Duck, Duck, Goose

26 Sep

The fabulous decor at Yung Kee Restaurant

After Tim Ho Wan, we kept our Michelin streak going for dinner with a visit to Yung Kee, a Michelin one-star as grand as Tim Ho Wan is modest. Yung Kee is a venerable restaurant in the Central district of Hong Kong that’s been around since the ’40s and is famous for their roast goose (it’s goose, rather than duck, that’s revered in Hong Kong), which they raise themselves. (The original farm-to-table.) There are three floors of dining, and photographs of all the luminaries (political, theatrical, etc.) that have visited Yung Kee over its many years. The closest analog in Chicago would be somewhere like Rosebud, maybe, or Chicago Chop House; an institution where going is an event.

Surprisingly, we were able to get a table, even without reservations. (See the aforementioned three floors of dining.) We could tell that Yung Kee has not positioned itself as a romantic nook; we were seated at the smallest table, a 6-top round, where we sort of huddled in an…arc. (Since round tables don’t have corners.) Most of our fellow diners were multi-generational families, business colleagues, or tourist groups. We were then presented with the longest menu I’ve ever seen. So long that it took two books to corral all the items. To prevent my head from exploding, we got a set menu of Yung Kee’s greatest hits, as it were: roast goose with preserved trotter, shrimp with crab roe, whole abalone in soup, steamed grouper with vegetables and Chinese ham, some sort of noodles, and mango pudding. (You’ll notice this doesn’t include rice. Because rice fills you up, and then you can’t eat any more delicious goose.)

As with any classy joint, we got an amuse bouche to start our meal:

"Century" egg with pickled ginger

Century egg, or thousand-year-egg, is an egg (duck or hen) that’s been preserved in a mixture of salt, tea, ash, and lime. The eggs are cured for 60 days at most, not quite a century. I’ve had them before, but this version was revelatory: the white was like jelly, the yolk silken and smooth, and not at all salty or pungent. I’m afraid to have century eggs anywhere else now, because I’m afraid they won’t live up. (You say they don’t look like something you should be eating anyway? Well…maybe if you can’t have these, you shouldn’t.)

The art of the garnish

Onto the first course: battered shrimp with mini crab roe (it’s kind of wrapped into the shrimp with the batter). Note the garnish of a whole, fried crab. Because nothing whets the appetite like a reminder of what your food used to look like (or would grow up to be, in this case).

Roast beast!

And now for the star of Yung Kee: roasted goose. (If you’re really fancy, you can get this served to you as “flying goose,” where the goose is arranged as though it were in flight.) The pink stuff is, I think, the “preserved trotter”; it tasted like Chinese ham, which to me tastes like regular ham that’s gone a bit off.

The goose is justly famous. It’s seasoned much like Peking duck (soy sauce, five-spice powder, hopes, dreams), but because it’s goose, the meat is leaner. The skin was delicious, crisp and not fatty. For those of you who saw “Eat Drink Man Woman” (and those that haven’t, I encourage you to), remember the scene where the dad prepares the goose for dinner (3:55 mark of the clip)? This is that goose. (I’ll be honest, it’s been a very, very long time since I saw that movie, and that’s about all I remember from it.)

Oh, and here’s a new thing (for Tom):

Whole abalone in soup

I was a little conflicted eating this, not because I don’t love abalone, but because abalone has been overfished in many (most?) parts of the world. I’m hoping this one was from one of the commercial farms that are out there, but unfortunately places like this don’t include information on the sustainability of their ingredients.

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