- Yung Kee’s window of edible wonder
Like Din Tai Fung, Yung Kee is multi-awarded and famous. Acclaimed for their roasted goose, it’s the one dish that appears on all the tables, making it easy to believe –as I’m told – that some diners make a meal of just the roast goose and nothing else.
And really, there’s everything to like about it. Perfected over decades since its inception as a cooked food stall manned by a hardworking Hong Kong Chinese merchant, this roasted goose fairly scintillates in its perfection. Burnished brown skin kissed and caressed by heat, the flames of passion coax the meat juices out while crisping up the skin until it resembles parchment. Napped in its own juices, it sits like the stellar star that it is, an invitation to the realization that fat, goose fat, is really, really good. A lustrous layer of pearly fat is indeed tucked beneath that cinnabar skin. It embraces mounds of pre-sliced meat, swarthier than chicken and more macho-tasting – everything that chicken wishes it could be but isn’t.
Yung Kee has an outstanding roster of roasted dishes, the Barbecued Suckling Pig is a favorite. It’s exponentially many times better than any dish of its ilk I’ve had. Its deep copper skin shatters, a complete juxtaposition to the thick fat that the meat beneath wears like a luxurious coat. When eaten with either the accompanying plum sauce or hoisin sauce – merely dipped not dunked, mind you – it propels the pleasure into the stratosphere.
Goose. Pork. Meat: all feed the creed that fat equals flavor.
My dad has a propensity for omelets; hence, I grew up eating all manner of them whether rolled, souffléd, ten-shin men ramen. His absolute favorite is egg foo yung done in true Chinese style. Yung Kee has two types of these omelets: the more traditional scrambled egg with barbecued pork (photo above; the waiter terms it “dry” omelet), and its more celestial version, Scrambled Fresh Milk And Egg-White done in “dai liang” style (the waiter terms this “wetter” omelet). While my research yields nothing on what “dai liang” style could possibly mean, the flavor of this omelet is easy to appreciate.
My dad takes the first serving and I watch as his first taste causes him to slump a little with a muffled “Mmph!” Somewhat alarmed since he doesn’t react that way often (to food or anything else), I slide the lazy susan ‘til the dish is flush to my plate. Though I really prefer to see some yolk with my eggs anything more than bright white right now would be superfluous. Curds of trembling white gather in their folds nuggets of succulent scallops seasoned with salted pork. One taste and – just like my dad – I too, slump without warning. Too, too good. The flavor is delicate but intense, complex but simple enough to be smitten with. I briefly consider challenging my dad to a best-of-3 round of “rock, paper scissors” (jack en poy) to vie for the last portion of egg white but wisely decide otherwise.
- road leading up to Yung Kee. I dig the killer Coach store building.
32-40 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong
My sister, Tricia, loves Tsui Wah, it’s her go-to place when she’s in Hong Kong for her many business trips. The main branch in Central is a hulking space that spans three floors and feeds all types with food ladled generously on large serving plates. It’s loud but not too loud and service is sufficiently efficient. That it’s open 24/7 and has a menu that’s as diverse as its clientele makes it even more appealing especially to the late night denizens.
My brother in law goes for Tricia’s recommended dish, Malaysian Beef Stew Curry with Rice. One bite has him frantically hailing for a waiter. “Spicy! Spicy!” He exclaims. Undaunted, I try some curry. My taste buds tingle pleasantly, the curry is robust and deep, making the beef taste all that more beefy. I like it. I slap my brother-in law’s shoulder in jest. “Spicy? Man up, now!” He rolls his eyes at me but to his credit, he finishes the dish armed with numerous glasses of water.
My Bin meanwhile has eyes for the steak. I express amazement that he wants to order steak here. “But Lor, Hong Kong is a good place to have steak since there aren’t any cows here. All the meat is imported.” He explains. I’ve never seen any cows in Manila either, but I’m sure that’s beside the point. Banking on his past Hong Kong steaks, this one at Tsui Wah is quite excellent, I grudgingly admit. The meat cuts through with nary a complaint, its rim lined with a thick layer of fat. There’s an orange-brown sauce that it comes with, and while I usually shun gravy, this one is satisfying with a garlicky flavor as flamboyant as its hue.
One thing about being a food lover is being adventurous. While this trait practically spills over with promises of positive eats and tasty discoveries, it’s worked to my disadvantage in more than one restaurant. I have a bad habit of ordering something that’s (usually) a bestseller but sadly, is anything but for me. My Bin, whose “bad dish meter” is highly refined, often dissuades me from said dish(es) but I persist anyway. I order the Tsui Wah classic Fishball and Sliced Fishcakes with Rice Noodles in Fish Soup. Quite a mouthful yes, but I only take a few. The dish’s accoutrements fare well with me but it’s the soup that turns me off. It’s of a milky sort in dire need of some salt or MSG. Bin looks at me knowingly so I avert my gaze.
I’m envious of my sister, Charley. She’s ordered the best dish of all, one that I recommended though why not for myself, I’ll never know. It’s the Scrambled Egg with Rice and Shrimp, big shrimp just touched by heat so they’re still springy and soft. They almost bounce off the teeth.
Plenty of good (non alcoholic) drinks can be had here at Tsui Wah. We four order the house specialty, Milk Tea – cold for them, hot for me. It’s a Hong Kong-style ‘Lai-Cha’ tea with evaporated milk but I’m a bit disenchanted with it since it tastes exactly like Lipton Milk Tea.
Branches all over Hong Kong
Main Branch: G – 3/F, 15D – 19 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong