60 years of a Hong Kong roast goose restaurant and the secrets to its success
Yue Kee Roast Goose Restaurant in Sham Tseng, a family-run business since the 1950s, is famous for charcoal-roasted birds from its own farm in Guangdong. We take a look behind the scenes
Tucked away a short distance from Tuen Mun Road in Sham Tseng is Yue Kee Roast Goose Restaurant, a well-known place that has been run by the same family for three generations now.
From the outside it seems like a small restaurant, but inside there is a warren of corridors leading to various dining rooms served by several kitchens, some tending to the signature dish, others to seafood.
Second-generation owner Raymond Ng Wai-wang has seen Yue Kee develop over the decades and is pleased with the success it has achieved.
Originally his father fled from China to Hong Kong in 1949 and learned how to make roast meats from a friend. Then in 1958 he opened his own dai pai dong in Sham Tseng.
“At the time, Sham Tseng was a small, simple village. The government made this area into an industrial one, so there were factories like Garden bakery and San Miguel. My father came here because he could make a living, just a small dai pai dong he, my mother and uncle ran,” recalls Ng.
“My father was thinking of what to sell to factory workers that was easy for them to eat, so he thought of making roast meats, like char siu, chicken and duck. His target market was these factory workers, providing them lunch and dinner.”
Ng remembers hanging out in the dai pai dong when he was young, helping out with simple tasks. After he finished high school, he started learning the business in earnest from his father, from how to marinate the meats, to roasting them and preparing the charcoal ovens, which required being able to withstand high temperatures.
When asked if he was interested in going into the business, Ng said it was just about having a job to do. “Personally speaking, I like to eat,” he says with a smile. “Maybe my father’s way of teaching influenced me. And eating is something I like so it was easy for me to learn.”
While the custom from factory workers was steady, later on recreational fishermen would go to Sham Tseng to fish in an area nicknamed “Fishing Bay”, and they would come to eat at Yue Kee after a day of fishing.
Business was also boosted in the 1970s when the Tuen Mun highway was being built and there were hardly any places along the route to eat except in Sham Tseng. Popular television channel TVB would also film in the area and their star artists would eat at the restaurant, thus spreading the fame of Yue Kee across town.
Nevertheless, Ng explains the restaurant originally made roast duck, as goose was more expensive at the time and there wasn’t a steady supply from China. Later on, geese became cheaper and eventually Yue Kee had its own farm in Qingyuan city in Guangdong.
“Geese need a clean environment to live in and have clean water. They also like to eat vegetables and grass,” Ng says.
The geese served at Yue Kee are around 110 days old, slaughtered before they learn how to fly as otherwise their meat begins to get tough. The birds are killed at the farm and chilled before they are brought to Sham Tseng.
They are then marinated overnight in a mixture of salt, sugar, Chinese cooking wine, spices, ginger, and spring onion. They are filled with air to separate the skin from the meat so that the fat will melt away when roasting.
The geese are then air dried for five to six hours depending on the humidity. They are finally put into the charcoal-fired ovens, where they can take from an hour to an hour and 15 minutes to roast.
“We are lucky to have our own method and way of doing things and we will continue on this path,” says Ng. “I’ve always done it this way and will continue. I won’t change things unless my customers’ tastes have changed. If it’s good and people like it, I’m going to continue doing what I’m doing.”
Yue Kee Roast Goose Restaurant, No. 9 Sham Hong Road, Ting Kau, Sham Tseng. Tel: 2491 0105
Yue Kee is featured in the book A Traditional Taste produced by Miele. It is available at bookstores including Eslite and Kelly & Walsh, and via Miele’s website: shop.miele.hk. The book costs HK$450 and all proceeds of the copies ordered through Miele’s website will be donated to Feeding Hong Kong.