撰文：許冠穎、丁莞家 編校：楊澤君（Gina Yang）
It was such a bright day, we the students sat by the tables, waiting for the guest we were going to interview. Ten minutes later, a man who looked perhaps over 40, with beads of sweat on his forehead, smiled kindly and sat down. He is the owner of Jia Wei Xiang, Hakka Food Restaurant, Zhan Zhi-Qiang. Passed down from his mother, the meaning of the restaurant’s name is the smell of home, aimed at letting their guests feel at home. As a Hakkanese, he added “Hakka Food Restaurant” to represent the ethnic tastes and his original intention.
The meaning of “Jia Wei Xiang”
The chef is Hakka and his mother passed on her cooking skills to him, so the chef wanted to convey the taste of home and the spirit of Hakka culture. In Chinese, Jia means home, Wei means taste and Xiang means fragrance. Therefore, the name of the restaurant is called “Jia Wei Xiang”.
The spirit of Hakka Culture
Traditional ingredients for Hakka food are pickled to preserve them, such as mustard which can be preserved in three different ways, and each ingredient can be used in different cuisines. This preservation method shows the Hakka spirit of cherishing food.
The meaning of cuisine
The first dish is Melting Pot, which combines the ingredients of different ethnicities, such as vegetable fern from the Taiwanese indigenous people, red yeast rice sauce from the Hakka, peanut and sausage from Hoklo people, and rice wrappers from immigrant residents. Therefore, the chef shows cultural fusion in this cuisine.
The second dish is Winter Gourd with Vegetables. The chef wants to emphasize the original taste of vegetables, so he combines the bland taste of vegetables with the pickled winter gourd. The savory taste of the winter gourd and the plain taste of vegetables achieve a delicious balance.
The chef’s insistence
The chef believes that original ingredients are more important than seasonings and he combines the dishes with fresh ingredients from Puli. For every cuisine, he insists on not using processed food. Another thing he insists upon is using Hakka ingredients, which is the chef’s original intention. Although the chef has participated in many competitions, he still wants to promote Hakka cuisine.
Niu Wen Shui（牛汶水）, a traditional Hakka dessert, gets its name from its shape. It looks like an ox resting in the field while gazing in the distance. It is colored with natural pigments like red rice yeast, turmeric, and Hakka ground tea. The size of it was improved to properly fit into our mouths. With peanut crumbs on top of it and glazed with brown sugar syrup, it is one of the classic Hakka desserts.
Before enjoying the cuisine Hakka Rock（搖滾客家）, the customers have to shake the ingredient bottle to mix it evenly, that’s why it is called “rock”. “Let the customers do the exercise” the owner said wittily. In the ingredient bottle, there are salad, combined with sauce, vegetables that come from local farmers, and yogurt. The yogurt is made by Jia Wei Xiang, which made the flavor of the ingredient bottle plainer and healthier than a common salad with vinaigrette.
The process from conceiving, developing, and making, to eventually presenting to the customers is a long journey through the owner and chef’s accumulated experiences. Though he has won numerous prizes, Zhan always keeps his original intention in mind – to offer healthy cuisine to his customers. Without food additives, the restaurant insists on making all the pickled products themselves. Furthermore, in order to let the customers have the natural flavor of the food, they use as many seasonal ingredients as possible to develop the cuisine related to Hakka culture. Jia Wei Xiang lets us know that eating is not just simply having a meal, it represents the story and spirit of a culture as well.