Not a single people are like Hakka people. They take full advantage of land, mountain and forest, displaying Hakka living environment in their food and creating the uniqueness of Hakka food. Hakka people’s frugality and respect for heaven and earth are fully revealed by their food. Before modern electrical appliances were invented, past rural society was mostly self-sufficient. Taking advantage of the weather, Hakka people have developed a wide variety of pickled foods, rice products, and other food materials relating to the weather, which allows Hakka food to display a unique food culture during selection of materials and cooking process.
In order to maintain physical strength and replenish the water lost on work as a result of perspiring, Hakka people developed the habit of making food salty, fragrant, and oily. Most of the dishes taste strong and fatty so that they can go with large quantities of rice to increase physical strength. To preserve food and take full advantage of it, frugal Hakka people use a lot of salt in their cooking. They invented all sorts of pickles using vegetables, fish, pork, sauces, yeast, and dried materials. Fish and pork are difficult to come by for Hakka people as they live mountainous areas. That’s why they use large amount of salt to take the place of fridge. Hakka salty pork is as famous as northern China’s cured pork, or ham from Jinhua, China. It tastes delicious with minced garlic and vinegar. Of course, salty fish also taste very good.
Hakka people have lived in mountainous area for a long time. They are good at using natural resources to create sauces used in large quantities. Cordia, tree beans and orange sauce are three notable examples. They are remembered by many and have become unique Hakka foods. Sauce made of sour oranges goes well with every meal. It tastes sour, tangy, and reduces the consumption of condiments. And this saves money. Just like Italians love tomato sauce. For health-conscious modern people, orange sauce is an excellent organic food.
Hakka ancestors discovered Cordia was edible. It grows in the wilderness and can survive under extreme conditions. It leaves are often deformed because of insects. And it looks just like a piece of rag. That’s how Cordia got its name. However, it was not discarded because it doesn’t look nice. Its fruit contains abundant water and pectin. After it is pickled, it becomes delicious pickle. In early days, Cordia was an important plant in rural areas. Even though eating habit has changed, Cordia is still a good choice of seasoning for steamed fish, pork, and fried eggs.
Hakka people grow many plants suitable for growing on hillside. Ginger is one of them. Names of places having the word ginger in them often are places where Hakka people live. Many dishes are made with ginger. On the days where there are no vegetables for food, pickled tender ginger and rice porridge make a good meal. Ginger has the ability to make you feel warm in cold days and it helps blood circulating and increases physical strength. In modern perspective, for the need of physical strength, Hakka people over a long period of time have developed a cooking method of using large amount of oil and pickles. In order to balance, Hakka people use oranges, persimmons, ginger, and plums in their cooking, bringing their skills into full play.
Non-staple foods, snacks and Banzai developed as a result of change of season reflect Hakka people’s attitude towards life. Foods developed through nature and holidays display Hakka life philosophy. In Taiwan, due to the differences in terrain and weather, Hakka foods of northern and southern Taiwan are slightly different.