Chiachia Hakka Restaurant’s (家家海鮮客家餐廳) classic dishes and original creations feature the complex yet well-balanced mixture of flavors of Hakka cuisine, which is known for hearty stir fries and the liberal use of piquant ingredients like garlic, ginger, scallions and chili peppers.
Take the stinky tofu (臭豆腐, NT$220). The humble night market snack is the only item on Chiachia’s menu marked with the words “can’t miss” (非吃不可), which turned out to be true. Chunks of tofu and century eggs (皮蛋) are flash fried with plenty of diced garlic, scallions and red chili peppers, then topped with a few sprigs of cilantro. As you bite into each piece of tofu, the crunchy surface gives way to the buttery soft inside distinctly pungent steam wafts over your tongue. The jelly-like egg white and creamy yoke of the century egg lend an unexpected contrast. The very different flavors and textures in the dish mesh extremely well and it’s easy to see why Chiachia’s stinky tofu is one of its signature dishes.
Another one of Chiachia’s best sellers is its vinegar-flavored cuttlefish (醋溜中卷, NT$260). Slices of cuttlefish are very lightly battered, fried and served drizzled in a sweet-and-sour sauce and covered with chopped chili peppers. The sweetness of the sauce balanced well with the vinegar and the cuttlefish was firm without being chewy.
Even Chiachia’s vegetable dishes leave an indelible impression on the tongue — at least until the aftertaste of garlic wears off.
Surprisingly, the Hakka stir-fry (客家小炒, NT$220) was the least memorable part of our meal. The traditional dish consists of strips of pork, squid and dried tofu (豆乾) mixed with heaps of scallions and stir-fried until the meat and tofu are very firm and slightly chewy. Chiachia’s Hakka stir fry was delicious, with plenty of fatty pork, and its sauce tasted wonderful with white rice, but the dish is very similar to versions you can find in any number of restaurants. By the end of our meal, we regretted not having ordered a lighter dish to offset the fried items we picked, like the salt steamed chicken (客味鹽焗雞, NT$220).
Address: 10, Ln 2, Yongkang St, Taipei City (台北市永康街2巷10號). ?Telephone: (02) 2392-3130 ?
Open: Lunch 11am to 2pm, dinner 5pm to 9pm?Average meal: NT$200 to NT$300?Details: Chinese menu, credit cards accepted
Make sure to show up at Chiachia with an empty stomach and, hopefully, a few friends. The restaurant’s very large menu includes more than 20 dishes in its seafood section alone.