Story Of A Traditional Hainanese Roast Duck Stall in IpohJune 11, 2011 | 7,162 views
Crispy Roast Duck @ Hong Kong Restaurant, Canning Garden – Briefly bathed with boiling oil before being served (by request), this was simply a cut above the other roast duck specialists in Ipoh.
Madam Heng was a persistent lady, oh yeah. Can’t deny that. It has been a year since the initial contact made between herself and her brother-in-law with myself, an acknowledgment and gratitude nods for the post published in June last year. (Read “That Famous Canning Garden Roast Duck”).
As fate would have it, a full 12 months have passed before I managed to seek out the time for a revisit. 12 months of changes; seeing me moving from Ipoh to Selangor, changing my job (almost a 360 degrees paradigm shift, if you get my drift … hey that rhymes!), and settling in comfortably at that. Well, still adapting to the upbeat pace here, in comparison to the so-named (and rightly so) ‘honeymoon years‘.
Read on for the full story on this “Spunky Madam” (to quote someone I know) with a penchant for quality roast ‘halal’ ducks, and making an impact in a stranger’s life …..
Articles plastered all over the walls. Squint and you might just find my post on the extreme right.
How ironic that Madam Heng herself is a Hainanese like yours truly. And the irony does not end there.
Decades ago (almost wanted to put centuries), my late grandfather used to work in this same shop. Yes, read that right. He was selling (you guessed it!) Hainanese chicken rice, before moving over to Ipoh Garden area and started working for the legendary “Wong Gung Gai Fan” (“Kingdom?” chicken rice shop).
You see, aside from the famous Pak Gong (still darn popular now, situated on Theatre Street next to Rasa Sayang Chicken Rice), Wong Gung was the other much sought after brand. I believe, the old-timers of Ipoh would have attested to this fact.
Like an Asian-ized version of the sauerkraut, this spicy and sour vegetable dish (“Gai choy” or “Choy Geok”) complements any protein-laden feast perfectly; balancing the heaviness with a tarty finish.
And the connection does not end there. Madam Heng told the story from her perspective, on how their family started Wong Gung (the one in town, as the Ipoh Garden’s branch is operated by the nephew or someone else) back then.
‘Twas indeed a small circle seeing how the Hainanese clan from the pre-colonial days; bracing through war and the Independence era, leaving a small fragment of memories intact in their delicious rendition of Hainanese chicken rice up to this very day. And I am but one of the many descendants still craving for an award-winning plate (or at least, Lonely Planet-worthy?) of chicken rice.
Generally the ducks here are less fatty than the usual roast ducks, with a crispier skin, tender and non-gamey meat, served on her signature sauce that’s less overpowering than most ‘hoi sin’ sauce or plum sauce.
Fast forward half a century or so, and here we are seated on the same table; connecting the dots. Madam Heng’s prides on her roast ducks with a marinade from a combination of herbs that render colourant redundant. Usually, before roasting a duck, to brown the skin to an aesthetically-pleasing outlook, the cook will glaze the skin with a mixture of maltose/honey plus red food colouring agent.
But she believes that there has to be a way to do without the artificial colour, and succeeded in her endeavour. There was this photograph where she showed me the pre-roasted duck; the skin appearing to be a lacklustre beige/white and I daresay, almost of unpalatable sight.
But miraculously, after the duck has gone through the roasting process, the skin browned to a beautiful mahogany shade. Another plus point? She believes that the ducks do not have to be of excessive fattiness, thus removing almost all of the unpleasant fats from under the skin.
This was something new to me, as I believe ‘halal’ roast ducks do not come by that easily here in Ipoh, or maybe Malaysia?
Her stall is a favourite with people from all walks of life, even the Muslims. The ducks are sourced from a Halal slaughterhouse, and the shop sells only pork-free foods. She showed me a picture of herself on the same table with the former Transport Minister, Dato Sri Ong Tee Keat. Seemingly, he’s a fan of her roast ducks too.
Homemade kaya (egg and coconut jam) available at the counter. “This is Hainanese style of pure, homemade kaya”, claimed herself. And we got one container of this, yet I wonder if that’s already finished by now in Ipoh.
There’s a whole chunk of the conversation missing from this epilogue. This brain might have been battered from the excessive routine as of late. Even at this time of writing, I am preparing for a 3 days excursion to Kota Kinabalu of Sabah yet this time it’s for work, and there’s no time for ample preparation for a food hunt or any of the sorts. Would be appreciative if there’s any of you volunteering to throw Motormouth here some MUST-EAT’s or MUST-SEE’s in Sabah.
Still her affable, charming self. Madam Heng seeks growing opportunities in the Klang Valley.
Here’s a community service I am not prone to do; but heck, why not? Madam Heng is considering to spread this amazing legacy of Hainanese roast ducks to the Klang Valley. Thus, if there’s any of you readers who’s game for a challenge, or know of any like-minded person who would jump at such business venture, please drop her a line. Or if you’re shy, contact me instead and I shall pass on your interest to her.
“I am sure most KL folks would be really appreciative of a traditional, delicious and wholesome crispy roast duck. I know I will be.”
RESTORAN HONG KONG (pork-free)
No 60, Jalan Lee Kwee Foh,
31400 Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia.
Telephone : 605-547 7813
*Jump to the original post on this stall for more details.
If you’re still craving here are some other roast duck stalls in Ipoh :
– Sun Yeong Wai (one in Ipoh Jaya/Ampang, another in Ipoh Garden East near Tesco/Jusco)
– Jelapang’s famous Tai Sai Hee
– Hong Kong Restaurant @ Tasek