A Trip to Hong Kong: Two Versions of Roast Goose

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By one of those strange alignment of stars, DC and I were on overlapping business trips to Hong Kong. A bit of canny planning brought us together over the weekend at the achingly modern and very comfortable Langham Place Hotel. The only problem in getting there was that I didn’t realise that there were two “Langhams” in Kowloon, one the Langham Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui and the other the Langham Place Hotel in Mongkok.

After a bit of confusion, I finally got to the hotel and DC took me to Sham Tseng Chan Kee Roasted Goose Restaurant (深井陳記燒鵝茶餐廳). He informed me that Yung Kee was off the menu for this trip as he’d been and the standard of roast goose was abysmal compared to its price. So this place it was and we proceeded to order the roast goose noodles.

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Sure, the soup was full of msg, but the noodles were firm and springy and the goose. Mmm… the first piece of goose I put in my mouth was tender and flavourful. The fatty, savoury juices from the drumstick flowed beautifully with each bite. It’s a pity that not every piece of the drumstick was as tender. The skin was soggy – we couldn’t salvage it in time before it all sank into the soup. Still, for about HK$40 (S$6), this was a fantastic welcome to Hong Kong.

Sham Tseng Chan Kee Roasted Goose Restaurant (深井陳記燒鵝茶餐廳)
Reclamation Street, Mongkok 旺角新填地街427-427A號 behind Langham Place Hotel

DC promised me something better for dinner, something worth dressing up for. So I changed out of my denim civvies, slipped on a black dress and we headed downstairs to Ming Court Restaurant. It’s fantastic to have a 2-Michelin star restaurant right in the hotel. Disappointingly, it seemed like everyone else was dressed down, so not quite as posh as expected. But that was hardly a downer as the service was friendly and not at all snooty like you’d expect for a starred restaurant. (Yes it helps to speak even a smidgen of Cantonese.)

We dithered a while on which dishes to order. Greedy as we are, we realise that our stomachs nonetheless have finite capacities (sad to say, mine more so than DC’s). It went without saying that we would have the roast goose – chiu-chow style roasted goose (HK$148 or S$25). It’s almost a pity it came first as it was the star of the show. The best roast goose in our combined experience, and that’s saying something. Check out how tender the meat is in the pic below.

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One angle not enough? Look at this pic. See how crisp the skin is? And the thin sliver of fat under the skin? It was a sublime experience as each morsel was perfectly tender. I could taste both the slightly gamey flavour of the goose and the spices of the marinade in each bite. Then there was the wonderfully crisp skin; we were so glad that we asked for the drumstick portion with a higher skin to meat ratio. And something most amazing that put this in a class of its own: the marrow was still tender. It’s hard enough to roast a bird so that the meat is tender and the skin crisp, let alone stop the marrow from drying out. This goose scores full marks in our books.

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The rest of the meal simply paled in comparison after the goose. The vegetables were on the soggy side. I’m not sure if vegetables in Hong Kong cook down soggier or it’s just the style of cooking. I’ve had better vegetables elsewhere.

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And then the lowest point of the dinner. This was a gold award winning dish from 2010 – pan-fried chicken skin filled with minced chicken and black truffles, accompanied with sliced pumpkin (HK$288 or S$50). The first piece was interesting, with crisp pumpkin at the bottom and a very slight hint of black truffle in the sauce. Too bad the chicken skin wasn’t crisp as it was sandwiched between the meat and the pumpkin. My preference was to keep the skin on top to preserve the crispness for longer. There was also way too much for the two of us to work through that dish of maybe eight pieces. We really wanted to like this but it was too cloying and monotonous after the first piece. Next better player please.

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And a next better player did indeed step up. The signature fried rice. I hear you readers cry, “What? Fried Rice?! At a Michelin starred restaurant?” Let me explain. This version, fried rice with silky chicken, crispy conpoy and shao xing wine, served in a casserole (HK$198 or S$35) was made with black chicken and pine nuts, fried beautifully together, and placed in a hot claypot to accentuate the wok hei. The chicken was indeed silky as mentioned in the menu description and there was plenty of smokey charred flavour. The best part was the layer of “fan jiu” (飯燋) or burnt rice at the base of the claypot. Beautiful.

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By the end of our dinner, I was so stuffed by the rich food that I couldn’t handle any heavy dessert. Very unwisely, we didn’t take any of our friendly waiter’s recommendations. They were mainly fried or incredibly rich, like deep fried egg fritters, birds nest soup, giant longevity bun stuffed with lotus paste and salted egg yolk. And we ordered osmanthus jelly with wolfberry. While it was very pretty, it was nonetheless a foolhardy choice as the jelly was too sweet and rather too firm for my liking.

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Altogether, the meal was good with a modest damage done of HK$1000 or S$160 including tip. The downer was the overly oily and too monotonous chicken and pumpkin dish. We would definitely order something more classically Cantonese next time, and maybe save a bit of space for a richer dessert. And the roast goose? I’ll fly to Hong Kong just to eat that again.

