Hakka Chinese Food in Toronto at Hakka Garden

Hakka Chinese food

Hakka Chinese food is one of my favourite types of fusion cuisine styles. It’s savoury, spicy and packed with intense flavours. There is no firm consensus on the origin of Hakka Chinese food, but here in Toronto, it’s safe to say that it’s East Asian cuisine with South Asian flare.

Hakka Chinese food restaurants are plentiful in and around the GTA. Unfortunately, many of the good Hakka Chinese food places opt to serve a partial halal menu, pork and or/alcohol. Some have also been known to mix meats as well, purchasing from multiple suppliers to get the best deal, worrying more about their bottom line.

Personally, we stopped eating from these establishments as the risk of cross contamination is quite high since most restaurant owners are not knowledgable on proper halal and even proper food handling for that matter. So why take the chance?

Many years ago we visited a little place in the heart of Thorncliff (East York) called Hakka Garden. The food was meh (definition: nothing great, or worth any opinion at all, positive or negative). As a food writer, my biggest challenge is writing about places that are just ok. As a result, we never really bothered to go back. Also, with so many other restaurants in the same area, there was never any reason to think twice about Hakka Garden.

Fast forward to 2012, I was asked to write an article for a Toronto website on the best halal restaurants in Toronto. I did some informal surveying and came up with a shortlist which I shared with Halal Foodie fans on Facebook and Twitter. Many people were stunned that I had not placed a single Hakka Chinese food restaurant on my list. After that realization was made, I wondered the same thing. All those years not eating Hakka Chinese food and I completely forgot how marvellous it truly was! I immediately started asking around, What is the BEST Hakka Chinese food place in Toronto that had a 100% halal menu, no alcohol and no pork? With those criteria in place, not a lot of responses came back except — Hakka Garden.

“It’s my favourite place to eat”, “I go there every week”, “It’s legit, all their meat is halal”, “their crispy beef is AMAZING!”. Lots of comments, all on the same Hakka Chinese food restaurant, Hakka Garden.

Is this the same place I visited before? In Thorncliff, near the masjid? Yup, that’s the one. Apparently, they’ve stepped up their game to bring tasty, budget friendly Hakka meals to the large Muslim community in this area. The best part is their meat is from reputable sources such as their neighbours, Mecca Halal Meat.

My husband and I (with two kids in tow) set off for Hakka Garden to enjoy Saturday evening liner (lunch/dinner, you’ll understand if you have small kids, mine need to be fed at 5pm or they go wild). As we pulled up, memories of my last visit started to flood in and I wasn’t sure I could be won over with this place despite raving reviews from others. Located in a strip plaza, Hakka Garden neighbours Arza Pizza, Mecca Halal Meat & Seafood and is really close to the Islamic Society of Toronto, Masjid Dar-us-salaam.

The interior was the same as I remember which didn’t surprise me. I’m sure it’s the same aunty that designs all Hakka Chinese food restaurants because they’re all identical. Lots of booths surround the perimeter of the dining area which is great. We grab one on the far left side because it seemed to have the most surrounding floor space to manoeuvre our youngest child in his stroller. Our waiter greets us, brings over menus and takes our drink order.

A lot of the same menu items you would expect to see are here. That’s ok, for once I’m not looking for variety or innovations. I’m looking for traditional dishes that I’m used to seeing and that I’ve longed to taste again. I’ve heard that prices are really good and orders should be kept to a minimum since you’ll end up walking out with a wheel-barrel for a doggie bag. With that in mind, we decide to order beef fried rice, garlic chicken and chilli beef, all recommended by the waiter. We also grab two orders of extra white rice, which looking back probably wasn’t necessary because the fried rice was enough.

Our orders arrive in record time which tells me food is already cooked and is just being mixed and reheated. I’m not fine dining here, so again, I’m ok with this (I just hope it was made fresh at some point that day). We prepare our plates and the smells are already getting to me, I’m hungry!

The food was everything I was hoping it would be; spicy and intense. Healthy eating, at least for this hour, was out the window. We prepared ourselves for indigestion.

Hakka Chinese food

The garlic chicken was by far my favourite. Rich fiery orange colour with a shiny glaze of oil, so bad, yet so good! The chilli in the garlic was a welcomed flavour combination. I’ve had ginger chicken in the past, but garlic chicken was a first. My preference with Hakka Chinese food, is saucy dishes. I’m not into anything too dry unless it’s Indian food that I can eat with naan.

