10 Dishes From Happy Garden: Offal, Really Authentic Taiwanese + Shutting Down Soon
Happy Garden is arguably the most authentic Taiwanese restaurant in the Los Angeles area. It's been around since 1995 and has always been operated by Jim Huang, who works the kitchen while his wife works the front end of the house. Though the menu has shifted throughout the years, the decor has remained the same: coral pink tables, Chinese menus on the wall, and a beaded fish curtain on the hallway to the bathroom.
Clarissa Wei Meal at Happy Garden
Huang was a chef in Taizhong, a city in the southern part of Taiwan, and his menu reflects a lot of southern Taiwanese specialities. You won't find regular customers ordering beef noodle soup or even stinky tofu here; Huang's strong points are offal and seafood.
Unfortunately, the family-owned eatery will be shuttering in the near future. According to Huang, they are too short-staffed and the numbers just aren't adding up. They've already put in an advertisement in the Chinese newspaper to sell the place.
Don't play it safe when it comes to ordering at Happy Garden: Try the offal. Turn the page for a list of 10 recommended dishes.
10. White Goose Meat:
Clarissa Wei Cold goose meat
The goose meat at Happy Garden is fantastic. Yes, there are bones in the dish, but it's served cold with slices of garlic on the side and a thick soy dipping sauce.
9. Pig Intestines:
Clarissa Wei Intestines
OK, it sounds and looks gross. But unlike at other Taiwanese eateries where the dish is smothered with sauce and sauteed to a dark brown color, in Happy Garden's dish the intestines are served plain with a soy dipping sauce on the side. This may convert even the most squeamish of eaters.
8. Pork Liver:
Clarissa Wei Sauteed pork liver
This is a saucy dish that's mixed with spring onions. Liver, if cooked incorrectly, gets really tough -- their version is cooked correctly and maintains a chewy texture. This dish pairs well with a bowl of white rice.
7. Taiwanese Tempura:
Clarissa Wei Tempura
It may share a name with Japanese tempura, but the Taiwanese version is much different. There's no batter, it's made with deep-fried fish paste and it comes with a complimentary sweet and spicy dipping sauce.
6. Clam and Chicken Soup:
Clarissa Wei Clam and chicken soup
Served in a hot pot, the clam and chicken soup is a great addition to an offal-based heavy meal. Note: the taste of the soup is more clam than chicken.