恭喜发财 – Gung Hei Fat Choy – Happy New Year, Citizens!!! It is the Year of the Monkey, and let’s celebrate with a most auspicious (and involved!) recipe!
I have celebrated a Chinese New Year Banquet for many years now, and few dishes are welcomed with such reverence as the classic, Peking (properly referred to as Beijing) Duck.
The dish dates back to imperial China, though the exact date of origin is unknown. A recipe for roast duck, called shaoyazi, appears in a cookbook called “Complete Recipes for Dishes and Beverages” written by Hu Sihui, an inspector of the imperial kitchens, in 1330!
A specialist restaurant called Bianyifang, which opened in the Qianmen neighborhood of the city then called Peking opened in 1416.
Peking Duck is traditionally roasted in either a closed oven or hung oven. The closed oven is built of brick and fitted with metal griddles (Chinese: 箅子; pinyin: bì zi).
The oven is preheated by burning Gaoliang sorghum straw (Chinese: 秫秸; pinyin: shú jiē) at the base. The duck is placed in the oven immediately after the fire burns out, allowing the meat to be slowly cooked through the convection of heat within the oven.
The hung oven was developed in the imperial kitchens during the Qing Dynasty and adopted by the Quanjude restaurant chain. It is designed to roast up to 20 ducks at the same time with an open fire fueled by hardwood from peach or pear trees.
The ducks are hung on hooks above the fire and roasted at a temperature of 270 °C (525 °F) for 30–40 minutes. While the ducks are cooking, the chef may use a pole to dangle each duck closer to the fire for 30 second intervals.
Almost every part of a duck can be cooked. The Quanjude Restaurant even served their customers the “All Duck Banquet” in which they cooked the bones of ducks with vegetables.
The cooked Peking Duck is traditionally carved in front of the diners and served in three stages. First, the skin ONLY is served with steamed pancakes (simplified Chinese: 春饼; traditional Chinese: 春餅; pinyin: chūn bǐng), spring onions and sweet bean sauce.
Several vegetable dishes are provided to accompany the skin, typically cucumber sticks and scallions. The diners spread sauce, and optionally sugar, over the pancake.
The pancake is wrapped around the skin with the vegetables and eaten by hand. The meat is then served in a second course stir-fried with bean sprouts and a light sauce. The remaining fat, meat and bones may be made into a restorative digestive broth, served as the third and final course to properly conclude the meal.
The problem is that very few restaurants – if any – in the U.S. do it right, serving it in 3 separate courses – skin, stir-fried meat and soup.
I’ve grown tired of merely remembering the authentic bird I sampled in Hong Kong, so this recipe – all three courses – are now enumerated for your dining pleasure!
Note that to attempt to make this dish, the weather MUST be dry – zero humidity or the skin will not be crisp and you will have wasted your efforts.
Citizens, I recognize this is a very complicated dish – that said, I hope you will decide to usher in the Year of the Monkey with this fantastic dish!
Battle on – The Generalissimo
1 5 ½ pound Pekin duck – innards removed, but save the gizzard
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. 5 spice powder
½ teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ cup maltose syrup (preferred) or honey
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 tbsp. peeled ginger root
3 star anise
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp. malt sugar
1 tsp. Chinese red vinegar
2 tbsp. rice vinegar
2 tsp. Chinese red rice wine
One 16-ounce tall boy of beer, emptied and refilled half way with water and Shaoxing wine
2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
⅔ cup (about 5 ounces) boling water
¼ cup sesame oil
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. oyster sauce
2 tbsp. soybean paste
3 tbsp. hoisin sauce
2 tbsp. sesame oil
1 tbsp. peanut oil
22 Mandarin Pancakes, or use crepes
22 pieces of scallion, 2 inches long, white part only
2 fresh red fresno chili peppers, sliced into 1/16th inch rings, seeds discarded (optional)
Peeled cucumbers, sliced into matchsticks
Dry duck carefully with paper towels and place on wire rack set in foil-lined rimmed baking sheet.
Using fingers or dull handle of a wooden spoon, carefully separate skin from breast meat by inserting fingers through bottom of breasts and slowly working your way up. Be careful not to tear skin.
Combine maltose and soy sauce with 1 tablespoon water in small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high until maltose is softened, about 20 seconds. Stir together mixture with spoon until homogeneous.
