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Hakka Cookbook, The

by: Linda Anusasananan

Berkeley CA: University of California Press 2012, Hardbound
ISBN: 978-0-520-27328-3

Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Spring Volume: 2013 Issue: 20(1) page(s): 20

The very first article for an American magazine about home cooking in China was written by this book’s author. Now she introduces Americans and the Western world to the very first book about Hakka's vibrant cuisine doing so visiting many Hakka folk and inquiring about their food experiences.

Subtitled: Chinese Soul Food from Around the World, this volume does that and more. It preserves the cuisine of these folk whose name translates to: Guest People. With recipes real and reliable, the estimated seventy-five million Hakka worldwide are documented by someone with more than thirty years of experience as food editor for Sunset Magazine, and a lifetime; she is a Hakka herself.

In this book, Linda brings together China's and the world’s diverse Hakka communities with memoirs and memories, and anecdotes and personal histories. With inspiration from Popo, her beloved grandmother who inspired her interest and eventual tracing of the cuisine and its people, the author recants recipes and recollections bringing us this long-overdue Hakka cookbook.

On a personal note, I recall seeing her on a trip to New York. Then I introduced her to a Chinese-American restauranteur. Turns out he was a friend and that day I learned he was Hakka, too. Actually, he was as excited as I was when she revealed she had wanted and would do a long-belated treck around the world seeking out her people and their food. We both introduced her to compatriots we knew world-wide so she could contact them; and she did. She was so enthusiastic and wanted to document foods inspired by her Popo and write a big book about them. It was something she said she had long longed to do.

This volume is the result, a remarkable cookbook, poignant and perfect. It is a culinary gem written as a personal history sharing the link between her Hakka food, Hakka families, and a culinary filling they love. Stuffed doufu is one such. When the Hakka moved south and there was little wheat to make their dumpling wrappers, they replaced their wheat-based wrappings with tofu. Her book has many fillings, and her Uncle Henry's Tofu Triangles below is a home-style version cradling pork, fish, and shrimp.

Overall, Grace Young who is a well-known cookbook author herself, says this book is the best and essential for any Asian cookbook library. We use editorial license and change that to: "It is essential for every cookbook library" and we are thrilled to have it in ours!
Uncle Henry's Tofu Triangles
1 teaspoon dried shrimp
1 and 1/2 ounces peeled veined shrimp, their black vein removed and discarded
1 and 1/2 ounces skinless boneless fish fillet
4 ounces ground pork
2 Tablespoons minced scallions
1 Tablespoon beaten egg
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 pound firm tofu
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
3/4 cup chicken broth
1 Tablespoon rice wine
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 Tablespoon sliced scallion tops
1. Rinse the dried shrimp, cover then with warm water and soak fifteen minutes or until soft. Drain, then squeeze out excess water and chop finely.
2. Rinse the fresh shrimp and the fish, cut them into half-inch pieces, then chop until they form a coarse paste before adding the dried shrimp, ground pork, scallions, egg, garlic, salt, sugar, and ground white pepper. Blend well.
3. Rinse the tofu, drain, then cut it into four squares one-inch thick by two to three inches wide, and cut each one into a triangle. Put on paper towels and press to remove excess water.
4. Cut a slit on the longest side making an opening. Leave one-quarter-inch uncut on each other side, then dig out some tofu leaving a pocket.
5. Fill each pocket with about one tablespoon of the above filling using a chopstick to push it into the pocket not tearing the tofu.
6. Add oil to a pre-heated frypan or wok and add extra filling on the outside of the filling, then brown it about two minutes before putting the tofu triangles flat on the pan's bottom. Add broth and cover, and simmer about four minutes until filling is no longer pink. Transfer the triangles to a serving dish, then add the wine, cornstarch, and the soy sauce to the pan and stir until this liquid boils and thickens. Then pour it over the tofu triangles and serve.

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