Hakka Chinese food

The chilli beef wasn’t a hit with me just because the base was a little too watery. I think next time I’ll go with the battered, crispy beef, which is has a thicker sauce. The chilli beef flavour was good, but spicy. However, I remind myself that anything with “chilli” as a preface is going to have a kick. My husband didn’t seem to like the chilli beef as much either.  His complaint was the texture and the fact that the beef wasn’t battered. Plus, with the base being more on the watery side, it was not what he was expecting.

Hakka Chinese food

My kids loved the beef fried rice. You can’t really go wrong with the beef, chicken, vegetable or seafood version. The flavour was mild and surprisingly not as oily as I’ve experienced at other places. After fried rice sits on your plate for a bit, it usually leaves a pool of oil, I didn’t experience this with Hakka Garden’s version. Ignoring the fact that the vegetables were very obviously your frozen packaged variety, it was still all bright and steamed just right, not overcooked or dull. For the price, the meat to rice ratio was pretty good too. I recall feeling bamboozled in the past when I order a meat fried rice at other places and feel like I’m digging for treasure trying to find the scant morels of meat.

We all ate to our stomach’s content. We opted for water instead of our pop as we needed the palate cleanse. Pop would be overkill and might tip the indigestion scale from moderate to high.

The food was in fact plentiful. In my opinion, three adults can comfortably eat from a single dish like chilli beef or ginger chicken. So my calculation for two to four people stays the same for ordering; one dish per person, plus one or more rice or noodle dishes, and then share (or just order more plain white rice to keep the price of the meal even more economical). You’ll still get lots of leftovers and everyone will have a good selection to choose from. If you’re ordering for a larger party, try one of their various combos which are a good option as well.

I tend not to write about places that I wouldn’t recommend, so Hakka Garden is a winner and my new go to when I have a craving for Hakka Chinese food, which now, will be often!

*UPDATE* I’ve been tipped off by a Hakka Garden regular that the best dishes are: chilli chicken, masala chicken, chicken pakora, crispy beef and spicy green beans — check them out! Thank you to our friends at Ok Tax Services 😉

Hakka Garden
 25 Overlea Boulevard

Hakka Garden Chinese Restaurant  on Urbanspoon

By: June 20, 2012


  • I love your reviews and am thrilled you are writing for mainstream sites. I will be going to check out Hakka Garden especially because your kids enjoyed it, hopefully my son will too.

    Keep up the excellent work.

    • halal foodie on June 26, 2012

      Thanks Fatema! So happy to have such supportive readers! There’s lots more to come inshaAllah, stay tuned!

  • I completely agree with you on your comment regarding portion of protein in halal Chinese food establishments. You need a magnifying glass in order to look for shreds of meat in your dish. Although I prefer veggie dishes over meat and not a red meat eater, my husband and son are carnivores. My question for you is, was the quality of meat any good? I tend not to go these hakka places as I find they do not use white meat and chicken meat most of time all you taste is fat which is completely non appetizing. Thanks you 🙂

    • Halal Foodie on July 1, 2012

      Thank you for comment! In regards to meat quality Hakka Garden is comparable to most other Hakka places. To be honest, for the price you’re paying, I wouldn’t expect anything more than average as healthier, higher quality meats are more expensive and would drive the cost of their dishes up. Great suggestion though — hopefully the owners check out this review 😉

  • Asalamu aleikum,

    Love the site however it would be nice if you covered the look of the place as well in terms of more pictures that way it can give a reader a better feel for the ambiance thanks

    • Halal Foodie on August 1, 2012

      Wa alykum salaam,

      Great suggestion! Ambiance is a huge part of the dining experience and I always make sure I mention how the environment is — but taking pics would be much more effective!

      Thank you!

  • Asalamu aleikum

    Is Hakka Garden restaurant Run by Muslim.

    • Halal Foodie on August 5, 2012

      Wa alykum salaam,

      Not 100% sure – hopefully someone else knows for certain!

      • If the management has not changed since I went there many years ago, they are not Muslim. They are Chinese people from India, if I recall correctly, they were from Calcutta. There are tons of Hakka Chinese restos in India, and the food in this one fit the bill.

