A feast at the Hakka Restaurant

Hakka restaurant


Last night, we enjoyed a pre-Chinese New Year’s feast at the Hakka Restaurant in San Francisco. With a group of ten we had enough people to try some of their special order specialties.

My friend Yin-Wah told me that Chef Jin Wah Li makes a soup that no one else makes in the city. The description sounded a bit unusual, but she assured me it was delicious. The chef’s wife also claimed it was her favorite soup. So I pre-ordered the “pig stomach stuffed with chicken soup”.Hakka RestaurantHakka restaurant

A huge white tureen came to the table. The server lifted out a football-shaped packet to a platter. She slit open the pork stomach wrapper to reveal a whole chicken. Then she ladled the clear golden broth into bowls. She explained that the chicken-stuffed-stomach, along with chicken feet, white peppercorns, ginger, and dried longan (aka dragon eye, a fruit similar to lychee) had steamed together for 5 to 6 hours to create this complex broth. The essence of chicken imbued the broth, with an underlying spiciness from the peppercorns, balanced by a faint fruity sweetness. Each spoonful represented the work of a masterful chef. Although the chicken and pig’s stomach were offered for eating, I felt most of their flavor had transferred to the broth.

Stuffed duck is another listed specialty. We had tasted the duck years ago with a barley stuffing and wanted to try something different. An unlisted option offered a rice stuffing. The duck arrived with rice studded with savory treasures such as Chinese sausage and dried scallops. The chef had browned the stuffed duck, wrapped it in lotus leaves, and steamed it until the duck fell apart when nudged with a fork. Delicious!

We also pre-ordered lobster noodles. A generous portion of lobster chunks were stir-fried with noodles. Fingers were needed to coax the sweet lobster meat out of the shell.

Hakka Restaurant

Steamed Sea Bass with Pickled Mustard Greens and Pork






Other dishes we ordered that are usually on the menu or wall photos:

Chinese Bacon with Preserved Greens (a must-have favorite)

Stir-fried Pea Greens

Clams with Spicy Salt and Black Bean Sauce (another favorite)

Salt-Baked Chicken

Steamed Sea Bass in Two Flavors (with pickled mustard greens and pork)


Hakka Restaurant, 4401-A Cabrillo Street (corner of 45th Avenue), San Francisco, CA 94121 Tel. 415 876 6898

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The Chinese in San Francisco

San Francisco MagazineCheck out this month’s issue (April 2015) of San Francisco. It’s a special issue on the Chinese city in San Francisco. I haven’t read the whole magazine yet, but wanted you to check it out before the issue disappears. The editors and writers reveal a fresh insider’s view on the Chinese community, politics, language, the workplace, education, and so much more. I have discovered so much in just the few pieces I have read.

Linda-S.F.Mag.04.15+2For foodies, read the section on Delicacies. Want to know how the soup gets in XLB (xiao long bao) and where to taste the best? Where to buy the best Chinese pastries? Read the illustrated dim sum guide by Asian Dumplings author, Andrea Nguyen. Get the lowdown on where to buy a wok. Learn about hot spots for Chinese regional cuisine. BTW, you will find my comments on the Hakka Restaurant in the article on page 49 and page 56.

A Hakka feast

Minced Pork with Lettuce Wraps

I discovered the Hakka Restaurant when I was almost done with the research for my book. Luckily I was able to include talented Chef Jin Hua Li and a couple of his recipes in my book. When the San Francisco Professional Food Society (SFPFS) asked me to put together a menu from the Hakka Restaurant for their Traveling Table, a program that explores the bay area’s unique restaurants, I was happy to share his delicious food with them. Here’s the menu.

Minced Pork with Lettuce Wraps
Bamboo Pith Seafood Soup
Chinese Bacon with Preserved Greens
House Special Pan-Fried Tofu
Fried Pumpkin Strips coated with Salted Egg Yolk
Chicken Stuffed with Preserved Greens (recipe pg. 233)
Stir-fried Chinese Broccoli with Rice Wine (recipe pg. 230)
Clams with Spicy Salt and Black Beans
Home-Style Steamed Sea Bass
House Special Eggplant
Steamed Rice

The lettuce wraps uses a well-seasoned pork as a simple filling for crunchy lettuce leaves. The mild soup, focuses on natural flavors and offers a light contrast to the more robust flavors in the meal.  The House Special Pan-Fried Tofu and the Chinese Bacon with Preserved Greens are Hakka classics. The Chicken Stuffed with Preserved Greens is one of Chef Li’s specialties, order a day in advance. The chicken is filled with a savory mix of preserved mustard greens, mushrooms, and pork, then braised.

Chicken stuffed with Preserved Mustard Greens at the Hakka Restaurant

The steamed fish is topped with a shower of typical Hakka ingredients pickled mustard greens and shreds of pork. Both the clams and eggplant dish reflect adaptations to local tastes as the Hakka migrated. The clams exude a spiciness reminiscent of Sichuan province.  The clams are deep-fried in their shells then stir-fried with fermented black beans, ground pork, chiles, garlic, and sometimes Sichuan peppercorns.  The tender eggplant tastes mildly sweet, sour, hot and aromatic with basil and cilantro, hinting of Thai seasonings. Hakka settled in both these areas, China’s Sichuan province and Thailand.

Everyone loved the meal. I think you will, too. The Hakka Restaurant is located at 4401-A Cabrillo Street (corner of 45th Avenue), San Francisco, CA 94121. Tel. 415. 876. 6898.