Wednesday, October 05, 2011


To my knowledge, there is no place in Chinatown where one can get roast goose. Which is a pity, as curry pork chop and rice, while ALSO superlative comfort food, does not compare at all.
Even with a sploodge Sriracha and a hot cup of milktea.
Really, not the same.

[Correction: There IS a place in SF Chinatown which has roast goose: Yee's Restaurant, on Grant Avenue between Pacific and Broadway. It's a cha-chanting, with an emphasis on siumei meats. Discovered the goose there a year after writing this post.]

Roast goose is a home-town taste for many Hong Kong people.

I remember seeing a comedy at the World Theater, and marveling at a scene where a bunch of working men stopped for lunch near a collection of Dai Pai Dong (大牌檔 big placard establishments; street stalls with their license prominently displayed, hence the name) - each man had something different, but they all ate together.
One of them had roast goose over rice.
He was the only one who was fiercely protective of his dish.
Mine, damn you, get yer own!
Snarl, scarf, gobble.

Roast goose. Marvelous.

We have excellent ducks, but California is not exactly prime goose territory.
Hong Kong, it turns out, is. Abundantly so.
It's worth growling over.

But that's really a recent development. Before the war, roast goose was not held in nearly such regard. After all, it's not a duck, it's strong and greasy, and it's kind of large.
Hardly refined cuisine.
But precisely that is what it turns out everyone had a taste for, after the years of hardship during the Japanese occupation.
And Hong Kong people eat a lot more animal protein than almost anybody else in Asia anyhow.
Especially birds. Chicken. Duck. Pigeon. Goose.

[I've waxed ecstatic over duck elsewhere on this blog. Chicken you are undoubtedly long familiar with. And as for pigeon, try 豉油乳鴿 (si-yau yiu gap; braised young pigeon with black bean sauce) if you can find it. Tender and sweet.]


Seventy-plus years ago this was a street stall run by a man who dreamt of geese. Over the years his signature dish became so popular that he moved indoors. During the war the building housing his restaurant was destroyed by Japanese bombs. He re-opened nearby, moving his place of business several times in the next three decades, till finally he settled on the current location, which is now the Yung Kee Building (鏞記大廈) in Central Hong Kong.
This is the most famous roast goose restaurant by far, and presidents and potentates have eaten here.

32-40 Wellington Street, Central
Hong Kong Island
中環, 威靈頓街 32-40 號

The roast goose at this restaurant has been around the world - people get a hamper to take on the plane when leaving Hong Kong, and the place packs their product especially for that purpose, hence the well-known nickname 'Flying Roast Goose' (飛天燒鵝 fei tien sui ngoh).
The founder, mr. Kam Shui-fai (甘穗煇) was himself known as 'Roast Goose Fai' (燒鵝煇).

It's expensive. Very expensive. Many Hong Kong people, precisely like cheapskate Dutchmen such as myself, will squeal furiously if the quality and the service do not match the price. Which is why despite the absolutely stellar reputation it is perhaps best to avoid Yung Kee.
Yes, they aspire to stratospheric quality, and they've won both awards and renown.
But do you really want to spend over a hundred US dollars on a meal that, realistically, should only cost ten?

What if they're having an off day?

Far better to head out to the New Territories (新界). There's great roast goose there too.
You're more likely to pay a reasonable price, and no one will stare down their nose at you if you drop your chopsticks.

Head to Sham Tseng (深井 'deep well'), on the other side of Sham Shui Po (深水埗 'deep water jetty') from Mongkok (旺角 'prosperous corner').


North of Mongkok, Sham Shui Po is economically one of the poorer districts in Hong Kong. Back in the nineteenth century, the Tanka boat people (蜑家民 Tan Ka Man) moored here, at Cheung Sha Wan (長沙灣 'long sand bay'), when Stone Cutters Island (昂船洲 Ngon Suen Chau: 'raise boat island') was still across the water, rather than part of the mainland due to landfill.

The population has increased since the late forties, and formerly country areas are now covered by housing estates. You can buy electronics and computer stuff quite cheaply on Apliu Street (鴨寮街 'duck hutch street'), as well as almost any kind of cellular device, and car accessories.
Architecturally and culturally this probably isn't the most exciting part of Hong Kong.
We interrupt our journey to acquire a gizmo here, then leave.


Deep Well (深井) is north of Sham Shui Po, in Tsuen Wan Keui (荃灣區 'linen bay district').
You may have heard of the place - the famous Garden Company Limited (嘉頓有限公司) is headquartered here, and you cannot possibly be unfamiliar with their extensive line of cookies, biscuits, pastries, and dry crispy snacks.
Some supermarkets in San Francisco have almost an entire aisle taken up by their products.

The Spring Onion Pop Pan Crackers are lovely with some sharp cheddar cheese, and their Petite Beurre Biscuits, as well as their various wafers, are perfect with a cup of tea.

Yeah, a shameless plug, I know. But I've enjoyed their stuff for over a quarter of a century. The praise is happily given.

There are TWO roast goose restaurants in Sham Tseng. Actually, there are more than that, but these two can fight it out for the title of Roast Goose King (燒鵝王) in a district well-known for excellent roast goose.

9 Sham Hong Road, Sham Tseng
New Territories, Hong Kong.
新界, 深井, 深康路 9號

Ground floor, 63 Sham Tseng Village, Castle Peak Road, Sham Tseng
New Territories, Hong Kong.
新界, 深井, 青山公路, 深井村 63號, 地下

They are both extremely good. Far be it from me to decide which of the two is the natural leader, they both do stellar stuff.
Either one of them is worth a visit to this town.
Really, don't ask me to choose.

Crispy skin, tender juicy flesh. Dense dense flavour.

Don't bother with the century egg appetizers that for some absurd reason are traditional at roast goose restaurants, just have the goose, a little soup, some yau-choi, and a big bowl of rice. Maybe also a tofu dish.
You'll leave happy.

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All correspondence will be kept in confidence.


Master Sauce said...

Dig up a recipe, dude.
We're not going to Hong Kong anytime soon.
But a goose we can find.

Anonymous said...

Sounds heavenly.
I want it.

Anonymous said...

Wah, ho yeh!

The back of the hill said...

Note: for those who wish to eat roast goose in San Francisco, may I recommend Yee's Restaurant on Grant near Broadway?

1131 Grant Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94133

Eating there: dee-lish!

Go around late afternoon.

The back of the hill said...

And I agree: wah, ho yeh! Sik-tak ho mun-yi ge woh!

The back of the hill said...

Additional note: for readers who are not heading to Hong Kong, and live nowhere near San Francisco Chinatown, Cantonese style roast goose can be made at home.

Link to recipe:
Your goose is cooked

Bear in mind that for best results it helps if you have a capacious oven.

Anonymous said...

Roast goose? Take me!

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