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Restoran You Kee XO, a family-run establishment in Skudai, Johor famed for its “XO Roast Duck” and “Crystal Char Siew” (left). Begin your meal with a bowl of hot, homemade soup (right). — Pictures by CK LimRestoran You Kee XO, a family-run establishment in Skudai, Johor famed for its “XO Roast Duck” and “Crystal Char Siew” (left). Begin your meal with a bowl of hot, homemade soup (right). — Pictures by CK LimJOHOR BARU, Feb 17 — Look out for the giant urns.

No, that’s not a line from the latest China-made, 3D Three Kingdoms remake with CGI-generated flying urns. Instead it’s a surefire way of locating Restoran You Kee XO, a family-run establishment in Skudai, Johor famed for its “XO Roast Duck” and “Crystal Char Siew.”

While a firm favourite of Johoreans (and even some intrepid Singaporeans who often drive across the Causeway simply to sample the roast meats here), You Kee XO is still relatively unknown north of the state’s borders. Which is a pity, because this is another Johor Baru gem every serious foodie should know.

The aforementioned earthenware urns are actually used to keep small pots of homemade soup warm. Nothing like a bowl of hot, clear soup that has been simmering for hours to whet one’s appetite. In fact, if you’re a Cantonese like me, it’s practically a must to have soup before every meal.

For your mains, order a platter of roast meats — the classic combination is roast duck, siew yoke, and char siew. The XO in the restaurant’s name is a nod to their XO roast duck. Expect crispy, golden-brown skin above a fine layer of duck fat and fall-off-the-bone duck meat beneath.

You Kee XO’s famous roast meats – Crystal Char Siew (front), XO Roast Duck (middle), and siew yoke (back) (left). Volcanic Tofu, a slab of tofu sizzling away in a claypot, surrounded by savoury gravy (right).You Kee XO’s famous roast meats – Crystal Char Siew (front), XO Roast Duck (middle), and siew yoke (back) (left). Volcanic Tofu, a slab of tofu sizzling away in a claypot, surrounded by savoury gravy (right).Why such a fine layer of fat? Somehow during the roasting, most of the duck fat melts away to infuse the meat with a self-basting juiciness that no marinade can match. You’ll enjoy this if you like moist and juicy flesh; if you crave thick layers of duck fat, you may find this lacking though. (This may explain its popularity with the health-conscious Singaporeans.)

The siew yoke (roast pork belly) is decent enough though far from the draw here. The middle child syndrome is in effect here: satisfactory but not the most loved.

For me, the real star of the platter is the Crystal Char Siew. These slices of caramelised roast pork initially look daunting due to their thickly-cut portions but you’ll change your mind after one bite. It has the perfect balance of succulent and slightly charred layers, meaning it’s both tender yet crisp in turn. The meat is flavourful yet not overly cloying as it’s not too sweet.

The “crystal” in the description may refer to its near-translucence but it may well also refer to its gem-like quality. This is some of the best char siew I’ve ever eaten.

Fresh kampong chicken, steamed in essence of chicken (left). Spicy Petai with Eggplant is another You Kee XO house specialty (right).Fresh kampong chicken, steamed in essence of chicken (left). Spicy Petai with Eggplant is another You Kee XO house specialty (right).​Another highlight is their Volcanic Tofu, a slab of tofu sizzling away in a claypot, surrounded by savoury gravy. If that’s not enough to perk you up, how about some fresh kampong chicken, steamed in essence of chicken for that extra kick?

Complete your meal with some vegetables, but instead of the usual leafy greens, try something more adventurous. A lesser-known You Kee XO house specialty is their Spicy Petai with Eggplant. Deceptively simple in appearance, the dish is perfectly stir-fried with the right amount of wok hei, which brings out the pungent kick of the stink beans. The sliced eggplant and onions add heft and bite. Don’t miss this if you’re a fan of petai.

Restoran You Kee XO
93 Jalan Pendekar 2, Taman Ungku Tun Aminah, Skudai, Johor Baru
Open daily 10am-10pm
Tel: 07-5543879

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