Here’s a short history lesson in two minutes or less. What we have been seeing and eating at Hakka restaurants in Toronto is not 100% authentic Hakka food. It’s actually Hakka-Indian infused cuisine, but we use the term, “Hakka”, loosely and just go with Hakka food.
Why? Probably because it’s more simple and convenient to say, and our brain likes simple stuff.
What’s easier to process?
“Let’s have Hakka-Indian today!” or “Let’s have Hakka today!” – I’m sure we all agree the latter is the preferred option.
Hakka people migrate all over the world, and not just India. There’s also the Caribbean (Chinese-Jamaican) and Southeast Asia, particularly Indonesia.
For the Hakkas that migrated over to India, they ended up adapting their cuisine to local tastes. Using local spices and herbs, they were able to beautifully fuse the complex flavours of Chinese cooking and flavours of Indian cuisine.
The result is the Hakka restaurants we have in Toronto today.
Now that we got that cleared up, let’s explore some of the best Hakka Food in Toronto – it’s going to be a hot and spicy ride. Let’s hope your taste buds are up for the challenge as the flavours can be pretty intense.
1. Chung Moi
Image by: Andrew H
Address: 2412 Eglinton Ave E, Scarborough, ON M1K 2P3
Don’t let the location and the aesthetic fool you. The cooks at Chung Moi definitely knows how to make some good-tasting Hakka dishes.
To some, the interior may look a bit tacky and outdated, but Chung Moi has been operating there for more than two decades, and the dining area is always kept clean at all-time.
Their lunch special chili chicken, chili fish, and Manchurian chicken are fabulous options here. If you like the food to be crispier, then it’s best to go with the dry option. Otherwise, it’ll be served with gravy.
Going with gravy will douse the toppings in sauce while dry will just be with seasonings – no sauce. The default is with gravy.
The choice is entirely up to you and either option is equally good, as neither option will not fall short on taste – garlic, onions, chili peppers infused together to create the perfect taste. We sometimes rotate between gravy and dry, it all depended on our mood that day.
If you like spicy food, then the chicken masala fried rice is another fine choice here. It was spicy and had plenty of flavour with its unique seasonings.
But the one item that you MUST try at Chung Moi is their hot and sour soup – we guarantee you won’t be able to find this version of hot and soup anywhere. It’s their own family recipe that has been passed down through generations.
In the slightly thick soup broth, we see a combination of bean sprouts, parsley, minced pork, and baby shrimps. The taste starts off sweet, then it turns mildly sour, before ending with a spicy hot kick. The spiciness will linger on your tongue with a spicy sensation making you want to drink water to soothe it.
Having this hot and soup in the winter is the best!
2. Hakka Garden
Image by: Hakka Garden
Address: 25 Overlea Blvd #7A, Toronto, ON M4H 1P9
Opened back in 2007, Hakka Garden has been operating and serving the community Indian and Pakistani style Hakka Chinese cuisine for more than 14 years.
Hakka Garden is also a family restaurant that serves 100% Halal meat. Their food is full of flavour and has the right amount of spiciness that doesn’t overpower the dish.
From their lunch special you have the option to pick one of the two side items that is available – hot and sour soup or spring roll. We have mixed feelings on these two options as the hot and sour soup and the spring roll was both vegetarian.
Also, when ordering from the lunch special menu, you have choice of getting it as dry or gravy. Personally, both options are just as good.
Earlier we mention that we had mixed feelings about their hot and sour soup. If you go for the dry option, you can pour the leftover soup, if any, on the dish if you find it a bit dry.
Their chili or Manchurian chicken or fish are good options here. Perfectly fried and the fish doesn’t crumble into pieces when picked up. The chicken stir fried mixed vegetable is also good, but there’s a little trick to making this dish even better. By default, this dish comes with sliced chicken, but you can ask to replace the sliced chicken with the chicken they use on the chili chicken dish – most of the time they will accommodate this request. In doing so, the overall experience of the dish is a lot better and makes a big difference in taste.
From the regular menu, we loved their shrimp in lobster sauce and lollipop chicken. The shrimps were jumbo sized and we liked that they cut the side to remove the innards. The lobster sauce was also flavourful, which we find can be perfectly enjoyed on plain rice too. As for the lollipop chicken, it was succulent and crispy – add the lemon to give it a zesty taste.
