roast duck

Beijing culinary centennial icons “Laozihao”

Beijing culinary centennial icons are revered “Laozihao” (老字号) establishments. Known as gastronomic exceptional restaurants showcasing almost every region of Chinese cuisine in the capital city. The title translates as ‘old brand’names¹. Each in its own uniqueness representing a high level of culinary art by remaining true to its origin.

Stumbled upon an older article mentioning the city’s eponymous duck and the city’s oldest surviving restaurant. “Bianyifang Kaoyadian” established in 1416, the premise originally began as a takeaway. The first characters of the Chinese name ‘Bianyifang’ roughly translates as “convenient to everyone” roast duck shop.

As the name of the shop indicates it features a special bird, the duck, with an illustrious history. The roast duck dates back with an acknowledgement as early as the Yuan dynasty (1202-1368). Here it became listed among the Imperial dishes in ‘The Complete Recipes for Dishes and Beverages’³. For connoisseurs and curious foodies who like to read more about the history of roast duck click on the link. A different poultry topic here for the goose link. Source: A Taste of Old Peking: The Capital’s Culinary Culture Lives on in its Laozihao Restaurants | the Beijinger 

A Taste of Old Peking The Capital s Culinary Culture Lives on in its Laozihao Restaurants the Beijinger

Source credit: | blog author Ed Lanfranco

The Flavour of the Capital

After reading the article, my own memories unfurled of an earliest family home trip in 1981. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I visited a few of these iconic Beijing culinary centennials establishments. One of them is the now well over 200 years old Yueshengzhai Restaurant. The most famous and oldest Muslim establishment in the capital city. Doors opened in 1775, by a former servant at the Qing Imperial court named Ma Qingrui. Six generations have continued and followed the traditions after its founder.

“In 2007  Yueshengzhai’s received recognition for processing techniques for braised mutton with soy sauce. Most noteworthy citing the high standards of guarding the quality of meals. An integral part of Beijing’s Intangible Cultural Heritage.” Source:

For more in-depth information featuring “The flavour of the capital” (Jingwei’r) click here on the China Heritage Newsletter link. The link includes an appendix with halal related snacks and dishes in Beijing. The food keeps drawing local devotees and visitors to the same place. With each visit renewing one’s palate is a feast of confirmation and merit reminiscent to old Peking.

One of the featured dishes is “Baodu” made from intestines and what I ate at my second visit to Beijing. The thin slices were meltingly tender and aromatic. Tripe if not cooked and seasoned correctly is unpalatable and rubbery. What surprised me was the hot-vinegary tart sauce and use of cumin. A spice which is not common in the south-eastern cuisine (my family originates from Zhejiang province). Cumin founds its way by caravan trade into China north-western regions Xinjiang, Mongolia and Hunan cuisine.

“BAODU 爆肚 (lamb tripe in sauce) 
This seared and thinly sliced delicate tripe is made from the washed stomach lining of the sheep. Prepared with a special sesame based sauce with flavour ingredients including cumin, pepper, chilli, vinegar. The dish is often accompanied with shaobing, a baked unleavened layered flat bread. Baodu originates from China’s north-west, it has come to find its home into the capital.”

1,000-year-old Copper Firepots

Among culinary centennial discovery was seeing and enjoying the copper chimney firepot “Huo Guo”. This cooking pot dates over 1,000 years with the origin being from Mongolia. Fuelled by charcoal heating the broth to a slow simmer with the smoke escaping through the chimney. China Northern cuisine is represented by the mutton hotpot by using sheep (lamb) bone stock as broth. Most of the copper chimneys have disappeared, replaced by digital electrical cooking pots.

The cooking pots with steaming hot broth have a variety of choices of basic Chinese meat, fish or seafood stock. Varying seasoning of MaLa (lip numbing hot!) or herbal infused and more. Will mention my favourite book choices in a separate post with recipes to prepare your own tasty & healthy hotpot dinner(s). Other cultural influences by neighbouring cuisines as Thai, Korean based stocks appear on the menu. A new cooking vessel is known as the YinYang or Double duck to serve a spicy and non-spicy version. This new design serves double broths, is a big hit as a home cooking utensil and restaurants serve ware.


Source courtesy and photo credit:

For our international readers the above serve ware can be ordered online, but for Dutch readers and foodies, both items are on sale at Chinese Supermarkets e.g. Dun Yong Amsterdam, Wah Nam Hong The Hague and Amazing Oriental in Rotterdam.

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  1. “Time honoured shops” is the official translation of 老字号. A government distinction awarded to certain brand names and shops that have proven histories. Source: Book Unequal Englishes: The Politics of Englishes Today by R. Tupas
  2. China’s time-honored brands struggle to survive |
  3. The History of Chinese Imperial Food | Kaleidoscope-food culture -internet warning unsafe link malware
  4. Beijing Halal |
  5. A Taste of Old Peking: The Capital’s Culinary Culture Lives on in its Laozihao Restaurants |
  6. Mutton like no other |

Save the Geese, roast Goose siu-ngoh 燒鵝 – Some 500,000 geese need to be culled, headline of Dutchnews in The Netherlands, based on article posted in Dutch daily newspaper Trouw yesterday.