Ming Court
Langham Place Hotel
555 Shanghai Street, Mongkok,
Kowloon, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 3552 3300

Traditional Teochew

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We went out with family for the famous Teochew food at Ah Orh, mainly because DC’s grandma wanted to have braised goose. I have no objections whatsoever to one of my favourite types of fowl and happily joined in. The star dish of goose was excellent, where the slightly gamey taste of goose was very well set off by the flavourful spices. I liked how mellow the dish was. We made some halfhearted comments about taking some back for those at home, but ended up polishing off the whole dish instead. There were some other bits to the dish as well: tau kwa, braised pork belly and cucumber. I liked the soft, yet rather dense texture of the very fresh and creamy tau kwa and also the cucumber chunks that very nicely soaked up the goose gravy. It’s well worth coming here just for the goose I think.

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But won’t you miss out if you only eat the goose here? The hae cho (prawn rolls) here are pretty good. They’re made with yam, so a little different from the norm. I’m not sure how much prawn really goes into this but I think the stuffing is prawn, minced pork, yam and maybe chestnuts. All that is wrapped in tau kee (beancurd skin), deep fried and then eaten with a burnt caramel sauce. I quite liked this version although the yam made it rather heavy after a couple. I had to go easy on this to make room for the rest of the meal.

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They made a decent rendition of oyster omelette, with barely cooked oysters atop a nicely executed omelette. DC’s mum wasn’t too keen on the fact that the two had obviously been cooked separately. I guess she’s far more discerning than me on this! For me, oyster and egg make such a magical combination that as long as they’re decently cooked, I’m happy.

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The weakest link in the meal was the braised fish head with bitter gourd. The taste was all over the place and not harmonised at all. There was bitter and salty and chilli-hot, and that didn’t enhance the slightly over-fried fish pieces. It didn’t help that the fish was rather bony and we were spitting out bits of bone more than chewing and enjoying. This was a dish I wouldn’t re-order.

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Special mention must be made of their sambal kang kong. I liked how there was plenty of wok hei and a very flavourful sambal with bright flavours that really stood out. It was quite a spicy dish too, so beware!

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We weren’t really going to order this because we’d stuffed ourselves silly. But how to go to a Teochew restaurant and not order orh nee for dessert? I am a huge fan of yam paste and while this version looked rather disgusting (pardon the photo), I was surprised by how much I slurped it up and even fought DC for seconds! This yam paste found that sweet spot of silky yet with the occasional little chunk of yam to remind you that it’s made from real yam and not powder. It wasn’t overly oily or lemak either and while I was sceptical that there wasn’t pumpkin (and very little gingko nut, to DC’s dismay) but mainly red date, the paste did fine on its own. You have to save some space in your stomach for this dessert!

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Ah Orh Seafood Restaurant
Blk 115, Jalan Bukit Merah, #01-1627
Tel: 6275 7575

August in China: Xian the Grey

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The overnight train journey to Xian was rather uneventful. I took a middle bunk in a hard sleeper carriage and went to sleep after slurping up the pot of instant noodles I bought at the train station. When I awoke, Xian greeted me in an embrace of grey smog.

I met up with my parents who’d flown in from Shanghai. We started out viewing the few sights in the drab city. The first was the Big Goose Pagoda, apparently built by Journey to the West’s Xuan Zhang for the precious sutras he brought back.

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Next, we cabbed it to the Small Goose Pagoda where we climbed up an endless flight of stairs to reach the top. The 15 storeys seemed like they would never end as we circled up and up. Unfortunately, the view was so awful and underwhelming that I didn’t even bother snapping a photo.

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The rest of the grounds made up for it. There was a lovely garden with ivy-covered archways and a rather impressive museum too. It made a pleasant diversion for the parents in the afternoon and a good break from my usual frenetic pace.

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One thing that perked up the greyness of Xian was how domestic tourists loved to play dress up in the squares. At first I thought there was lots of bridal photography happening that day, but it turned out to be Victorian damsels and Tang dynasty maidens on a fun day out in Xian.

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The main thing that made up for the drabness of the city was its food. Xian, being at the beginning of the ancient Silk Route, has lots of Muslim and Central Asian influence in its food. Here, the cuisine is dominated more by wheat and bread than rice and noodles. There is a large Muslim population and pork is far less common in this area.

I apologise for the poor quality pictures as I was too taken by the food to take any shots of the really good stuff. Below you’ll see the stall selling what looked like pulled pork burgers. The filling is made of waxed beef, wind-dried in lots of fat and similar to how Cantonese lup cheong (sausage) and lup ngap (waxed duck) are made. It’s then stewed and pulled, then slapped into white disks of dense wheat bread. It’s greasy and salty and I’m sure it’ll hit the spot just right as a late night snack.

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There were also some misses of course. Something I just couldn’t understand was the ma hua porridge locals seemed to love for breakfast. Now I really dig the ma hua in Tianjin and Chongqing: the curls of sweet deep-fried sesame dough are so addictive because they are so crunchy and moreish. When they soak it in water and boil it into a kind of salty porridge with starch, I really don’t understand. Note that the picture below shows me before I tried it.

