Endure Pain to Taste Sweetness
I always knew I was Hakka, but as a child I didn’t really know or care what that meant.
I would slow nod when my dad used to talk about it with pride, and I knew it was different because the numbers my grandparents taught me didn’t sound like the one’s the other Chinese kids recited.
Family in Hong Kong would raise smiley eyebrows and pat me on the back affirming something we all seemed to know, something that made us special and bonded forever.
And our Sunday roast looked and smelled very different to everyone else's, in Hong Kong but mostly certainly in Wales where I grew up.
China’s nomads, gypsies, pioneers, Hakka translates to ‘guest people’.
Historically displaced, Hakka were forced to find a home on the scraps of land left after the Cantonese had settled and North China had pushed them out.
My ancestors had to adapt, graft, take risks and be strong enough to survive any obstacle in their path. Born out of this history of necessity came a progressive culture, an independant and resilient spirit and recipes not designed for the faint hearted.
A combination of sliding existentially into my 30s, spending the summer cooking with my Dad and Pawpaw, and trying to define why I have such a deep and feral affection for food has resulted in this collection of recipes.
More than ever, and perhaps, for the first time truly, I consider it a great honor to have Hakka running through my veins and so this is an ode to and celebration of the badass spirit of my family’s heritage, The Pangs.
Told through childhood memories of Pawpaw’s traditional steam cake and my Dad’s newly reimagined crispy duck, these recipes are not quick, and they are not convenient.
They’re humble and pungent, deceivingly simple and yet cannot be rushed. They’re a lesson in Hakka values, patience and adaptability.
But in a world of fleeting, instant, disposable transience, there is a delicious hardship that comes with enduring a 3 day duck basting, a luxurious forced pause that comes with waking up early to soak rice.
It’s hard to explain,
but in the end you’ll see that it just tastes sweeter.
EAT BITTER AND GIVE ME YOUR EMAIL