A Kolkata Chef’s Search For Authentic Hakka Chinese Dishes

A classic illustration of a particular person who cooks from her heart, Kolkata-primarily based Katherine Chung avoids noting down the actual proportions of the ingredients that goes into her cooking. Whilst she opened a home kitchen in August 2020, it was her collaboration with a Hong Kong centered meals consultancy in 2021 that manufactured her dig deeper into the classical dishes of her group, the Hakka individuals. 

Katherine Chung at her home kitchen in Kolkata&#13
Katherine Chung at her property kitchen area in Kolkata Impression courtesy: Katherine Chung

What is the speciality of Hakka Chinese meals? Do convey to us briefly how it is distinct from other models of Chinese cuisine.

We can say Chinese cuisine is mostly divided into four main universities – Beijing in the north, Shanghai in the east, Sichuan in the west and Cantonese in the south, with additional subdivisions. Hakka cuisine doesn’t feature predominantly anywhere.

Hakka interprets to ‘guest people’. We have principally been nomadic and with no land to contact our individual we turned adept at succeeding even in the remotest of destinations. Hakka meals is an amalgamation of the local food methods and local generate of the areas the Hakka people settled in.

So, is Hakka food a reflection of the Hakka people’s way of living? 

Hakka food items is generally termed the state or rustic edition of Cantonese food items. That’s mainly because Hakka people today finally settled in the Meizhou district of eastern Guangdong (Canton).

In Calcutta [as the city was called when the Chinese began to settle here], Indo-Chinese food did cater to the neighborhood flavor buds. Curiously, as the Hakkas moved to international locations like the US, Canada, and many others., the Indo-Chinese delicacies launched by them became popular as Tangra-Chinese meals.

Salty rice ball, a typical Hakka dish&#13
Salty rice ball, a common Hakka dish Picture credit: Shutterstock.com

What are the main constituents of Hakka delicacies?

Hakka cuisine takes advantage of a large amount of soy based mostly products and solutions. No matter if it’s soy sauce, tofu, or fermented black beans. Food items like pickled and preserved mustard greens, pickled radishes, salted duck eggs, cured meats like lap cheong (Chinese sausages) and lap nyuk (cured pork tummy) – these type a staple of any Hakka relatives in Calcutta.

Of all the Chinese dishes out there in Kolkata, Hakka noodles is just one of the most common. Is it an authentic dish or is it a Calcutta speciality?

It is certainly a Calcutta speciality. It still comes as a shock to some people today that genuine Hakka delicacies does not consist of Hakka noodles!

Has there been any moderation/alter to Hakka cuisine in Kolkata?

When restaurants 1st commenced in Tangra, they ended up tiny mom and pop institutions, serving food items cooked in the dwelling kitchen area itself. But gradually, the food was modified to accommodate the local style buds.

Liu Sha Bao, salted egg yolk custard in steamed bun&#13
Liu Sha Bao, salted egg yolk custard in steamed bun Graphic credit score: Shutterstock.com

What about the food eaten at residence?

Even in Hakka households, many of the recipes which are time consuming to prepare are remaining neglected. Take rice wine, for case in point. Because of the several superstitions related with building it and it becoming a time consuming approach, the youthful generation has nearly missing curiosity.

You have been working to popularise authentic Hakka cuisine in Kolkata. Make sure you explain to us briefly about it.

I had started out a household kitchen in August 2020 for the duration of the lockdown. In January 2021, I was contacted by Gormei, a Hong Kong primarily based food items and journey consultancy. Their mandate was that I dig into my roots and build menus that mirror the soul of Hakka cuisine.

To do that, I held brainstorming classes with my mom and mother in regulation to find how foods was cooked in their time.

A dish that I learned we do differently was the steamed pork stomach with preserved mustard greens. To conserve time, we just stress prepare dinner the greens with the pork belly. But through my grandmother’s time, they would gradually steam the dish on wooden hearth, I was informed. It tasted deliciously unique, my mother recalled. After that, I built the dish, steaming it for all over just one and a half hours, and my mother confident it tasted just like how her mom designed it. And these are the varieties of dishes that have come to be preferred with Calcutta’s discerning foodies. 

What are some of the particular dishes that you get ready at your kitchen area?

Even as a youthful lady, I loved to experiment in the kitchen but it’s always the classics that fascinated me. For instance, a classical salt steamed hen may possibly audio like the easiest dish to make but suitable from the measurement of the chicken, the sum of fats on it, the total of salt and the marinating time – anything has to be just right! When I 1st commenced my home kitchen area, I additional the classical fish and fish pork meatballs on the menu, which is not normally on cafe menus. The specifically curated menu that I do for Gormei* focuses on authentic Chinese Hakka delicacies.


*Not long ago, Gormei in collaboration with Mumbai’s well-liked Masque restaurant, organised a distinctive meal for decide on attendees the place chef Chung offered a selection of authentic Hakka Chinese dishes alongside with vintage rice wine prepared by her.


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