Hakka Chinese

Who is a Hakka? The Markers of Hakka Identity

Hakkas like the late Prime Minister of Singapore Mr. Lee Kuan Yew are known to exist everywhere on earth and practically on all the continents. My wife and I are also Hakkas.

First, the Hakkas of the Centre, including the Mainland and the Island (Taiwan), who are citizens of these countries and hold their passports. They are Chinese.

And second, the Hakkas of the Diaspora who live in Western Countries (Europe and US), on the islands of the Atlantic, the Pacific or the Indian Oceans or in South East Asia (Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia). They carry passports of their countries of residence. These are not Chinese by nationality and to avoid confusion, should be more aptly called Huaren or Huayi.


The Hakkas are regarded first and foremost as great eaters of chicken and pork.

Hakka food has its origins in the north but as it accompanied the itinerant Hakkas down to the south it became transformed by its environment that enriched it with its huge variety of vegetables, fruits and meat as well as sea foods. A typical Hakka dish is the Moye choyye niouk, slices of pork cooked with a type of dry vegetable, which we now know from Professor Liu originated in Xian where it is still popular today.

There are lots of other dishes like niuk piang, steamed minced pork with ham choy, salted vegetable, gniong teo kon, and so on. Niong teo kon is also known as a Hakka version of the northern jiaozi dumplings with meat and vegetable stuffing eaten at the New Year. Arriving in the south where flour was not readily available to make jiaozi the Hakkas produced a new plate: stuffed tofu or bean curd. The Hakkas also developed a taste for salt, unlike the Cantonese that prefer sugar, in which they preserved meat or dried vegetables which they had to keep in store and ready to take with them anytime.

Hakka Poon Choi aka Big Bowl

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Hakka Poon Choi aka Big Bowl @Restaurant Lee Hong Kee

Most famous and no doubt is the poon choi, known today as the Big Bowl. It dates back to the end of the Sung dynasty when Emperor Bing and his family who had been forced by the invading Mongols to flee the capital of Anhui arrived in Yuen Long. The Hakkas honoured by their presence felt they had to present something very special to their imperial guests and so created the Big Bowl in which they poured plenty of meat and vegetables.


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