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I just didn’t get the lumps of soggy greasy dough sitting in a starchy goo topped with crispy fried bits and lots of pepper. It seemed like an exercise in incorporating as many types of wheat as possible into the dish without resorting to bread or noodles. Bizarre. Even more bizarre is how they save on washing up by wrapping the bowls in plastic bags first, then slopping the brew into it.

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If you’re at the Muslim Quarter, do try out the fabulous barbecue restaurants. You can either order from the menu of pick from the spread outside. I loved the perfectly charred bits of anise-flavoured lamb skewers and the same done with whole fish.

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I loved the various types of rose-flavoured desserts. There was one called jing zi gao (mirror cake) made of steamed rice flour with rose and red bean filling. It’s a bit like kueh tutu, except miles better. Another one is like a cross between a tangyuan and a donut: glutinous rice dough filled with rose-flavoured red bean paste and then deep-fried. Amazing stuff. No pictures because I gobbled it all up before remembering I had a camera. Next trip maybe.

August in China: Guangzhou Goose Galore

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I started August in China by crashing at Tortoise’s pad in Guangzhou. She wasn’t too impressed with the food there compared to her native Hong Kong, so I didn’t get many recommendations for where to go for good food. All I knew was that bird flu warnings or not, I was going to get my fill of goose.

And boy did I get my fill. One evening I walked down Beijing Street, a crowded shopping street crammed with tiny shops. Turning into one of the garrets, I found a little eating place like those pseudo-coffeeshops in Far East Plaza. This one had roast goose and I happily tucked into the soft kway tiao and msg-laden soup.

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In my last few days in Guangzhou, I was caught by Typhoon Nuri which was given a typhoon warning of 10! Tortoise had already evacuated back to Hong Kong but I had to stay put because of visa issues. I spent two days haunting her apartment, doing nothing but braving the occasional trip out to get food and then watching the Olympics on cable.

Tortoise had the good sense to stay nearby some decent food. There was this Teochew place that had braised goose. Ducking into the shop during lunch time, I asked for just a goose drumstick, but they only sold it by weight. I ended up ordering a jin (500 g) of goose, which worked out to be  about a third of the bird. I went the faux-Atkins route and had it accompanied only by vegetables. Boy was it heavenly.

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I ate the rest of it for dinner. And for breakfast the next morning, both in front of the TV watching Typhoon Nuri’s progress.

Another time, I made it to the Chinese fast food chain Zhen Gong Fu (literally: real kungfu), complete with Bruce Lee cartoon image. I’m guessing that they probably just lifted his image from some website and didn’t bother with copyrighting. The restaurant itself, if you can call it that, looked exactly like a McDonalds or KFC. You’ll have to look closely at the picture below to realise that they actually sold steamed dishes.

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A typical set meal consisted of a double-boiled soup, some kind of steamed meat and steamed vegetables. The Cantonese in me expected to have something vaguely wholesome and at the very least not too oily, but fast food is fast food and China is China. I had some kind of pork herbal soup covered with a layer of oil, chicken in black bean paste and too much oil, and steamed iceberg lettuce with (no prizes here) way too much oil. I suppose it’s still better in the nutritional scale than McDonalds anyway. Great concept though. I wonder if it’ll fly in Singapore.

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Nuri soon fizzled out and it was back to my regular programming of pulling up a stool at a roadside stall.

Yung Kee Roast Goose

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Yung Kee is the possibly the most famous place for goose in Hong Kong. Sure, people with any familiarity with Hong Kong each claims a better place, but who’s willing to schlep it out to some godforsaken out of town location? It’s the cake in the your plate instead of pie in the sky thing again.

In my last trip to Hong Kong, I met a friend for dinner here after an almighty bout of shopping. Even though we got there pretty late at 8.30 pm, we still had to wait half an hour before getting a table for two. It sure did work up an appetite and we ordered up a storm. It was a blessing in disguise that goose web was sold out if not we would probably have burst from the amount of food we ingested that night.

We had of course started with roast goose, then char siew, yau choi (mustard greens in oyster sauce), chau fan (fried rice), and double boiled soup. The pièce de resistance, roast goose, was impeccable. Upon the first bite, my teeth sank into crisp-chewy skin, then oil from the fat oozed onto my tongue and I closed my eyes enjoying the tender piece of smoky, lightly spiced meat.

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If you’re reading this I’m guessing you’re probably only interested in the goose, so the rest of the food doesn’t matter that much. The char siew was OK. My friend likes it a lot but I prefer mine to be a bit more charred and not left soaking in sweet sauce. The fried rice was surprisingly good though I was too full to enjoy it much. The best of the other dishes was the double boiled soup. We started with one order of a family-size earthen pot and enjoyed it so much that we had another. The server raised his eyebrows when he took the extra order. Hey, we can’t help being Cantonese girls.

The damage was horrifying, the equivalent of S$160 for both. Very expensive by Singapore standards but it’s not often that one eats at a Michelin one-star restaurant. That this place got a Michelin star means that lots of places I’ve eaten at are worth at least two or three. It’s still a good place though.

Yung Kee Restaurant
32-40 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong
Tel: (852) 2522 1624
Fax: (852) 2840 0888
Email: info@yungkee.com.hk