Guei fei gai @ Cheung Hing on Clement
Wednesday I stopped at Cheung Hing on Clement St. to pick up some roast meat. This was my first time here. I've never liked the looks of the place, small selection, and sometimes difficulty getting through the crowds waiting to get into Burma Superstar. Also, it is separately owned from the Cheung Hing in Millbrae or on Noriega St, both of which I like so much.
Once you step inside and peer over the counter, the offerings look better than through the greasy window. Again, not much to choose from but what is there looks freshly prepared. Cheung Hing also has a butcher case of raw meats, including several types of Chinese breed chickens, ducks, fresh geese, and poultry parts.
A small sign in front of the bbq station offered up guei fei gai (aka concubine chicken). I asked for a half. These can vary in appearance from salt-poached white to ecru color or like this one, to the darker end of the spectrum, almost the color of a soy sauce chicken. The interesting thing is that the counter man cut this bird exactly in half, all the way along the neck too and splitting the head in half. Usually, the neck and head go with one half or the other. Fine with me, more for the stock pot. Sold by the pound, half a chicken came to $4.50. One can also get a rice plate (to-go only) with rice and some greens served on the side.
I asked him not to chop it, and it was packed up with a little container of chopped ginger in oil. At home, we removed the meat from the bone and cut it into bite-size pieces. Very nice flavor of the seasonings and the freshness of the bird, firm and juicy meat, and the jook we made from the stock is very tasty.
What else do 'hounds recommend here?
Cannot respond to your question regards Cheung Hing/Clement specifically, but have some related comments. I got a half roast duck on Saturday from CH/Millbrae. Yesterday, I was in S.F. yesterday (reunion lunch at the Kirin with some old Chinatown classmates!). Sitting through a long lunch, I was anxious to make a fast but no longer an early getaway to get some roast duck to compare with the CH/M duck and to get some gwei-fei gai. From Kirin, I decided that heading back down 19th Avenue, Ocean Avenue and then back onto 280 to Happy Bakery and Deli was the fastest, strategic move heading back home south rather than going to CH/Irving or CH/Noriega or Lam Hoa Thuan or Wins/Taraval. There was a line of ten people when I got to HB&D shortly after 3 pm!
My observations are if there is only a whole bird hanging and you want half, the chopper is likely to chop you the whole neck section to go with your half rather than to take the extra effort to halve it down the middle more precisely. With duck, I’d rather have the first half cut; with chicken I’d rather have the second half (since duck is sold per half and chicken by weight). The chopper charges for full weight weighed prior to chopping and but routinely skims pieces off to the side for the house stockpot.
I noticed that the CH and HB roast duck nowadays give out very little juice when they slice it open at the aft end (they don’t roast them as full of juice like they used to). Then, they keep all of whatever little natural duck juice there is within and give you instead some sweet plum sauce substitute concoction in a little cup for your dipping.
In the past, I have bought “yellow fur/free-range” chicken and the regular chicken at HB (in both soya and gwei-fei chicken versions when they had all the combinations), but concluded that the regular chicken is more than sufficiently satisfying (more meaty, juicy, and tender) than the supposedly superior, “yellow fur” chicken. HB only had the “yellow fur” gwei-fei chicken version yesterday, so I passed on gwei-fei chicken entirely. They had, but I also passed on the roast goose since it was a disappointment last time I tried it.
When it comes to soya chicken, however, HB&D yesterday had both the regular and “yellow fur”soya chicken. I just asked for soya chicken. I was amused when the chopper asked me if it is the “Po-dong” chicken that I wanted (yes………. the ordinary, regular, drab chicken is good enough for me!).
Finally, as for the duck comparison, both CH/M and HD ducks I had so recently were good. I think that there is an edge to HB’s (not as spicy, but taste is distinctive and more refined and skin is tighter).
BTW, had the Kirin Rainbow raw fish salad, stuffed chicken with sweet rice and minced dried oyster with lettuce cup specialties yesterday. My impression is that it has gone downhill from when I had it last.
I agree that the ducks don't seem to have as much liquid collected in the cavity as I recall. But I have to say that CH in Millbrae has never been stingy with sharing the duck gold. I keep some small glass jars in the trunk of my car, and CH Millbrae has always been happy to fill it with 6 to 8 oz of the duck juice. And, they'll also give me some of the plum sauce. I stopped in Millbrae on Sunday afternoon to get a duck, and as usual, I got the full compliment of juice. And, the counter man laughed at the size of my jar and nodded that it would make great lo mein.
There haven't been any strong reports on Kirin lately. My last time there was a couple years ago, and even though the owner was the same, the food was not as good.