Hungary now Singapore's main goose source

Dian Xiao Er's duck chef Li Xue Liang, 27, removes the herbal roasted ducks from the over and displays them at the shop window. If you regularly order goose at Chinese restaurants, you may have noticed a difference in the way it tastes thes
Dian Xiao Er's duck chef Li Xue Liang, 27, removes the herbal roasted ducks from the over and displays them at the shop window. If you regularly order goose at Chinese restaurants, you may have noticed a difference in the way it tastes these days. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN 

If you regularly order goose at Chinese restaurants, you may have noticed a difference in the way it tastes these days.

One reason is that the bulk of Singapore's frozen goose now comes from Hungary, after Taiwan was banned as a source because of bird flu.

Taiwan was the biggest source of the delicacy in 2009, when imports from there made up 55 per cent of all frozen geese brought here. But imports were suspended in March 2011 due to "detection of Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza (LPAI) H5N2", said the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA). Subsequent outbreaks there mean that the ban has not been lifted, the AVA added.

This has forced importers and restaurants here to look to Hungary.

In 2010, imports from the European country made up two tonnes, or 21 per cent, of frozen goose here. By last year, the figure rose to 16 tonnes out of 22 tonnes, or about 75 per cent. Singapore also brings in goose from other countries, including the United States and France.

The wholesale price of frozen goose from Hungary is about 10 per cent to 20 per cent higher than for Taiwanese imports, said the president of the Poultry Merchants Association of Singapore, Mr Joseph Heng.

"It's mainly Teochew restaurants that still serve it," he added.

Mr Lee Huat Kee, the owner of Teochew restaurant Huat Kee at Amoy Street, where a serving of braised goose costs $18, said he pays about 10 per cent more for goose from Hungary compared with that from Taiwan.

Cost, however, is not the main issue for him.

"Some of my customers find the taste of Hungarian goose too strong so I'll recommend that they have duck instead," said Mr Lee, who added that his restaurant started bringing in duck only after the imports from Taiwan were stopped.

Assistant professor of physics and biology at Nanyang Technological University Tee Shang-You said that geese from Hungary are usually put on a high-calorie corn diet to fatten them in order to produce foie gras.

"Hungarian geese are reared for foie gras instead of meat. Taiwanese goose should be tastier and possibly more tender," he explained.

Swatow Seafood Restaurant started bringing in bigger ducks over a year ago for customers who cannot get used to the taste of Hungarian goose. It sells about 70 to 80 of these "bigger ducks" a week, with a plate of the braised dish going for $15.

Said the Teochew restaurant's executive chef, Mr Frankie Ong: "Our customers who tried it said it's not bad. The ducks are imported from Malaysia so they're fresher too."

kcarolyn@sph.com.sg

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