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Goose in the Chinese Culinary

by Jacqueline M. Newman


Spring Volume: 2015 Issue: 22(1) pages: 5 to 6

At Chinese weddings hundreds of years ago goose was the symbolic protein food. This bird spoke to matrimonial harmony and fidelity. Duck does so nowadays. Years ago there were banquets for brides and at them a goose or a whole pig was served. So were one or more dishes with fruits and nuts. Why these foods? The goose represented matrimonial harmony, the pig for its ability to breed often, and in Cantonese the word for peanuts sounds like the word for birth, and the words for dates and chestnuts sound like the early arrival of sons. These thoughts were in the minds and hearts of the parents of the bride and groom.

Many ask when and where was the goose domesticated? In China, they are swan geese or Anser cygnoides. They are not related to the geese in Europe or the United States. They were domesticated in the 3rd century BCE in the south of China, and kept in captivity and as pets in people’s homes. Note that ‘cyng’ is commonly used as the prefix for swans, but these birds are not swans and are geese. Some say their bones were never found in ancient Chinese burial sites. That is no longer true because they were found in Han Tomb #1 at Mawangtui near Changsha in the 1970s.

Goose is often mentioned in writings, some from Zhou Dynasty times (1046 - 221 BCE). K.C. Chang writes about them and says those marinated or barbecued are fine foods as are those roasted, as is the one seen on this page. So are goose eggs, liver, and goose blood. The latter two were recommended for general health. Goose down and other feathers were and still are sold in Chinese markets, goose quills used for pens, and early toothpicks were made of goose quills. Goose is also mentioned in the Zhou Li as one of six animals for slaughter. What is not mentioned is that they were probably not raised but hunted in early times. Goose is also mentioned and used in early hai pastes as are rabbit, fish, frog, oysters, snails, and other meats, kinds not specified.

During the Yuan Dynasty (1279 - 1368 CE) which is also known as the Mongol Dynasty, geese were mentioned in writings as were sparrows, fish, clams, and crabs; in the Chu Chia Pi Yung. Some were considered pets.

Once Chinese geese could weigh five to ten pounds and were rather large birds. Among poultry, the goose is considered a vigilant bird with excellent hearing. It acts clever and brave, and these days some Chinese police forces use them to tackle crime even though their night vision is poor. They recognize strangers, work in gaggles which are known as groups, and they fan their wings and shriek when they spot strangers.

In Chinese, they are called da yan, hong yan, or yuan ejs, and many have a knob on the top of their head. Some have a white patch behind their black bill, though not all Chinese geese have such a knob. Males and females can look alike, and some males are a bit bigger and somewhat heavier. Most Chinese geese have orange feet, an orange or a black bill, and often an orange knob, too. Their honk is their call, and it is quite loud and close to a bark. It does frighten lots of people who shriek when they hear it.

Wild geese feed on larvae often found under rocks. Those that are fed by farmers can become dependent on provided food. Other geese eat grass and there are farmers who use them to weed cotton and other crops. To get them to do this, they need to be fed grass from an early age, such as from one week old in order to train them to do that.

Geese can live for twenty or more years, are almost always raised by both parents, and they can be very affectionate. Females can lay forty to sixty large eggs a year, and do so twice a year, in Spring and in Fall.

Many restaurants do not serve goose because there is not is large supply. The Yung Kee restaurant on Hong Kong’s Wellington Street is known for their goose. They have Chinese farmers raise them specifically to their specifications. Check out the article about this restaurant in Volume 21(3) on pages 10 - 11.

Those who raise geese for the market, tell us when they slaughter them, they like to marinate them in quarters. They also report loving goose meat, and that it is all dark meat. They use it often. Recipes follow, plus there is one for Lushuie which is stewed goose. It originally appeared in the Letters to the Editor article in this issue, is popular in Guangdong’s Shantou District, and here appears with the other goose recipes. It is said to be one of the most famous of Chaozhou dishes.

