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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Roast goose and suckling pig in Hong Kong: Yung Kee, Asiania and Tai Chung Wah

Whole suckling pig at Tai Chung Wah, Cheung Sha Wan, Hong Kong

There are two things that should always be at the top of your Hong Kong eating list: roast goose and suckling pig. Cantonese-style roast goose, in particular, is a delicacy we rarely get to enjoy in Sydney. In Hong Kong, it's almost as commonplace as roast duck, cooked to the same level of juiciness with a slightly gamier taste to the flesh. And then there's suckling pig, reaching levels of crunch you never thought possible in its crackling skin.

You can eat roast goose and suckling pig at restaurants all over Hong Kong, large and small, expensive and cheap. Here are three places to get you started on your next visit.

Yung Kee, Central

Chef plating up roast good at Yung Kee, Central, Hong Kong
Chef plating up roast goose at Yung Kee

When it comes to roast goose, Yung Kee is a Hong Kong institution. Originally it started as a dai pai dong, or roadside stall, selling siu mai in 1938. Four years later it converted to a restaurant and after several relocations, it settled into its current premises on Wellington Street in 1978. Today it owns the entire six-storey building.

In 2009, Yung Kee was awarded one Michelin star in the inaugural Hong Kong and Macau Michelin Guide, a status it maintained for 2010 and 2011. In 2012 it was moved to the Bib Gourmand section, defined as "inspectors' favourites for good value".

Roast meats at Yung Kee, Central, Hong Kong
Hungry passersby admiring the roast meats in the window

That hasn't stopped the swarms of customers that flock to Yung Kee every day. They sell as many as 300 roast geese each day, with many bought by tourists to take back home to Guangdong or Macau.

Its reputation means that prices aren't cheap, and whilst some Hong Kong locals regard it now as more of a tourist trap, it's still worth visiting, especially for some of its more unusual dishes.

Main dining room at Yung Kee, Central, Hong Kong
Downstairs dining room

One hour waits are common, even though there are two floors of seating. It's a noisy clatter of families and tourists, with waitresses hurrying through with brusque efficiency.

Upstairs dining room on level 3 at Yung Kee, Central, Hong Kong
Upstairs dining room on level four

Pigflyin has the inside intelligence though. He confidently leads the way to the elevator, neatly spitting us out at level four on the VIP floor. There are no queues here, and it's eerily quiet. An army of waitstaff flank the corridors, springing to attention at the faintest wave of a hand. The seats are covered in a royal purple silk and classical music plays softly in the background. It's a little bit of luxury compared to the chaos downstairs. You'll pay about 10% more on menu prices for the privilege.

Signature roasted goose at Yung Kee, Central, Hong Kong
Signature roasted goose HK$176 (AU$25)

A quarter roast goose will set you back AU$25, not cheap by any stretch of the imagination, but the slices are plump and succulent. Even though we're given the breast, the meat is tender, offset by a complex marinade on the skin.

Poached pigs aorta at Yung Kee, Central, Hong Kong
Poached pig's aorta HK$198 (AU$28)

Pig Flyin is here for the rest of the menu, especially the poached pigs' aorta, which is the kind of dish that's hard to find anywhere in Hong Kong. The large artery is eaten more for its texture, a rubbery chewiness that is inordinately satisfying.

Frog leg sauteed with salt at Yung Kee, Central, Hong Kong
Frog leg sauteed with salt HK$298 (AU$42)

We also feast on frogs legs, sauteed simply with salt and shallots that add a subtle sweetness. The frog has been cooked gently so it maintains its moisture, its flesh coming away from the bone with ease.

Smoked pigeon with tea leaves at Yung Kee, Central, Hong Kong
Smoked pigeon with tea leaves HK$165 (AU$23)

The smoked pigeon is a favourite too. The skin has been roasted to a glorious deep brown, and each mouthful of flesh has an intense smokiness from tea leaves.

Asiania Restaurant, Wan Chai

Roast goose at Asiania Retaurant, Wan Chai, Hong Kong
Whole roast goose HK$360 (AU$50)

You can get your roast goose fill from Asiania Restaurant in Wan Chai for about half the price of Yung Kee. Asiania has been around in Hong Kong for ages, although it's recently moved to smaller premises. That means it's highly recommended to make a reservation. It's regularly fully booked.

Roast goose at Asiania Retaurant, Wan Chai, Hong Kong
Roast goose

The whole roast goose is piled onto a plate, drenched in a puddle of its own sweet roasting juices. There's a generous layer of fat beneath the skin, and there's plenty of flavour in both the meat and the bones.

Half roast suckling pig at Asiania Retaurant, Wan Chai, Hong Kong
Half roast suckling pig HK$460 (AU$64)

The suckling pig is a sight as well, especially when it arrives with a red light bulb jammed into its eye socket. The red light flashes on and off like some saucy strip club entrance. Perhaps its not too far from the truth given the gleam in our eyes as we hover closer.

The crackling on the skin is perfect: thin and brittle tiles that make a resounding crunch. Suckling pigs are noticeably smaller in Hong Kong too.

Steamed buns for roast suckling pig at Asiania Retaurant, Wan Chai, Hong Kong
Steamed buns for the roast suckling pig

Wrap a slice of crackling suckling pig in the accompanying steamed buns and you'll appreciate the contrast between softness and crunch even more. A slick of hoisin adds sweetness and the matchsticks of cucumber and scallions will cut through the richness.

Teochew dumplings at Asiania Retaurant, Wan Chai, Hong Kong
Teochew dumpling HK$88 (AU$13)

They do a couple of teochew dishes here too, like teochew dumplings which have a distinctive chewy and glutinous skin. Inside each pocket is a textural wonderland of mushrooms, dried shrimp, bamboo shoots and roasted peanuts.

Vermicelli with XO sauce at Asiania Retaurant, Wan Chai, Hong Kong
Vermicelli with XO sauce HK$88 (AU$13)

Vermicelli with XO sauce is one big umami and spice hit that combines dried scallops, dried shrimp, garlic and chilli. Buried in amongst the glass vermicelli noodles are sweet whole prawns.

Steamed egg white with prawns at Asiania Retaurant, Wan Chai, Hong Kong
Steamed egg white with prawns HK$98 (AU$14)

Steamed egg white with prawns is always a crowd favourite, a comforting mix of wobbly egg white, sweet prawn, tender carrot, chewy mushrooms and crunchy pops of finely sliced asparagus. Everything is enveloped in a thick gravy, perfect for ladling over bowls of plain steamed rice.

Mushrooms with broccoli at Asiania Retaurant, Wan Chai, Hong Kong
Mushrooms with broccoli HK$88 (AU$13)

And because you need more veggies to balance out all that meat, we swoop on the mushrooms with broccoli too, the funghi firm and toothsome, coated in a glossy thick sauce.

Tai Chung Wah, Cheung Sha Wan

Dining room poster at Tai Chung Wah, Cheung Sha Wan, Hong Kong
Oh hello Photoshopped poster

If street food is more your thing, then you have to check out a dai pai dong. Dai pai dongs refer to the extra large street food stalls, ones that sprawl more like a restaurant with masses of large tables. Translated into English, dai pai dong means "big license food stall".

They're fast disappearing across Hong Kong - especially as the government is trying to buy back licenses and improve hygiene levels - but they offer a feast of good food at a fraction of an air-conditioned restaurant's price. In 2010 there were only 28 dai pai dongs left in Hong Kong.

Dai pai dong outdoor seating at Tai Chung Wah, Cheung Sha Wan, Hong Kong
Dai pai dong outdoor seating

Tai Chung Wah in Kowloon's Cheung Sha Wan is one of the biggest. From the main street, it looks like a bustling restaurant but if you head around the back and into the alleyway, you'll find a sprawl of chairs and tables in backrooms and on the street.

Kitchen set-up at Tai Chung Wah, Cheung Sha Wan, Hong Kong
Kitchen set-up

The open kitchens face onto the street, giving you a direct look into most of the prep that happens. Sometimes it's a little more information than you wanted, but that's half the fun of street food dining, right?

Indoor dining room at Tai Chung Wah, Cheung Sha Wan, Hong Kong
Indoor dining room

You'll need to pre-book to eat here, so find a Cantonese speaker to help you out. You may as well ask them to join you too, as you'll have to write down your own order, in Chinese no less.

The dining rooms are no fuss affairs. Posters plaster the walls and fans keep things cool during summer. Plastic stools are all you'll get here, and forget about tablecloths - the tables are covered with giant plastic sheets.

DIY cutlery and crockery cleaning at Tai Chung Wah, Cheung Sha Wan, Hong Kong
DIY cutlery and crockery cleaning with hot water

Your bowls, glasses and chopsticks are brought out in a giant bowl with a jug of hot water. That's so you can sterilise your own eating utensils with boiling water. It's like they concede that ok we admit things aren't so clean, so here, have some hot water and go crazy with your hygiene complexes.

Frying the oyster pancake at Tai Chung Wah, Cheung Sha Wan, Hong Kong
Frying the oyster pancake

The food comes out whenever it's ready, so if you do head out to have a sticky beak at the kitchen like I did, hurry back quickly as the food arrives fast.

Deep fried oyster pancake at Tai Chung Wah, Cheung Sha Wan, Hong Kong
Deep fried oyster pancake HK$70 (AU$10)

The deep fried oyster pancake is a massive fritter of plump oysters bound together in a lacy batter that is full of crunch. And at AU$10, it's an utter bargain.

