On my visit to Canada and USA I received a complimentary copy of “The Hakka Cookbook” from the author Linda Lau Anusasananan, a Chinese of Hakka descent married to a Thai and now settled in San Francisco, USA. She was a recipe editor and food writer for Sunset magazine for 34 years. The Hakka Cookbook is a long overdue book of more than thirty homecooks who share their experiences of the Hakka diaspora of 75 millions souls across the globe as they disclose 140 recipes ranging from everyday Chinese food to more elaborate festive specialities. The book will prove most useful in an age of fast food and mushrooming shopping malls as the new generation tends to bury the recipes of our forebears. This is a wealth of recipes to be treasured by our youth today; the language of Hakka is lost in some countries but we must preserve its cuisine. In Mauritius the majority of Chinese are of Hakka stock. On the roadsides and in some Chinese restaurants we still have the Hakka cuisine.
In The Hakka Cookbook, Linda Lau has woven together her poignant search for her ancestral roots and an in-depth exploration of Hakka cuisine. She renewed her pride of being a Hakka, a never-forgotten legacy left behind by her grandparents. She recalled the determinant role played by Popo (grandmother in Hakka). She writes forcefully : “I am recapturing the flavour and spirit of my Hakka culture through her life and her food.Yes, Popo, I’m proud to be Hakka.”
The Hakka are known as guest people and wherever they have migrated in different climes and at different periods of history they have carried with them their culinary skills, their Hakka soul. Linda Lau has journeyed across the four seas to discover the Hakka cuisine though a little hybridrised to adapt to local contexts and tastes but basically it has not altered its mouth-watering taste and flavour. Among the specialities of Hakka dishes are ham choy (salted mustard greens), yam kuk gai (salt-baked chicken), moy choi gai (braised chicken with preserved mustard greens), jui gai (wine chicken taken especially by women at childbirth), sui mien (soup noodles) and nyiong teow fu (stuffed tofu). Across the world, Hakka cuisine will unite the Hakka diaspora together as they crisscrossed the globe. This is their identity.
It is a well-researched book necessitating many years of hard work and investment, loaded with encounters and interviews with the Chinese Hakkas descent from Panama to Sarawak. Surprisingly she came across on the bus from Meizhou to Hong Kong a group of Mauritians coming back from the 20th Annual Hakka Conference held in Luidai in 2005. They have been able to give her the recipes of Chicken Fried Rice with Fresh Tomato Chutney and meat balls known as Niuk Yen. She was surprised to note how it has been Indianised. As we delve deeper into the book, the recipes make our mouth water. The Hakka Cookbook will no doubt delight many a palate and it becomes a must for the food lovers. It will be a priceless treasure of recipes for the coming generations.