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Good-bye Tiger, Hello Rabbit Chinese New Year Banquet and “Phoenix Reborn” at Hakka Restaurant (San Francisco)

Melanie Wong | Feb 12, 201102:12 PM

Last year one of my highlights of Year of the Tiger celebrations was a memorable first meal at Hakka Restaurant. Hakka was the venue again for banquet last week to close out the year with friends and family.

A few day’s before, I stopped by in person to talk about the menu for two tables (23 people). I described a traditional Hakka dish involving a whole chicken stewed inside a pig’s stomach, sometimes called “Phoenix Reborn”, and asked if the chef could prepare it for us. Yes, it’s called “bo doi gai” or “chicken in a satchel” here. The dish takes 48-hours to prepare and would cost $48.

Here’s the pre-order (in Chinese) for the "Good-bye Tiger, Hello Rabbit" dinner. (Note: The total is incorrect. The server called me shortly after to say that it was about $40 less per table.)

“Phoenix Reborn” was the first course, served in a huge white porcelain tureen. Our waiter removed the lid and released the aroma of really good chicken stock. He explained that first we would have just the clear broth alone, and then reached in to pull out what looked like a beige balloon. The bloated pigs stomach was removed to a dinner plate. The one at our table looked quite unremarkable, staying mostly intact with just one coin-size rupture revealing the bird inside trying to get out.

However, at the other table, the full meaning of Phoenix Reborn coming to life is captured in this photo by “sixy”. Behold!

Our server insisted that besides the pig’s stomach, whole chicken and lean pork, the only other seasonings were ginger and a special green pepper. With the strong scent and flavor of white peppercorn shot through this soup, I suspect that he might have meant green peppercorns rather than chile pepper. After the first serving of broth, we attacked the packet of stomach and chicken, however, the meat was spent, all its goodness released to the stock.

“Hedonia” uploaded photos of the dishes, shown below with the English translations and some brief comments on dishes that haven’t been discussed at length:

Phoenix Reborn soup

Minced chicken and squab lettuce wrap

Double Dungeness crabs with salted yellow yolks – Watching 2-year-old Ava suck the shells for the tasty batter cracked me up.

Eight treasure duck (deboned duck stuffed with barley, sausage, conpoy, lotus seeds and other precious ingredients, then deep-fried and braised, 24-hour preparation time) – This was the third time I’ve had this dish, and I’m happy to say that it’s back on form.

XO sauce sea scallops with cloud ear fungi and lily bulbs – The weakest dish of the night, missing the XO sauce and low on fungi and lily bulbs.

Black moss (fat choy), pig hand and peanuts – A special for Chinese New Year’s, the pig’s extremity was mostly deboned and cooked to a tee with the tendons, rind and meat soft enough to come off the bone but not mushy. Delectable, silky master sauce united the moss, peanuts and rich pork.

Chinese bacon with preserved greens

Clear steamed swimming striped bass – Perfect doneness, sweet-fleshed, with just enough seasoning to highlight the natural flavor. Several guests noted this as their favorite dish.

Pea shoots, bamboo pith and mushrooms – Gorgeous, juicy big type of pea shoots cooked just enough to develop all the flavor and sweetness combined with thick sections of spongey bamboo pith, and dried black “flower” mushrooms.

Waxy sausage and sticky rice steamed in a lotus leaf

Gai lan (Chinese broccoli) with sweet rice wine – Didn’t get to try this one, as it turned out to be popular and disappeared fast.

House special seafood yee noodles

Pumpkin and tapioca dessert soup

The aftermath, the carnage

We had quite a bit leftover and I took the soup remains home with me. My mother didn’t quite believe me when I described the dish to her and I was glad that I could present the physical evidence. The remains in the light of day of the whole chicken poached inside a pig's stomach from the Phoenix Reborn.

As any proper consomme' should, the leftovers of Phoenix Reborn from Hakka Restaurant were beautifully clear and jelled up solid after a night in the refrigerator. Mom commented that it was very well-made.

The feasting to celebrate Chinese New Year will continue for another two weeks or so. What else are ‘hounds ordering here?

Hakka Restaurant
4401 Cabrillo St, San Francisco, CA 94121

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