It’s easy to enjoy a platter of Cantonese roast meats- laid out prettily on a long plate with a row of shiny dark brown roast duck, another of roast pork with crispy crackling and some cha siew gleaming with malt honey bbq sauce. It all sit above a bed of cool cucumbers all a ready to be devoured with a mount of steamed rice doused with the stall’s rendition of a Cantonese bbq sauce redolent with hoisin, malt honey and duck fat drippings. All, so easy to like but, not an easy tradition to hold onto. Folks have high expectations of this dish and not enough information out there to make good ones. I sense this dish will slowly fade away and resurface for a new clueless generation, made by robots in a central kitchen (it’s not all difficult to make a meh version in a factory).
But, making good Cantonese roast is not just about the recipe, like how you would find on YouTube. It’s about technique, not often relayed accurately online as there are “secret” methods you would not find there. Even the duck breed has to be carefully chosen for purpose- the “fat under the skin” breed for roasting and the fatter, meatier variety for braised renditions. It is now increasingly getting difficult to find really comforting roast meat hawker stalls. Cost is increasing and quality is diminishing plus, not many want to enter the market, let along the complex roast meat hawker stall business. And if you can, go easy on those mass market $16 roast ducks, my late foodie father would turn in his grave if ever offered this at his altar. Many reviews I find online are not reliable and at best shallow to me. Then I came across this unheralded stall, just walking around and saw this. Nothing fancy out front- with some roast ducks, cha siew and roast pork hanging out shining under the warm spot lights.
But when you tuck in, you know that there are masters behind this stall. They have at least three outlets but this is where I tried, twice. The hired cooks tell me they move around each stall but it was very consistent. For one, you see the Apollo oven, that ubiquitous charcoal roast meat drum used to fire up the meats. It’s a skill all it’s own- the control of charcoal fire temperate and the marinate plus plating skills- done the way we all have grown accustomed to and like- a mount-full, shiny, stacked neatly and is juicy. The roast duck ($44 for whole duck) was my favourite as it came with roasty skin and moist juicy meat. There is faint wistful hint of dang gui herbs used but it’s just enough to contain the offending gaminess. A half bird is good enough for at least four people. The cha siew was like how I like them- chunky bold slices with charred edges (actually burnt marinade) and the flavour permeates through the meat. You can imagine how satisfying it is to sink in on a sliver, over soft fluffy rice spoon over with some of their bbq sauce. They texture and flavour of the meat with a lightly sauced rice. Ooolala.
Their sio bak or roast pork is classic hawker style. They “over“ the crackling till it comes black and charred, then scraped the outer layer off to reveal thin divinely crispy skin- ever so gently on the mouth (it’s often too thick if you use the whole thick skin and can be undercooked underneath).
Long live good Cantonese Roast culture!
Ju Kee Charcoal Roast Meats
Blk 46, #01-359, Holland Drive (coffeeshop)