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More pork fat love, but this BBQ Pork (cha siu) is WAY better than any I’ve had from other Chinese BBQ joints. 

Hey Chinatown newbie, let me give you some advice…

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When you enter a Chinatown institution like Kam Gok Yuen, with its yellowed linoleum floors and hole-in-the-wall booths, you remember a few things, ya hear?

  1. Take out.  Do not eat in.
  2. Make yourself prominent to the bbq master…the guy with the white paper hat, fat-smeared white apron and greasy hands.  And oh yeah.  He’ll be holding a huge, sharp cleaver.
  3. He’ll nod at you.  Don’t expect chit-chat and niceties.  Make eye-contact (you can smile if you want.  I do) and point to what you want as well as verbally indicating what you would like.  If you know some Chinese, toss that in there.  If you speak English, he’ll understand.  
  4. “Cha Siu”, you’ll say; pointing to the glossy red long hunks of barbequed meats resting in the vat of honeyed bbq sauce in the fat-spattered window display.
  5. He’ll ask you which piece or how fatty you’d like it.  Say “Buan Fei Sau” (half fat half lean), which will give you a juicy fatty chunk of Cha Siu.  He’ll size you up anyway and give you what he thinks you’ll like.  He’s been around.  He knows the ones who hate pork fat.  If you’re into lean, he’ll give you lean (“sau”, if you need to emphasize it)
  6. He’ll ask if you’d like it chopped.  Say “yes”, because it’s way easier than doing it yourself.  Besides, you’ll want to eat it right away when you’re out the door anyway!
  7. He’ll do his thing and chop it while the lady next to him will collect the money.  She’ll package it in a bag and dispense sauces and whatnot if necessary too.  Cha Siu is sold by the pound.
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My box has 3 pieces of bbq pork chopped up.  One is lean (for Bebe) and the other two pieces are 50/50.  The kiddies already tucked into the box of cha siu before I took the pic because it’s SO GOOD warm and fresh.  They ate about one whole piece altogether.

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If perchance you’d like to taste THE BEST SOY SAUCE CHICKEN in Metro Vancouver, you will order some here.  I’m sticking my neck out about this one saying that, but I have yet to taste any better and I’ve had a lot of soy sauce chicken.  This one is so silky tender.  The meat is juicy and there is nary a bit o’ fat between the skin and meat.  A good thing.  I purchased a half a chicken (they sell by whole or halves) and it comes with two condiments:  a sweetish soy dip and scallion/ginger dip.

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Ordering your Soy Sauce Chicken requires much more with-it-ness than Cha Siu.

  1. DO NOT GET DISTRACTED.  KEEP YOUR EYES ON HIM AND YOUR CHICKEN AT ALL TIMES!  These wise words were said to me by my mother as I casually walked out the door indicating that I was picking up chicken at Kam Gok Yuen.  My hubby echoed her later when he found out I had gone there for Soy Sauce Chicken, “I hope you watched him”.
  2. The cash lady may require you to pay possibly at the same time the bbq master is cutting that chicken.  Keep your wits about you!  Watch that chicken and deal with your money and the lady at the same time if you can.  I like to maintain eye contact on that bird before I even look at the lady.  She can wait I figure.
  3. You’ll get that awesome ginger/scallion sauce when you order Soy Sauce Chicken. Eat the chicken with white rice and pour some of that soy over your rice. Dip the chicken in the ginger/scallion sauce.

This is why you need to watch your poultry being cut at Kam Gok Yuen…and I guess possibly at other BBQ stores that have a restaurant.  The BBQ section is in the front but there is also a restaurant dining section at the back.  The restaurant patrons can order bbq items on rice.  Guess where they get the bbq from?  Well, apparently a piece of leg from each customer can add up and so the theory goes…

In the past, my mother and Stomach have both opened up their styrofoam containers at one point in their lives to discover the chicken looking a tad smaller than they remember.   You can be missing a part of a leg if you order a whole cut chicken.  It’s more noticeable to miss a piece if you buy a half I think.  When it’s extremely busy, and the customer is not watching, it is rumoured that the bbq master will snatch one piece from the leg and set it aside for those bbq rice dishes.  Pretty sneaky.  It all happens very quickly because he’s so fast with his cleaver.  You’ve got to watch him chop it up.  After a few of these little pieces, he’s accumulated enough for a rice bowl.  This only occurs with the chicken or duck I think because it’s sold by the whole or half.

This did not happen to me.  I always watch intently anyway because I’m fascinated by his knife skills.  He cut up the chicken deftly and even plopped in the neck part and every bit of wing tip.   My mother and I love the little wing tip.  It’s coveted and gnaw-worthy but I always give it to her anyway.  Filial piety, you know. 

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One of the features of a good Soy Sauce Chicken is the meat’s tenderness throughout—particularly including the white meat.  A problem with some BBQ shops is that after the meat is cut, you will see that the meat near the bone is pink and a bit bloody.  This is not a good thing in my book.  At Kam Gok Yuen, the meat is cooked but as you can see, the bone marrow indicates that it is just right.  The cooking time was impeccable.  There’s no bright red chicken blood oozing from the bone marrow.  See?

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Moreover, the white meat is tender, succulent and juicy.  The soy flavour is special.  It’s slightly sweet.  They’re using a very tasty master soy sauce recipe.

Kam Gok Yuen on Urbanspoon

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