from Sarawak, Malaysia. But now have migrated to Perth, Australia. I am going to USA next month. Hope to get the Hakka Cookbook there. Great job in producing this book.

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