Hakka restaurants in the GTA continue to mainly inhabit Scarborough, with some locations scattered throughout Markham. In Toronto, you’ll find just a handful of Indian-style Hakka Chinese eateries, including family-run Hakka Wow in Gerrard Indian Bazaar.
Owners Sunny Suwal and uncle Jimmy, originally from Nepal, have brought a wide range of Indian Hakka dishes to Toronto’s east end.
Global influences, Indian flavours
Years ago, residents of northern China were forced to leave their homeland with many migrating south, and others dispersing across the globe. This is why the Hakka Chinese are often referred to as “nomads.” Their rustic, soulful cuisine has influences from all over the globe. So, while Hakka food is much more than just Indian-style Chinese food, at Hakka Wow, predominately Indian flavours are mixed in with classic Chinese fare.
You’ll recognize dishes and ingredients from across many regions – from chow mein noodles and Szechuan beef, to pakoras and paneer.
Choose from an array of appetizers, soups, chop suey (crispy noodles), other noodles, rice dishes, mains (beef, chicken, seafood, vegetarian), Wow! specials, $8.88 lunch specials, and party trays.
“Gravy” + other important terms
No matter what kind of Hakka you have – traditional, Indian or Chinese – Sunny Suwal says the base of the dish always comes down to the sauce. “The flavour of the sauce is still there when you order it dry.”
On the menu, you’ll see many dishes come two ways: with “gravy” or “dry.” Neither is what you might expect. “Gravy” is not actually gravy, but a thick sauce. “Dry” denotes sauce, but thinner and less of it than gravy.
You’ll also want to get to know the various sauces on the menu. Here’s a breakdown of how Hakka Wow’s chefs make them:
- Szechuan – cilantro-based, slightly sweet, and spicy
- Chili – made with soya, ginger and garlic
- Manchurian – soya-based with ginger, garlic and prominent coriander flavour
- Spicy Garlic – lots of crushed garlic, and despite its moniker, the least spicy of all sauces.
Hakka specialties Special Soup ($9.88) and Manchurian Soup ($10-$13) are made with vegetable broth. The Special is moderately spicy, while the Manchurian features a blended garlic sauce, bolstered with coriander.
You’ll find a few straight-up Indian dishes scattered throughout the menu, such as Butter Chicken, Tandoori Chicken ($12.88) and one of the spiciest, Bombay Chicken (Gravy $10.88/Dry $11.88).
And a few Thai specialties as well, including Tom Yum Soup ($14-$16), Pad Thai ($9.88-$10.88) and Seafood Mains ($11.88-$12.88).
Still not sure the difference between Chow Mein and Chop Suey?
Order the Chop Suey for deep-fried wheat noodles topped with a subtly spiced sauce. More of an egg noodle lover? Get the Chow Mein, where noodles are stir-fried with fresh vegetables and your choice of sauce.
Hakka Wow also offers Rice Noodles Hakka Style, which are wok-tossed with fresh vegetables and house special sauce.
Did you know?
The majority of dishes here are medium-spiced, using Indian spices and always, always ginger and garlic. Want to up the ante? Order dishes marked with a hot pepper for spicier fare.
Did you know that the Hakka food here is also Halal? That’s why you won’t find any pork or liquor on the menu.
A common misnomer about Hakka cuisine: don’t expect food to be too spicy, as in hot. It’s heavily spiced, but not particularly peppery or piquant.
There are so many tastes, spices and combinations to discover with Hakka cuisine. It’s much more than Chinese food. It’s the result of diaspora and the enticing creations and flavours that followed.
Hakka Wow (1433 Gerrard St. E.) open for lunch and dinner six days a week – Monday to Sunday 12-11 pm, closed Tuesdays.
60 seats are available for dine in. Takeout and catering are also available.
Check out our Facebook album for more photos.