We would definitely be coming back again for the chili chicken – it was our top pick. Spicy level was just right and the gravy sauce with green chili was mmm-licious.
3. Spicy Dragon
Image by: Colanie B.
Address: 1060 Kennedy Rd, Scarborough, ON M1P 2K7
Located on the south-east corner of Kennedy Rd and Lawrence Ave East intersection, we cannot believe we drove by Spicy Dragon many times without noticing this place.
The Scarborough location is rather small with a few tables for those that want to dine in. But majority of the people who orders from here gets take-out.
We loved their spicy dragon chicken and shrimp. You will feel the kick of the numbing spiciness after a few seconds of that first bite. The spiciness will linger in your mouth and slowly grows with intensity, leaving you wanting to get a drink to subdue it. So, make sure you have something to drink nearby.
However, we only wished the onion was more cooked as it was good having the onions mixed with the spicy seasonings on plain rice. But, because it was still a bit raw, you could taste the bitterness which can be a turnoff for some. Unless it’s on a burger, we like our onions fully cooked.
We also had their beef hakka chow mein. To us, it wasn’t to our expectations as the noodles felt a bit bland and that seems to be the consensus here. We definitely like their spicy dragon chicken more than their noodles and will be coming back for more.
4. China Cottage
Image by: Jenny H.
Address: 5985 Steeles Ave E, Scarborough, ON M1V 5P7
China Cottage has two locations to calm your itch for Hakka food. One is located near Markham Rd and Steeles Ave East, and the other one near Ellesmere Rd and Pharmacy Ave.
The restaurant located on Ellesmere is normally our go to location as it’s more convenient for us, but after experiencing the Steeles location they have won us over and they will be our new go to spot even if it’s a further drive. The flavours at Steeles location were more tailored to our taste buds.
From the lunch special menu, the chili chicken, chili fish, Manchuria chicken, and chicken 88 are our top picks here – crispy with the right amount of spiciness for each dish. Also, the daily soup that comes with the lunch special was delicious as well.
A couple of items from the regular menu that we found particularly good was the General Tso (sweet and slightly spicy) and Mumbai chicken (paprika, cayenne pepper, and garlic gave it a pleasant taste).
The Markham location is very cozy inside and always clean. The customer service is really great and they are so nice and patient. That’s a plus on my book.
5. Lin Garden
Image by: Lin Garden
Address: 1806 Pharmacy Ave, Scarborough, ON M1T 1H6
Hidden behind another plaza, if driving on Sheppard, is where you can find Lin Garden. They have been serving the GTA community for more than 17 years with their Chinese dishes with Indian spices.
Lin Garden is best described as a no-frills hole in the wall Hakka restaurant.
We cannot comment on their lunch specials as we only experienced their dinner menu, but the food was deliciously good and the portion was generous as well.
The chili chicken and Manchurian beef (dry) was tender and juicy. But it was the kan shue green beans (green beans with minced pork) that really caught our attention and was our favorite. The combination of meat and vegetable elements came nicely together to create this awesome dish.
6. Yueh Tung
Image by: Yueh Tung
Address: 126 Elizabeth St, Toronto, ON M5G 1P5
But fret not, downtown Toronto has some good places as well and Yueh Tung is one of them who specializes in Hakka-Indian infused dishes.
The location of Yueh Tung may not be car friendly – then again, downtown itself is not car friendly in general, and that should not deter you from going here.
On the second floor of the building is where you can find a spacious and well-kept dining area where you can enjoy with your family and friends.
Popular dishes at Yueh Tung include the chili chicken, Manchurian chicken, chili beef, crispy beef, general tao chicken, Hakka braised pork belly, and their hot and sour soup.
Each dish was cooked to perfection leaving you wanting more with each bite. The spicy level of each chili dishes had a nice kick but wasn’t too overly spicy. We particularly enjoyed the chili chicken (dry) and the Manchurian chicken (gravy). As for the Hakka braised pork belly, it was so succulent it just melts in your mouth.
The hot and sour soup is also one of our favorites from the many Hakka places we tried. The soup isn’t too spicy and it’s filled with prawns, bbq pork, tofu, bamboo, peas, shittake mushrooms, green pepper and egg – marvelous!
We can see why Yueh Tung has been continuing to operate for more than four decades.