The recipes below include goose or go well with it.
Roast Goose Hong Kong Style
1 recently killed goose, eviscerated
6 Tablespoons salt, divided into two parts
2 Tablespoons sugar
3 Tablespoons five-spice powder
4 Tablespoons soybean paste
2 Tablespoons oyster sauce
1 Tablespoon Chinese rice wine
5 Tablespoons soy sauce, divided four and one
2 Tablespoons honey
2 Tablespoons hoisin sauce, optional
3 Tablespoons cold tea, optional
1. Pour two quarts of boiling water over the goose three consecutive times, then dry it with paper towels.
2. Mix half the salt, sugar, the five-spice powder, soy bean paste, wine, and four of the tablespoons of soy sauce. Rub this mixture inside and outside the goose, then cover the bird with plastic wrap or put it in a plastic bag and refrigerate for three days, turning it every twelve hours.
3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F, and put in the goose, breast down. After half an hour, reduce the heat to 300 degrees F after brushing the skin with a mixture of the other half of the oyster sauce, honey, salt, and the tablespoon of soy sauce. Brush it two more times when turning it every half an hour.
4. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool for a half and hour up to one hour, then chop it into small pieces, and serve.
5. Mix the hoisin sauce and the tea and serve as a dip, if desired.
Goose Carcass Soup
I goose carcass, chopped into pieces
2 cups Chinese cabbage, cut into one- to two-inch cubes
2 cakes bean curd, one soft and one firm, slivered
1 half-inch cube of a fermented square of tofu, mashed
2 Tablespoons Chinese rice wine
1 Tablespoon Chinese black vinegar
1 Tablespoons Chinese rice vinegar
2 Tablespoons mushroom soy sauce
1. Simmer the carcass for one hour in two quarts of water, remove the bones and tear off any meat and set that aside.
2. Put the cabbage, all the tofu, rice wine, the black and the rice vinegar, and the soy sauce into the cooked stock and stir well. Be sure the mashed fermented tofu is mixed in thoroughly. Simmer for twenty minutes, add the goose meat, then serve.
Goose Meat with Steamed Yam
1/2 cooked goose breast
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 Chinese yam
1 Tablespoon tiny dry shrimp, soaked for half an hour, drained, then minced
1 Tablespoon minced Yunnan or Smithfield ham
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sugar
dash of sesame oil
½ cup cornstarch, yam, potato, or water chestnut flour
1 cup vegetable oil
1. Slice the goose in half-inch slices and steam them for twenty minutes over boiling water.
2. Peel the yam, cut into several pieces, and steam it until soft. Then mash it with the shrimp, ham, ground pepper, salt, sugar, and the sesame oil. Spread some on each slice of the steamed goose.
3. Dip each goose-yam slice in the cornstarch or other flour, shake off any excess, and let these slices rest for half an hour before cutting each one on an angle.
4. Heat oil and deep fry until crisp, drain on paper towels, arrange nicely on a serving platter, and serve.
Goose Gizzards, Heart, and Wings
1 or more goose gizzards*
1 or more goose hearts*
2 or more goose wings*
2 scallions, each one tied in a knot
4 slices peeled fresh ginger
3 Tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 Tablespoon granulated or cubes of sugar
2 Tablespoons Chinese rice wine
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
½ teaspoon five-spice powder
1. Put all the ingredients and two cups of water in a pot, bring to the boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for one hour.
2. Remove the gizzards, hearts, and wings. Cut away the inner thick parts of the gizzards, and discard them, then cut the gizzard into four to eight pieces, and return these to the pot. Cut away any fat from the heart and cut it in half and return its pieces to the pot. Remove the meat from the wings and return the goose meat to the pot. Discard all the bones and skin; and the scallions, too.
3. Return the pot to the heat source, and bring its ingredients to the boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer another hour or until the gizzard and heart pieces are tender. The liquid should be reduced to a quarter of a cup, if not, boil until it is. Thicken, if desired, by reducing the boiling liquid for a few minutes. Then serve, or refrigerate and heat when ready to eat it.
*Note: Gizzards from duck and/or chicken can be added, as desired.
Goose Stewed known as Lushuie
1 fresh-killed goose
3 Tablespoons coarse salt
2 tablespoons lard
1 pound pork, sliced
2 small chili peppers, seeds discarded
3 large cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
6 slices fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
2 quarts soy sauce, half dark and half thin
3 Tablespoons brown slab sugar
3 cinnamon sticks, each two inches
6 whole cloves
1 licorice root, about three inches
2 star anise
½ cup black vinegar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1. Rinse and dry the goose, and rub it with the salt and hang it to dry for two hours in a cool or windy place.
2. Heat a large pot, add the lard, and fry the pork slices until very lightly browned, then remove them to a plate. Next, add the chili peppers, garlic, and ginger and stir-fry for one minute before adding the soy sauce, two quarts of cold water, the brown sugar, and the sliced pork.
3. Put the cinnamon sticks, cloves, licorice root, and the star anise in a cheese cloth bag or tie them together with thick sewing twine and put them in the pot with all the other ingredients. Bring to the boil, add the goose and let it simmer for fifteen minutes, turning it twice. Then take it out of the pot and let it cool for about fifteen minutes. Now put the goose back in the liquid for another fifteen minutes, and turn it every five minutes. Do this a third time, but this time let it simmer for two hours, turning the goose every fifteen minutes.
4. Remove the goose and cut it into serving size pieces, discard the cheesecloth bag of spices, and reduce the sauce to one cup.
5. Add the vinegar and ground ginger to the liquid and bring this to the boil before pouring it into one or two small dishes for dipping purposes. Serve this dipping sauce on the side, and serve the goose hot or warm.
Note: Save any left over dipping sauce; mix it with an equal part of boiled water or stock and use this as a master sauce in other dishes.

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