Tuesday, January 19, 2010

勝興客棧‏ (客家菜) 苗栗縣 - The Broken Bridge authentic Hakka Taiwanese Food - Sanyi Village, Miaoli County, Taiwan

When some pretentious asswipe gets their ego stroken by a rip-off chef owner (with an even bigger ego) to think that they are eating the best stuff of earth, whether it's some gourmet fancy five dollar sign cost rated establishment, or even a douchey rip off place designed to look like mom's kitchen, to the point that the asswipe is saying "oh I feeling like I'm eating at someone's home", you know they need to cut down on the e-BS they write, eat at home more often than fill their pipes outside with heavy creamy butter ladened dishes, farmed otoro and Japanese/Japanese style beef fu$ion dishe$ with 99% fat.

To really appreciate what "it feels like I'm eating mom's authentic OG $hiznit cooking" really means for a cuisine you absolutely cannot get in the USA, you travel to the headquarters of said cooking, right to the source.

Bourdain, if you fly to Taiwan to do a show, dedicate one segment to a place like this!

After visiting a local ranch in Miaoli County 苗栗縣, nearing central Taiwan last month, we 4 cylinder schlepped up the hill over mountainous roads, and reached Sanyi village, in particular a very tiny village in the mountains there, in Hakka Taiwanese heartland.

The name of this place per the business card is The Broken Bridge (Hakka Food), or Hsen Hsing Kir Jian 勝興客棧‏. Interestingly just a stone's throw away from a local (defunct?) train station.

A place easily 30 to 50 years old.
An array of condiments, chili sauces, made in house for sale to visitors.
An old flag celebrating the Hakka Tung Blossom Festival (a local flower)
It doesn't get more authentic than this....an uber old stuck in the past hostel/restaurant that sells in house made jarred condiments for cooking (like sauces and dips), but you really want to come here for the food.


 The interior
Interior decorations

 Very informal dining settings, not a date or Michelin starred place by any means.

The proprietress, a Hakka Taiwanese grandma, presented the menu to us. Uber old school and has a slight Japanese feel to it.


The short list, also showing what we ordered. (NT$30 is roughly US$1)


Self help utensils

Two specials dishes (the right one is Hakka style sour bamboo shoots). "BON FUN" was interestingly written in the Hakka dialect, to mean "dis shit goes great with rice, beeeyoch!". We got a kick out of that one.

Rice is free and self help. However if you leave any uneaten rice in your bowl, they will tack on NT$50 per person (NT$30 is roughly US$1). Remember this is a farming village, respect the rice bitch, or Chow Yun Fat will point a gun to your head like A Better Tomorrow Two!

Words cannot describe the vibe and atmosphere of the place, so perhaps the photos do a little justice.

This place is family owned, and the head oba-saan (sorry to use a Japanese reference here) comes over and shows you the menu which almost looks like something Iron Chef Rokusaburo Michiba would do, except it's written on wood. You also have the option of noting down what you want on the checklist paper menu. Prices are a tad bit higher than eating off the streets (though very affordable) but rest assured you're getting truly unique grub.

The feast of a lifetime went like this

Jiangxi Da Tsang 薑絲大腸 - Hakka Taiwanese style pork intestines stir fried with ginger. A strong vinegar presense but in a very good way. I hate to use a word that should only be used to describe pasta and rice, but AL DENTE this good shit was. Might be a bit too chewy for some, but it was dead on perfect in all aspects.

Kir Jia Xia Fung 客家小封- Stewed Hakka Taiwanese pork belly with bamboo shoots. Forget that Ton Kiang Mon Kiang San Francisco BS or Canto pork belly clay pot with sweet preserved veg...this is it. Everything grandma and grandpa make here are local, fresh, natural (not necessarily organic). It's their culinary skills at stake, no M$G at all in anything they make. Taiwanese black pork? You betcha. Outsmokes any version of kurobuta no kakuni at any izakaya or ramen place in the USA. Such a joy, such a delight.

Kir Jia Bahn Tiao 客家板條 - Paaah, you say, it looks like a pseudo Cantonese style ho fun noodle dish. (buzzer sound) dude (or dudette) you don't know anything until you've tried it. Yes it looks like Canto ho fun, but this is Hakka Taiwanese style bahn tiao which while is the same thing in principle, is freshly made, slippery smooth and juicy once it soaks up the sauce. This is a flat rice noodle so amazing it's not funny. Even the scallions, mushrooms, carrots as very simple ingredients, shined. Grandpa (or grandma) knows how to stir fry!

Kir Jia Xiao Tsao 客家小炒 - Hakka Stir Fry. This one's an interesting dish. It's basically chop suey kind of mixed stir fry. But it's got bits of squid, dried marinated tofu strips, scallions, rather chewy pieces of pork. The flavors were great, though this was not the top dish of the evening (like the pork or bahn tiao).

Kir Jia Dou Fu 客家豆腐- Hakka Taiwanese style tofu. OK a few of you may have had Hakka Cantonese style fried stuffed tofu, and while that is some good shit, this prep is something not to be missed. The tofu is unlike anything I've tasted before, and has the texture of Chinese vegan wheat gluten, but even smoother (like a cross between wheat gluten and yuba). Again the scallions, mushrooms, carrots, and bits of green...this dish just shined.

Goo Dien Tsao Ji Tang 古點草雞湯 - Herbal chicken soup. Alright this was pricey at NT$350 (came to US$12 ish), but you get a whole black chicken. Not salted at all. Acquired taste likely for many. They call it Giu Da Mee in Hakka Taiwanese (the 古點草 herb I suppose).

The granny greeted us as we left, and closed up shop by 6 pm (it was already sundown). We spoke with her briefly telling her how much we enjoyed the food and that 3 of us were visiting from the US.
I told her, "doood PLEEZE open up a location in the US!". She smiled and appreciated the sentiments, laughed and bid us farewell after giving us the business card of the place.

勝興客棧‏ (Business card said "The Broken Bridge Restaurant" (Hakka Food) )
苗栗縣三義鄉勝興村14鄰72號‎ (Miaoli County, Sanyi Hsiang, Sheng Hsing Village, No. 72, Lin 14)
Tel: 037-873-883‎

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