Politics and pork rice - Garden of Peach brings Taiwanese ‘ramen’ and top tier fried chicken to Chorlton

Garden of Peach is a... peach

By Ben Arnold | 25 April 2024

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As career U-turns go, local politics in Hong Kong to cooking Taiwanese food in Chorlton is some change in direction.

But Pong, Kathy and Ken, all friends from HK, have all made that particular radical change. 

They’re huge fans of Taiwanese food, and while Manchester has been privileged to see an influx of Hong Kongers arriving in recent years, bringing with them a wealth of authentic Hong Kong cuisine, you can count the amount of Taiwanese eateries on one hand. Perhaps one finger.

“We’re not professional chefs,” Pong admits. But they have thrown themselves in the deep end nonetheless, with Ken making the soup broths and Pong making the ‘yansu’, the famous Taiwanese popcorn chicken, crisp nuggets of thigh infused liberally with garlic and served with crispy Thai basil leaves.

“We all worked in politics together,” he says. “District councillors.” He explains that the political situation in Hong Kong, as Beijing exerts increasing authority over the former British colony, forced them to come to the UK. “We freed ourselves,” he adds.

It is Chorlton’s gain. Having been open just three weeks – on the site of the former, well-regarded Indian restaurant Coriander – they’re already welcoming local folk from Hong Kong and Taiwan, as well as the curious local diners eager to try this homely cuisine.

“We just love Taiwanese food,” he says. “And we didn’t want to just do the same thing as the other Hong Kong restaurants opening. We didn’t see any Taiwanese food here, so we decided to share our love and passion for it.

“In Hong Kong, the most eaten cuisines nearby are Japanese, of course, but then Taiwanese and Thai. It’s the food we really love. It’s hard to describe exactly the difference.

“Say in Hong Kong, we have beef noodles, but we use brisket. In Taiwan, it is beef shin, and that’s more signature. It’s a bit tricky to call it ramen, we wouldn’t really call it ramen in Hong Kong, just noodle soup, but we think people here might get more of an idea what it is [if we call it ramen].” 

Ramen or not ramen, it matters not. The broth is rich and beefy, with huge chunks of slowly cooked carrots, bok choi and generous slabs of beef shin which just about stay together in the soup, but then melt in the mouth. It’s spicy too, catching the back of your throat.

As we’re chatting, another diner apologises for butting in, but says that the pork rice is the ‘best dish I’ve had in a very, very long time, exceptional’. He’s right.

This slow-braised dish of minced pork belly, with a perfectly gooey boiled egg on the top, is something else, sweet and salty and savoury. Exceptional is absolutely the word for it.

The yansu chicken is fabulous too, served very pleasingly with salt & pepper chips which don’t hold back on the seasoning. Pair it with one of their fruit beers, maybe the lychee.

Coming soon will be the sesame oil chicken ramen, it just needs a few tweaks before its ready.

“It’s a chicken broth, and we use sesame oil and beer,” says Pong. “So the beer is in the stock. We still have a few issues with it, so we’re modifying it and it should be ready next week.” 

Lovers of art and music (check their Instagram for details of which Hong Kong pop bands will be in town next), they’ve also turned part of the restaurant into a (very) mini exhibitions space, with help from the city centre gallery Saan1.

You would not be able to discern that this is their first foray into the business of hospitality, other than perhaps the shortness of the menu, just this small handful of dishes. 

The welcome is warm and the beer is cold. And what’s better than that?

Garden of Peach, 279 Barlow Moor Rd, Manchester M21 7GH

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