I'm pretty happy to report that there *is* a place for Taiwanese style Hakkanese in the Bay Area, though all the way south in Milpitas, place called Cafe Taiwan, right next to Save Mart on Calaveras.
This restaurant's ad caught my eye many times in the Chinese newspaper, but given the string of disappointments in the past (e.g. that new ramen/shabu shabu spot in Milpitas), it just didn't seem worth the mention until I actually tried it out myself over the weekend.
The restaurant's name in Chinese tranlates more or less to Lin (or Lim)'s family Man Luan Pig Feet (Lin Jia Wan Luan Ju Jiao or something like that). The ad claims they serve Hakkanese style dishes and also the famous Man Luan style pig feet, which I've only seen it sold at Won's Stew House in the past.
Forget Ton Kiang, Golden Mountain (Hayward) and every other Cantonese Hakkanese place you've been to. You won't find the preserved veg with stewed pork belly or salt baked chicken, or fried stuffed tofu here.
While there are common fare items that you can find at any other "Taiwanese" restaurant (from Joy to Southland to Ay Chung), there are some items unique to Taiwanese Hakkanese cooking, and unfortunately I only had a chance to sample 2.
Ordered an appetizer dish that was basically blanched pork chitterlings (intestines) with ginger and something that was either cilantro or scallions. Served in a very light spiced dipping sauce. This is a typical Taiwanese Hakkanese dish (and I'd imagine some Cantonese Hakkanese restaurants may serve chitterlings as well but not to this extent). In Taiwan I've had chitterlings that ranged from being severely rubbery casings but the inside was as juicy as osso buco bone marrow, to soft and tender throughout. Perhaps it was the cut of the intestine, but it was a bit on the dry side at Cafe Taiwan. The dipping sauce was good, and a very similar style to blanched pork cheeks (si bahng rou) which Food Topia in San Jose S. De Anza Blvd does very well. Overall this dish could have been better, but it was a good effort (given the difficulty in finding something remotely close to an authentic dish like this).
Next was a small appetizer/snack sized bowl of something whose name I forgot how to pronounce, but was a very interesting udon like noodle with same thickness, except it was made with rice. It was fantastic, toothsome and went well with various condiments (a very light sauce or broth) and served with chives, garlic, some shallots, and bean sprouts.
This was the 2nd item down from the left side of the menu. I suppose this is the Hakkanese style of rice udon, and can be used to measure authenticity (if you've had it before). I highly recommend ordering this.
Third dish wasn't something that was definitive of Hakkanese cooking, but would be something served in a family for special occasions (birthdays), and that is Pork Hock somen noodle (Ju Jiao Mien Sien). This was some of the best thin noodle I've had in a restaurant, and while the pork hock was not melt in your mouth like Northern Chinese/Shanghainese ti pang (pork shoulder/shank), it was soft to the bite and very meaty. Broth had a good flavor too.
This place also has beef noodle soup, but I didn't try it as I wanted to try something different.
By the entrance door they had a special item posted which caught my eye, which was Fu Zhou style fish ball soup. Wanted to order this, given Vliang's recent discovering of Fujianese fish ball soup, and see if it is anything remotely close to what I had in Taipei. Perhaps I will next time and write about it too.
181 W. Calaveras Boulevard
Milpitas, CA 95035
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