Keeping promises at the famous Yung Kee

City talk | Terence Chang 29 Jul 2021

I came out of a Hong Kong Book Fair seminar with a bag of dessert - a souvenir more befitting than a bookmark, for the talk was about delicacies. It took great self-restraint not to eat it as I made my way to Yung Kee.

The gathering took place on the fourth floor of the famous restaurant. I am usually seated on the main floor when I visit the shop. The fourth floor is rumored to be difficult to book and expensive.

Yung Kee director and general manager Ronald Kam Kwan-lai said fourth-floor tables are, indeed, in great demand, but the charge of between HK$1,000 and HK$1,500 per person is actually quite reasonable.

Knowing the ballpark spending was reassuring, for we were splitting the bill that evening.

A fellow guest said the menu was compiled by Kam, which should make a difference.

"Perhaps the chef would pick a more meaty bird for the charcoal roasted goose dish, but the roasting would just be the same," quipped Kam.

He talked about how his father started Yung Kee as a dai pai dong before World War II, and the shop's motto of "Taste of Art, Made with Heart" ensures the quality of each dish.

I told Kam candidly about my visits about seven or eight years ago. "I didn't mind the wait but the food was average."

Kam acknowledged that in those days, the shop was overcrowded, which affected quality, but the issue has been corrected.

"My father once told me he would miss the 'eldest son' the most when he's gone," Kam said. The fifth brother knew "eldest son" meant Yung Kee, and promised to treat this "son" well.

Having run the business for more than half a century, Kam knows it's not easy to maintain success but he intends to keep his promise to his father.

He put together our menu with care, making sure it comprised dishes from the four main sections - kitchen, BBQ, congee/noodles and dim sum - bearing in mind that one should "eat what's in season."

So we had stuffed crystal dumplings, tea-smoked yun wu meat, skirt beef braised in broth, charcoal roasted pipa goose, winter melon soup, shrimp roe pomelo with fish maw, phoenix-eye fruit grouper fillet, and chenpi minced fish dumplings in soup.

A foodie said the food was elegantly made. I am no food critic, but I knew the grouper fillet was perfect.

Terence Chang Cheuk-cheung is the retired headmaster of Diocesan Boys School

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