“Most of the geese will be gassed, as currently happens around Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, Trouw says. The paper bases its claims on interim reports from provincial government bodies which signed up to an agreement on combating the geese nuisance two years ago.” 

What a shame to gas the Canadian and Nile geese which use to migrate and now remain in The Netherlands. I wonder whether it is contemplated to offer the Geese as a staple food next like chicken, turkey or game meat.

Within Cantonese Cuisine, Cantonese style roasting techniques are renowned as Siu Mei 燒味 literally meaning ‘roast flavored’ meats. The first four are classic types of roasting:

  • barbecued pork (cha siu叉燒)
  • roast goose (siu ngoh 燒鵝)
  • roast pork (siu yuk 燒肉)
  • roast suckling pig (siu zyu 燒豬)
  • roast duck (siu ngaap 燒鴨)
selection of siu mei roasts -

Selection of ‘Siu Mei’ roasted meats
Photo credit source

Often alongside the roast meats, you will find these three dishes as well

  • White cut chicken (baak cit gai 白切雞) – marinated steamed chicken
  • Soy sauce chicken (si yao gai 豉油雞) – chicken cooked with soy sauce
  • Orange cuttlefish ( lou seoi mak jyu 鹵水墨魚) – marinated cuttlefish
Siu Mei Shop with all kinds of roasted meats. Photo source credit JIngWen Yu

Siu Mei Shop with all kinds of roasted meats. Photo source credit JIngWen Yu

Roast Goose Siu Ngoh 燒鵝

Roast Goose is popular in Hong Kong and Guangdong Province in southern China. If prepared correctly a true delicacy, Roast Goose 燒鵝 (siu ngoh in Cantonese) is one of the signature roast dishes with a crisp skin where the layer of fat has melted away during roasting process resulting in succulent meat. Roast Goose appears to share similarity to Peking Duck (specially bred BeiJing White Duck) but roast goose is bigger, cheaper as for flavoring it only has a spice rub in the cavity.

Whereas the technique for roasting BeiJing Duck is much more elaborate, way of serving differs as well. BeiJing Duck is brought to the dining table where the meat is sliced in as much of 100 thin flakes each covered with a piece of crispy skin attached. On the dining table a steam basket with pancakes, thinly cut scallion, cucumber and sweet bean sauce or hoisin sauce as accompaniments. The pancakes is spread lightly with plum sauce, sprigs of scallion than duck flakes with crispy skin rolled up and you take a bite to heaven.

The famous Cantonese style roast Goose as a whole chopped and served as a main dish with plum sauce or as well known rice dish known as Siu ngoh fan 燒鵝飯. Chopped pieces of Goose are topped on rice with KaiLan (Chinese broccoli, dark green stem vegetabes with or without tiny yellow flowerbuds) where the drippings of the goose is poured on top. You do not need to be a connoisseur to appreciate and enjoy this dish and agree upon the tender meat, a mouthful of bliss bursting with flavor.

siu ngo fan 燒鵝飯

siu ngo fan 燒鵝飯 Photo source credit

TV documentary Hong Kong to the World

A beautiful documentary series co-produced by RHTK and National Geographic Channel titled “Hong Kong to the World” showcases in one of the four one-hour episodes the secrets of roasting meats ‘Siu Mei’. In the program Siu Mei Kung Fu, episode 1, the famous Hong Kong movie star, Eric Tsang enters into the unfamiliar territory of a traditional roasting workshop. Starting from the most basic roasting techniques, secrets will be revealed and stories behind the delicious Hongkong-style roasts. Affinities to culinary kung fu with reference to hand-to-hand fighting skills as time-honored techniques, balancing yin and yang and involving god-like blade skills, are worthy to be considered “siu mei kung fu”!

One of our favorite destinations discovering Hong Kong to shop for food, electronics and sightseeing on our must see or to-do lists and that behavior hasn’t changed with every visit. Because Hong Kong city and islands still captivates with its spectacular scenery and many attractions. Over time we have introduced ourselves to street food and culinary delights, of which some establishments are famous for more than half a century. One of the restaurants is the legendary Goose restaurant Yung Kee – the fact that we try to visit on our returns makes us long distance regulars – a place to satisfy our roast goose gourmet craving. However over time we have found other locations in Hong Kong which serve roasted goose as good and even less expensive than Yung Kee.

Prepare a trip to Chinatown or Hong Kong, sample the dish(es) or try a recipe

Outside of Hong Kong, Guang Dong Province, in China towns in diaspora across the world you will find the roasted meats to sooth your craving, not often the roasted Goose but most likely the roasted duck version. The more reason to get my hands on a few birds of the large flock of geese which is to be culled soon, Schiphol Airport is not even that far away from my home. Will post separately a roast goose recipe shortly.

Note: If you are planning a trip to Hong Kong soon and are compiling a bucket list of places to visit, things to see, do click on all the highlighted links in this post for information and watch the mentioned documentary TV episode it’s worth to watch, read and experience it by yourself. Here’s another 25 reasons to go to Hong Kong by Condé Nast Traveller.