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whole chicken stuffed w. sticky....@ Hakka Restaurant (outer Richmond) [San Francisco]

  • moto Oct 28, 2012 01:11 AM
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reaching the top of the hills on the city's western edge, we got a peek at the ocean, bright under the late afternoon sun. just after six, the families filling the restaurant filled the place with a loud buzz.

our standard for the dish was set by the long departed Sam's in downtown Oakland, an outlier both in location (neither chinatown nor uptown) and in the high standards of the chef. he left the bones in his perfectly dressed bird and used meaty, free range chicken, giving an equal balance between meat and stuffing.

in Hakka's version, the bird is deboned, the meat diced and incorporated into the copious quantity of stuffing, making the perfectly crisp outer skin look like an inflated, pale gold, chicken balloon. that skin manages to have the flavour and crunch of a fantasy fried chicken while avoiding any excess in salt or greasiness, impressive. the stuffing maintains a balanced, mild equilibrium between the rice, chicken meat, finely diced lop cheung, and a hint of oyster sauce. the big platter could easily feed six with a few other dishes, a bargain at $28.

two of the other dishes we tried there were quite good. mi querida esposa tried pig's stomach for the first time ever for her (recently having been converted to the virtues of properly prepared beef tripe) -- the preparation with XO sauce, sugar snap peas, green Chinese squash, two kinds of mushrooms was the fanciest prep of the humble ingredient (simple stuff one of the features of Hakka cooking) in my experience. they weren't timid with the XO, and the touch of seafood and picante it contributed to the pork would probably make the dish feel at home on an Iberian table. our plate of stuffed, pan fried dou fu had the flan-like texture that results from correct technique. we enjoyed a full bodied, dark brown Belgian ale with the food, 'McChouffe', brassierie D'Achouffe's take off from what a Scottish gnome would brew if he immigrated to Belgium.

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  1. Nice! Does Hakka charge corkage for the beer?

    2 Replies
    1. re: bigwheel042

      either there was none, or so small it virtually disappeared [bill was just under $60, after tax, with the $28 stuffed bird, three other courses, complimentary and tasty house soup, $2 for family sized portion of white rice]. that ale usually goes for $10-12 for a 750 ml. and stays very fresh and lively with proper cellaring. they provided decent stemware for the ale, very similar to what a good pub uses for Belgian ales of that ilk. we received excellent service, and overheard our waiter give very articulate, helpful descriptions to a non-Asian diner nearby.

      1. re: moto

        Totally cool to have Belgian ale with this food, particularly those from D'Achouffe. I have had Belgian ale with Thai and Burmese food, and it worked really well.

    2. Thanks for the report. I have never order it but my favorite chicken dish it the stuffed chicken with preserved vegetables. I love this has my mouth watering and never move from it. But I will give it a try someday.

      10 Replies
      1. re: yimster

        Do you have to order the chicken w/ preserved vegetables in advance at Hakka? Or can you just order it from the regular menu?

        1. re: Dave MP

          I ordered it in advance but can't tell you if it's on hand otherwise. In fact, when one makes a reservation here, they'll probably ask whether you want a salt baked chicken which is a regular menu item available without advance order just to be sure one is saved for your party.

          1. re: Dave MP

            I did order in advance.

            1. re: Dave MP

              Dave, I found my photo of the chicken stuffed with mushrooms and preserved vegetables. The bird is roasted, so it's quite different from the chicken stuffed with rice.
              http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                Cool, thanks! That looks good. I am getting hungry just looking at it. What is the flavor of the sauce?

                1. re: Dave MP

                  It's basically the reduced pan juices: mushroomy, soy sauce, deeply resonant of chicken.

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    I recently moved within a block of Hakka Restaurant but now I know to get the Stuffed Chicken next time. Thanks for the recommendation & pics. I also like the friendly Mom & Pop operation a little farther down Cabrillo (towards 46th Ave) Hunan #2.

                  2. re: Dave MP

                    We can absolutely eat this October Dish of the Month - past due in November - it's a must.

                    1. re: Dave MP

                      Thanks to this discussion, I went to Hakka on Friday with a group of people and tried the stuffed chicken w/ preserved vegetables and mushrooms. It was great, and a good deal at $28. We ordered it one day in advance.

                      Pretty much everything we ordered was great:

                      Fish and tofu claypot was once again outstanding, though I prefer the tofu to the fish pieces, and I might ask if I can get a tofu-only version next time? But I could eat this once a week.

                      Salt+pepper pork chops are not something I'd normally order, but these were perfectly crisp, a bit spicy, and disappeared quickly from our table.

                      House special eggplant with basil was great, sauteed greens w/ garlic and green beans w/ pork were both good (not great IMO), pork belly dish was excellent as usual, pumpkin w/ salty egg yolk was good too.

                      Our group of 8 feasted on all of this, and ended up paying only $15 each including a 20% tip...and we had plenty leftover.

                      It's nice to have such a consistently great Chinese place that takes reservations.

                      1. re: Dave MP

                        Glad to hear that some of my favorite dishes are still terrific!

                        Just want to add that when you call ask for Raymond to pre-order, etc. He was terrific and easy to deal with.

                        Now please pass the kabocha squash strips with salted egg...

              2. Does the skin have a battered or dusted coating or is it bare?

                8 Replies
                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  re. the whole stuffed chicken w. sticky rice, the skin has a very light, crispy coating which suggests a dusting rather than a batter. it still looks and tastes like crispy skin, not like a coating.

                  1. re: moto

                    Thank you, I've been trying to remember if I've ever had the chicken with sticky rice at Hakka, and I think not. I've had the chicken that yimster mentioned above and the stuffed duck a couple times. I'll need to remedy this.

                    And you should definitely try the stuffed duck when you can get a big enough group together. Sumptuous. Here's the photo.
                    http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      thanks for the photo. the stuffing for the duck differs from the sticky rice chicken stuffing, intriguingly so, as it should be.

                      1. re: moto

                        The stuffed duck at Yum's Bistro in Fremont is also excellent and somewhat similar to Hakka's. It was interesting for me to learn that both owners had once worked at South Seas Seafood Village, wonder how it is there.

                        Was this your first time to Hakka Restaurant?

                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                          The stuffed duck is Ba Bao Ya/Baht Bo Ngap, or 8 treasures stuffed duck. Not entirely sure off hand how the Shanghainese banquet style restaurant prep differs from the Hong Kong style ones, but having had the rendition at Yum's, I did not really enjoy it (much preferred the crispy chicken skin and glutinous rice, or the Northern style "beggar's chicken").

                          As far as how the versions are at SSSV, probably nowhere near as good now that Li and Yum have left that kitchen years ago.

                          1. re: K K

                            I agree that it is a waste of duck skin potential. :-J There's another name for the dish that my mother's generation of Chinese-Americans use. We make this braised duck with barley stuffing at home and when I've served it to non-Chinese friends they tell me it reminds them of cassoulet made with duck and cured pork products.

                            The deep-fried Sichuan version stuffed with sticky rice rather than barley made by Chef Liu of Hunan Restaurant in Fresno (ex-China Village, Albany) is wondrous.
                            http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

                          2. re: Melanie Wong

                            only our second visit to Hakka ; with China Village in Albany erased, there's only two Chinese places on the east side(not counting Union City or Fremont which are further from us than SF) left we like so we'll probably trek out to the Richmond or Sunset or Allemany more often. we also like the food at Yum's and South Seas Seafood Village.

                            1. re: moto

                              I went to Full Belly in Castro Valley for a family friends' banquet lunch yesterday and had a roast chicken stuffed with sticky rice that was the best dish I've had in recent memory. The skin was super crispy and the sticky rice was well-seasoned. We had a lot of other surprisingly good dishes but this one was so good my husband and I were still talking about it this morning.

                  2. We feasted on this version of the crispy skin chicken stuffed with sticky rice last night but I think that the current dish has diced ham and not the lop cheung of your 2012 dish.
                    Other dishes: fried frog with salted egg yolk, snails, ong choi, bitter melon w/catfish, short ribs, stuffed tofu and the complimentary warmed kabocha tapioca. I enjoyed this evening of dining in good company with wine and foods to delight.

                     
                     
                     
                     
                     
                     
                     
                     
                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Cynsa

                      Was the ham Virginia ham or just ham. If it was Virginia ham that would be a step up.

                      1. re: yimster

                        Hi, yimster... tasted like Virginia ham to me.
                        Of all our recent searching for this dish... from Richmond's Kwang Tung to SF's Ming's Diner... this dish at Hakka proved to be the tastiest with distinct flavors that didn't just mush together. The skin was perfectly crisp, the rice was seasoned and just the right texture, each component offered its own flavor. I really did enjoy this dish at Hakka.

                        1. re: Cynsa

                          Of all the stuffed boneless chicken I have had Hakka and Cooking Papa stuffing was wok cooked raw sticky rice. The other was just sweet rice cooked in a rice cooker and the taste and texture of the two are miles apart.

                          Both Hakka and Cooking Papa have wok cooked rice on there menu so that give them I leg up on the others.

                          There is no set recipe for Chinese food. Use whatever you have. The trick is making taste good.