I love exploring Hakka food in Taiwan. Since the Hakka are hardworking, and often lived in poorer rural areas, many of their recipes are ‘peasant food’ making the most of local and cheap ingredients. Hakka cuisine was once overlooked as being overly fatty and salty, but there is now a resurgence in Hakka cuisine with annual cooking competitions that aim to make the food more accessible (and healthy). And gradually there more and more Hakka restaurants are also opening in Taiwan.
I especially like Hakka kumquat (cumquat) sauce (kejia jinjijiang, 客家金桔醬), traditionally served with slices of Hakka style white boiled chicken (ban zhan ji – 白斬雞) . I have never eaten anything like it in other Chinese dishes. The pairing of citrus with poultry goes well together, so this is a natural fit.
Although I have eaten this sauce many times in Taiwan, often accompanied with goose slices, I struggled to find a recipe in English. And the Chinese language recipes varied, as well. I guess this reflects the simple, homely nature of this sauce. Many Hakka mothers probably think it is too simple to write down. In the end I liked the look of a Chinese language recipe by writer and blogger Carol, which I tried, liked and modified slightly.
Given the small size of cumquats, this is a fiddly recipe to make. But it was worth it because I really loved the bright sunshine colour and tart taste of the sauce. If you have a friend who wants to give away some cumquats, accept with gratitude and make this sauce! I added some additional orange juice because my cumquats were small and not at all fleshy; skip this if yours are juicy enough.
1 1/2 tablespoons raw sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-3 tablespoons orange juice
- Peel the cumquats, placing the peel into a saucepan. De-seed thecumquat flesh, and place in a separate bowl.
- Cover thecumquat peel with water, bring the saucepan to the boil and cook for around 10 minutes (more or less depending on the thickness and age of the peel).
- Drain the cumquat peel, cover with cold water and allow to soak for 2-3 hours to remove any additional bitterness.
- Place the peel and the cumquat fruit into a food processor or blender, and pulverize for around three minutes.
- Pour the cumquat mixture into a saucepan, add the sugar, salt and orange juice (if used). Bring to a boil, and continue to cook while stirring for around ten minutes. Spoon into sterilised jars and seal.