        I used to frequent this resto, but stopped because I am hesitant to trust the halaal-ness of non-Muslim-owned restos. They do not realize the religious significance for us. I had asked them where they got their meat, and it was not all from Iqbal Foods (which is literally across the street)… they said they had more than one supplier. This made me uncomfortable, as I became unsure whether there was even one non-halaal supplier in their list. This was a few years ago, mind you, so it would be great if someone could verify and post the current status about their meat supply.

        It is very tempting to see a resto right in the middle of a huge Muslim population and assume it is halaal. However, I do recall the food was excellent, so if someone can verify it is halaal, I’d love to start frequenting it again.

        In my experience, I find one needs to actually ask who the suppliers are – it is very common to hear, oh yeah it is halaal, but when you hear the name of the supplier you realize that may not be the case.

        Again, I know Halaal Foodie is quite conservative in their definition of halaal, as I am, so I usually trust a resto if I see it on this site.

  • I’ve been told by acquaintances that work at chinese restaraunts that all chinese restaurants add pork fat to their dishes. Even the ones labelled as halal and vegetable dishes. This is why they have a unique flavour that is virtually irreproducible. Can someone confirm this. I will ask the next time I am near one.

    PS I am not talking about MSG.

    • Halal food eater:

      I doubt they use pork fat in all their dishes, if any. They do however use a whole bunch of spices which might explain the unique taste. The oil that they fry with also tends to make the food taste different and I think its peanut. I’ve been in restaurants with a completely visible cooking area and I’ve never seen any lard, pork fat added, and I’ve literally watched my dish being cooked. I woudnt be too concerned.

      • The unique tast is because of MSG, which gets a bad rap in North America but is actually used regularly in most of China an South-east Asia (sometimes even used instead of salt as ajino-moto in Japan)

  • I called Hakka Garden to ask who their supplier is. They informed me it was Madina Halal at Sunrise Avenue. As Hakka Garden is not Muslim-owned, I emailed Madina Halal to confirm. (http://halalfrozenfood.com/), They have confirmed they are currently their supplier. So InshaAllaah, this is currently halal.

  • Its an average place with some good , addictive and unhealthy dishes such as chicken pakora, Beef fried rice, and chill chicken. I usually go at their lunch time special. I also like their hot and sour soup.

    My fav hakka place is LIN GARDEN in Scarborough. Love their House Shrimp and Green beans, its to die for. Not a fancy place at all. Like you said maybe their place was also designed by the same auntie 🙂

  • I didn’t like this place at all. Horrible customer service. My cousin told them she had a severe food allergy to eggs and the servers didn’t even bother to take care of what they were serving us. They put a plate with eggs infront of her. Fortunately she spit out the egg before swallowing it and having a reaction. Then the server had the nerve to blame us even though we warned him. Secondly the foods was not that good. The meat was not good quality and left me and a friend with stomach pain. I would not suggest this place to anyone . 1/10 in my books.

  • bad customer service. food was okay but the shrimp portions are very small. I ordered shrimp + chicken soup which i paid more for than the regular chicken soup and i literally had 2 shrimps in it. complete rip off + im pretty sure they are not legit halal :\

    Being going to this place a few times – Was recently at the restaurant just about an hr. remaining before they were going to close.
    Ordered the food with the family and then one of my family members noticed HAIR in the rice dish we ordered. They showed it to me to confirm that it was truly what they were seeing and I could see it too. This was just nasty and my family member decided to leave with couple of others because they found it really disgusting. I called the server and showed it to her who was standing just close by and she took it and showed it to the owners of the restaurant and all I got from them was – “Don’t worry, we won’t charge you for that dish”. There was no apology either, I would have expected them to wave off the bill altogether, but didn’t seem they cared much. Plus by the looks of it how they dealt with the matter, it seems that they know it’s an issue, because the server went back in to let the cooks know as well in their native language (Chinese).
    I saw later that the kitchen was closed and the cooks were taking out the garbage through the restaurant, I know they were cooks because the place is small and you can see through the kitchen when the door is opening/closing. They were not wearing any hair nets and its possible they took it off, but all they had was a baseball cap on.
    I was upset, but didn’t say anything and decided to wrap up my dinner and pay and leave.
    For sure I won’t be coming back to this restaurant.
    I don’t think keeping up with hygiene is a big factor for this restaurant. Proper food handling training is essential for repeat customers.
    There are other HAKKA places in and around that you can try your luck with.

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