Discovering the best cuisine is no wild goose chase

Goose, an important theme in Chinese poetry, is also an essential part of regional cuisines.

This is an “Ode to the Goose” by Chinese poet Luo Binwang (AD 619–684), one of the first poems Chinese learn in the early years of their childhood:

“Goose, goose, goose,

You bend your neck toward the sky and sing.

Your white feathers float on the emerald water,

Your red feet push the clear waves.”

Goose, an important theme in Chinese poetry, is also an essential part of regional cuisines.

If Nanjing is the capital of duck cuisine in China, Guangdong Province is no doubt the capital of goose cuisine, where the waterfowls are stewed, braised and roasted to make dishes that are loved by many.

In Shanghai, a goose is called bai wu ju (白乌居), because in Shanghainese dialect, the pronunciation of goose, e, is the same as me, wo, so kill the goose sounds like kill me.

Although Shanghai doesn’t have many special local goose delicacies, the Shanghai people love to eat goose, especially the Cantonese roast goose served in most Cantonese restaurants and Hong Kong-style tea restaurants.

The shitou goose

Foie gras, the fattened liver of goose, has long been a staple of luxury dining. But the price tag of the goose’s head can be far ahead.

The stewed goose head of the shitou goose, or lion-head goose, which is specifically bred in Chaoshan (Chaozhou-Shantou) region of Guangdong Province, can now cost between 400 to 500 yuan (US$61-76) each in Guangdong and up to 1,000 yuan in upscale restaurants elsewhere.

This top dish in Chinese cuisine has grown more popular in recent years as people across the country are learning about this expensive delicacy.

The shitou goose is the largest cultivated goose breed in China. Adult geese can weigh between 9 to 12 kilograms and they are especially known for the large dewlaps and black crown, hence the name lion-head goose.

The head is also the most valuable part of the goose. The size is much larger than regular goose head and contains a lot more meat.

The expensive shitou goose head comes with its neck and both are sliced before plating. The meat is dense and rich, especially the crown part.

The secret of the Chaoshan stewed goose is the richly spiced brine made with pork bone, chicken, ham, dried scallops, as well as more than a dozen spices like star anise, cinnamon, bay leaf and lemongrass. The brine is carefully maintained and aged so the quality becomes better and better.

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The shitou goose is the largest cultivated goose breed in China.

The Cantonese roast goose

In Guangdong, roast goose is among the most popular siu mei dishes. It uses the mid- to small-sized dark brown goose from Qingyuan, and unlike the Chaoshan stewed shitou goose that favors older birds, the roast goose is preferably cooked with younger ones that age between 3 to 4 months.

The bird is marinated and air dried before roasting in the oven, so the succulent goose has crispy skin and tender, moist meat.

The Cantonese roast goose is usually paired with a sweet and sour plum sauce to tone down the richness with the fruity flavors. The original sauce from making the roast goose can also be a dip on the side.

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Roast goose

The drunken goose

The drunken goose is a famous dish in Shunde, Guangdong Province that stews the rich goose meat with herbs and spices. It’s known for the dazzling presentation as part of the cooking process is completed tableside.

After the chunks of goose meat are stir-fried with seasonings and stewed to soften the texture, a bottle of white liquor is poured into the wok and the chef would lite it to let the flames finish cooking the meat.

This dish went viral on Chinese social media briefly in 2016 and many restaurants promoted the spectacle braised goose.

Ti Gong

Drunken goose

The feet and the liver

All parts of the goose, from head to feet, from gizzard to intestine, are made into savory snacks. The not-so-meaty parts are also braised or stewed in brines to gain rich flavors.

The goose feet have always been favored by imperial courts and wealthy people in Chinese history. The time-consuming yet entertaining dish is a very good companion with wine or liquor.

In the “Dream of the Red Chamber,” marinated goose feet and duck tongue were featured as a cold dish. The goose feet are first cooked in chicken broth with salt and then marinated to gain the flavors.

The goose feet can also be braised with soy sauce, spices and brown sugar as a hot dish. An upgraded version is served with braised sea cucumber or abalone.

The liver of the Chaoshan-style braised shitou goose is also very popular. It’s not as fatty and big as the foie gras because the geese are naturally grown, but very creamy and smooth.

The raw liver is thoroughly cleaned and then stewed in the brine, then soaked in goose oil to make the liver tenderer. When serving the dish, the hot brine is splashed on top of the liver slices several times to give it the appropriate temperature.

In general, the goose products are more expensive, compared with the duck’s, because it takes longer for the goose to grow.

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Goose wings (left) and stewed goose liver (right).

Goose restaurants in Shanghai

E Hao

This small Hong Kong-style roast shop near the Park Hotel is known for their goose meat pie that’s quite similar to the mooncake with pork filling. The crust is crisp and the goose meat filling is a little fatty but not too greasy. The shop also sells stewed shitou goose including the liver, feet and wings as well as roast duck and honey roasted pork.

Address: 28 Huanghe Rd

Xiang Tian Ge Roast Goose Shop

The Xiang Tian Ge Cantonese restaurant is famous for its Cantonese roast goose, which is extra juicy and a little fattier than other shops. The roast goose is about 53.8 yuan per 500 grams. They also sell Shanghainese dishes like stir-fried shrimp and smoked fish.

Address: 1690 Kongjiang Rd

Xin Rong Ji

The one Michelin-starred Cantonese restaurant serves a traditional roast goose with plum sauce. The goose has a nice gloss on the skin which is very crispy. Though the dish is not cheap at a price of 145 yuan per plate (300 grams).

Address: 5F, Shanghai Plaza, 138 Huaihai Rd M.

Yi E Feng Liu

This restaurant with vintage Chinese décor specializes in the Chaoshan shitou goose dishes. Their menu features an extensive selection of meat and offal, including intestine, the head, the wings and more. The geese come from Chaozhou and Shantou. Their “five treasures of goose” dish features the stewed meat, wings, feet, liver and gizzard.

Address: 1F, 699 Zhongshan Rd S2

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