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.
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.
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
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)