There are some restaurants that have played such a pivotal role in Hong Kong’s culinary history that it’d be hard to imagine the city without them. Yung Kee is one such restaurant, known for its famous roast goose and perhaps more poignantly, for its place in the hearts of locals who grew up frequenting the Cantonese dining institution.
Yung Kee’s tale is legendary – it sprung up in 1942 as a small mom-and-pop shop, a family run operation with recipes that had been passed down through generations. With the name gaining traction both near and far, Yung Kee evolved over the years to become one of the most recognisable brands in the local dining scene. It now sits in a prominent building in the heart of Central, flaunting a glamourous gold-gilded facade and traditional decor inside the massive, five-storey restaurant.
Step through the grand facade and you’ll be greeted by classic Cantonese-style interiors: carved wooden furniture, plush patterned carpets, and gold accents and antiques radiating the feel of old Canton. The space is brightly lit, affecting a warm and pleasant atmosphere to indulge eager, roast goose fans.
The goose is, of course, the perennial favourite – it’s the dish that Yung Kee built its reputation on and to this day the team still manages to deliver one of the best renditions in town. The succulent bird is encased in a crispy, fat-laced skin with rich and tender meat lightly sweetened by honey. Paired with rice, or served on its own, the bird is one of the most sought-after meals around Central, so it’s no surprise that Yung Kee roasts almost 300 geese a day.
The charcoal-grilled excellence extends beyond the roast goose – suckling pig and barbecue char siu are all worth trying, the latter boasting a special recipe of five layers of meat alternating with five layers of fat, making for a juicy, mouthwatering bite.
Patience is required to sift through the long and winding menu, but for a quick sample of popular dishes, opt for the banquet-style menus, put together by Head Chef, Choi Wai Chor. A veteran with more than 40 years of experience in the industry, his signature dishes include deep-fried prawn with mini crab roe; smoked pork belly boasting tender, melt-in-your-mouth meat with pine nuts; stir-fried sliced snakehead fish with XO sauce, and Yangzhou-style fried rice, brilliantly wok-fried with char siu, shrimps, eggs and diced green onion.
Yung Kee is well accustomed to tourists flocking through its doors (the establishment serves up to 1.2 million annually), and thus service is patient and well practised, with waiters knowledgeable in explaining different food and drink pairings. A comprehensive wine list offers bottles from every major wine-producing region, including select bottles from China. If you’re feeling daring, you can also swig the selection of baijius on offer – an ancient hard liquor that’s the ultimate test of courage and fortitude.
If you’re seeking a taste of Hong Kong’s heritage, look no further than Yung Kee – this decades-old establishment has passed the baton from generation to generation, all the while maintaining its exceptional standards and taste of authenticity that’s given it a well deserved, far-reaching reputation.