Deep fried century eggs at Tai Chung Wah, Cheung Sha Wan, Hong Kong
Deep fried century eggs HK$55 (AU$8) each whole egg

The deep fried century eggs are an awesome mash-up of century eggs and Scotch eggs. Century eggs are an acquired taste, but they're made even better here with a casing of shrimp paste that's then crumbed and deep-fried.

Deep fried eel at Tai Chung Wah, Cheung Sha Wan, Hong Kong
Deep fried eel HK$100 (AU$14)

The deep fried eel is a winner too. The battered coating adds crunch, but without the usual thick sweet soy you get with Japanese-style eel, here you taste more of the eel flesh on its own.

Sinqua melon with dried shrimp at Tai Chung Wah, Cheung Sha Wan, Hong Kong
Sinqua melon with dried shrimp HK$80 (AU$11)

Sinqua melon has a terrific spongy texture with a mild sweetness similar to young zucchini. Here it's stir-fried with dried shrimp, shallots, chilli and bucketloads of garlic.

Deep fried whole giant oysters at Tai Chung Wah, Cheung Sha Wan, Hong Kong
Deep fried whole giant oysters 

We splurged on deep fried whole giant oysters too. Not sure how big these are?

Deep fried whole giant oyster comparison with iPhone at Tai Chung Wah, Cheung Sha Wan, Hong Kong
iPhone-sized giant oysters 

How did we survive before the international size comparison unit, the iPhone? Mrs PigFlyin has the hand modelling job down to a fine art too.

These oysters are ridiculously huge, almost a meal on their own.

Pork knuckle with black pepper and oyster sauce at Tai Chung Wah, Cheung Sha Wan, Hong Kong
Pork knuckle with black pepper and oyster sauce HK$120 (AU$17)

One of the trademark dishes here is the pork knuckle. They churn these out like nobody's business, each one arriving at the table on a hotplate cloaked in steam.

Pork knuckle with black pepper and oyster sauce at Tai Chung Wah, Cheung Sha Wan, Hong Kong
Pork knuckle

The pork knuckles have been slow cooked until soft, then liberally soaked in a rich and sticky black pepper and oyster sauce. The meat falls away easily off the bone.

Making clay pot rice at Tai Chung Wah, Cheung Sha Wan, Hong Kong
Making clay pot rice

Clay pot rice is also worth seeking out here. There's an element of mastery behind getting the water and heat ratios right so you're left with perfectly cooked ingredients and a bonus crunchy layer of rice at the bottom.

Gas flames cooking clay pot rice at Tai Chung Wah, Cheung Sha Wan, Hong Kong
Gas flames cooking the clay pot rice

Clay pot rice at Tai Chung Wah, Cheung Sha Wan, Hong Kong
Clay pot rice HK$80 (AU$11)

When everything is mixed up, you get bits of crunchy rice in amongst the bursts of sweet lap cheong sausage and fresh shallot. The clay pot keeps everything hot for ages too.

Whole suckling pig at Tai Chung Wah, Cheung Sha Wan, Hong Kong
Whole suckling pig HK$560 (AU$78)

And I've saved the best for last, of course. The whole suckling pig. It's a crazy bargain at only AU$78. The pig is tiny - only the length of about three iPhones laid end to end - but it's the best we have on our entire Hong Kong trip.

The crackling skin is superb. Super crunchy and sweet with an unmistakeable taste of smoky charcoal that leaves you craving for more.

Crisping the suckling pig by hand over charcoal at Tai Chung Wah, Cheung Sha Wan, Hong Kong
Crisping the skin of the suckling pig over charcoal by hand

It's only when we sneak into the kitchen on our way out that we discover the secret. After each pig is roasted, it's held by hand over a bed of glowing charcoal. The prong is slowly rotated so the skin bubbles even more, and the flesh takes on the flavour of charcoal.

Roast suckling pig at Tai Chung Wah, Cheung Sha Wan, Hong Kong
Roast suckling pig

They serve the suckling pig here with saucers of hoisin and mustard. The flesh is buttery soft, but it's that smoky sweet crackling that will make you a fan of this dai pai dong for life.

Asiania Restaurant
Basement level, 288 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2861 2882

Tai Chung Wah
539 Fok Wing Street, Cheung Sha Wan, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 9045 4863
Open daily 6pm - 1am

Yung Kee
32-40 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2522 1624
Open daily 11am - 11.30pm

<< Read the first Hong Kong post: Ronin modern Japanese seafood

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Hong Kong - Ronin - modern Japanese seafood
Hong Kong - Wet markets and street markets in Central district
Hong Kong - Yum cha - Tim Ho Wan and Ling Heung Tea House
22 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 8/24/2014 08:02:00 pm


  • At 8/24/2014 8:50 pm, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    mmm that crackle on the suckling pig! I want it. I NEED IT.

  • At 8/24/2014 9:15 pm, Blogger Unknown said…

    whoa that serving of crackling is huge!! I miss HK so much TT… must go back soon…

  • At 8/24/2014 9:39 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I have to try out Tai Chung Wah's century eggs and deep fried eel - looks delish!

  • At 8/24/2014 10:41 pm, Blogger Sherrie @ Crystal Noir said…

    If only there were this kind of glorious crackling in Sydney! And giant deep-fried items other than hot star chicken! (but then again, I would probably become obese LOL)

  • At 8/24/2014 11:49 pm, Blogger MAB vs Food said…

    That suckling pig definitely looks inviting with the flashing red light bulb. Sexy beast :P

  • At 8/25/2014 2:06 am, Blogger CQUEK said…

    if i travel with you, i surely put on weight.. wow! the giant oysters as big as your iphone.. hor liao!

  • At 8/25/2014 9:07 am, Anonymous Francesca said…

    I was in that area a month ago and your wonderful photos brought it all back. Now I am very hungry.

  • At 8/25/2014 10:22 am, Blogger Unknown said…

    Hi Helen, BBQ meat heaven and I'm so there! I'm on the other side through in Shanghai, but luckily I had my suckling pig fix only a few days ago!!! Love oyster pancakes though, so will have to hang out for a trip to HK. Next time!

  • At 8/25/2014 10:31 am, Anonymous Amanda @ Gourmanda said…

    Dai pai dong are the best - there are a few places in Melbourne that try to emulate the style, but it's never quite the same! And roast goose...mmm...

  • At 8/25/2014 11:28 am, Anonymous ChopinandMysaucepan said…

    Dear Helen,

    Crispy crackling skin aside, suckling pig will never be the same without that flashing red light bulb. Are you allowed take that with you as a souvenir? Only the Chinese can unconsciously think of something like that to crack us all up!

  • At 8/25/2014 4:36 pm, Blogger Mel said…

    The lightbulb in the pigs eye is freaking me out. Why is this happening? LOL.

    We're doing a HK stopover early next year and I really want to visit a Dai pai dong and also try the goose. YUM!

  • At 8/25/2014 5:41 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Yum I love it all! The grottiness of the dai pai dong is definitely part of the experience though..how else do they get that special flavouring

  • At 8/25/2014 6:05 pm, Anonymous Michael @ I'm Still Hungry said…

    Another place on the shortlist when I visit HK at the end of the year. Thanks for all the recommendations so far - looking forward to more.

  • At 8/25/2014 6:20 pm, Anonymous Gourmet Getaways said…

    Now that's a LOT of food!!! I had to read it out loud. When in HK, try the roast goose and suckling pig! Thanks for the tips!

    Gourmet Getaways

  • At 8/25/2014 6:22 pm, Blogger gaby @ lateraleating said…

    Man, those HKeses do know how to roast critters. Not a big fan of a lightbulb in the critter's eye, though :)

  • At 8/26/2014 11:31 am, Blogger Milktea Eats said…

    so much suckling pig! ive heard great things about yun kee, i must go check it out!

  • At 8/26/2014 12:48 pm, Blogger Ramen Raff said…

    I had Cantonese-style roast goose everyday and HK coz it's freakin' awesome! Wish I did more suckling pig though and would definitely hit up Yung Kee next time!

  • At 8/26/2014 6:46 pm, Anonymous Leona | sprinklemyday said…

    I've always wanted to go to HK. My family has relatives in HK and we've never been back :( Food looks absolutely amazing love all your posts and especially the travel ones.. makes me feel so deprived.. i really need to travel more >.<

  • At 8/27/2014 9:10 am, Blogger Cassie | Journey From Within said…

    How I miss HK!! :(
    those buns for the suckling piggie!! XD

  • At 8/28/2014 3:53 pm, Anonymous Padaek said…

    Hi Helen,

    This is possibly one of my favourite posts so far. HK looks and sounds like a foodie's paradise. I've not yet been but it's definitely a destination to visit even if it's just for the amazing food! All of the dishes in this post look delicious, although I'm particularly interested in the roast goose, salt & shallot frog legs and the pig's aorta! Wow - such wonderful/exotic dishes. Lol @ Uma? :)

  • At 8/31/2014 11:17 pm, Blogger Sarah said…

    So jealous of your Hong Kong adventures!

    I've only ever had goose roasted Western style, and while it's nice, I'd love to try Cantonese style! I love Canto roast duck so I think I'd love goose as well!

    PS deepfried oyster pancakes YES.

  • At 9/02/2014 1:44 pm, Anonymous Eilxrrr said…



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