Spoon mixture over duck and rub over entire surface, making sure to coat all exposed skin. Combine all other marinade ingredients in small bowl. Sprinkle evenly over all surfaces of duck. Refrigerate duck, uncovered, at least 12 and up to 36 hours until surface is completely dry with leathery appearance.
Put the spices inside the duck and close it with a small skewer. Plunge the duck into fiercely boiling water for 5 seconds (be careful!) remove, and immediately plunge into iced water for 5 seconds to stop the cooking.
Remove the duck and dry it. Mix the ingredients for the glaze and paint the duck with it. This will give the finished duck its succulent, dark red sheen.
The duck is now hung up to dry in a cool place for 6 hours or so (TFD note: try putting it in front of a fan and rotate the duck throughout the drying period – do NOT attempt to make this recipe on any day with high humidity – it will ruin the dish!)
To make the green onion bunches, deeply cut the scallions 6 times at each end in a crosshatch pattern. Put the green onions into iced water and keep in the refrigerator until the ends curl. Drain well before use and optionally slip a ring of chili pepper over each end.
Mix all the ingredients for the sauce, with the exception of the 1 tbsp. of peanut oil. Heat the oil in a pan, pour in the mixture and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Adjust rack to lowest position and preheat oven to 350°F.
Open the skewered cavity of the duck. Stand duck vertically by inserting beer can into cavity and place on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet. You may need to break or remove the duck’s tail to get it to stand.
Roast, rotating after 30 minutes until skin is a deep mahogany, about 1 hour. Reduce heat to 250, add reserved duck gizzard to pan and continue roasting until fat stops dripping from cavity, about 30 minutes longer. Carefully remove duck from beer can and transfer to cutting board. Allow to rest 10 minutes before carving.
Remove the duck from the oven, heat ¾ cup of additional peanut oil to VERY HOT in a pot, and then carefully pour it over the duck.
Using a very sharp knife, carefully remove the skin from the breast, sides and back of the duck. Cut the skin into pieces approximately 1 ½ – 2 inches in size, carefully removing all the fat with the knife. (TFD note: Reserve the fat for another use – sauteed vegetables in this fat are stunningly good, for example).
For the Pancakes:
Combine flour and boiling water in medium bowl and stir with wooden spoon until shaggy dough forms. Turn out on floured countertop and knead until dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Cut dough into 24 even pieces about 1 tablespoon each. Cover with damp towel.
On floured surface, roll one piece of dough into three-inch circle. Repeat with second ball. Using pastry brush, coat top of first ball with thin film of sesame oil. Place second ball on top of first. Roll balls together into 8 to 10-inch circle (the thinner the better).
Preheat heavy-bottomed 12-inch cast iron or non-stick griddle pan or skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Place pancakes on griddle and cook until lightly browned in spots on first side, about 1 minute. Flip and repeat on second sides, about 30 seconds longer.
Transfer to plate lined with clean kitchen towel and carefully peel pancakes apart. Fold towel over cooked pancakes to keep warm and repeat with remaining dough balls.
To serve the first course, arrange a piece of skin on a mandarin pancake, add a green onion bunch, a piece of cucumber and spread with some sauce, fold and eat.
For the second course, the meat is traditionally stir-fried with bean sprouts in a lightly-flavored sauce, usually chicken stock flavored with ginger and a bit of Shaoxing rice wine, with perhaps a few vegetable coins thrown in for color and thickened with a bit of cornstarch combined with chicken stock and mixed before adding this into the wok.
For the third course:
Peking Duck Bone Soup
For the broth:
Bones from 1 Peking duck
Carcass, neck, gizzard,
Wings, leg & thigh bones
1 thick slice of Ginger
1 lb Celery cabbage – (ch’ing tsai)
2 oz Dried bean thread – (bean vermicelli)
2 tb Oil
2 slices Ginger
½ tb Salt
½ ts MSG (optional)
6 cups Peking duck bone broth
– from above (if there’s not enough, add chicken broth)
2 oz Chinese or Smithfield ham – slivered
1 Duck gizzard, sliced thin
Cut cabbage across into 1 – 1.5″ chunks (these will separate on cooking). Soak bean thread in water until soft, then cut into 6″ lengths.
Simmer in water to cover for 45 min: bones from 1 Peking duck: carcass, neck, gizzard (which had been roasted with the duck), wings, leg and thigh bones. Season with 1 scallion and 1 slice ginger.
Heat oil in a soup kettle. Add ginger, salt, and cabbage. Stir-fry 1 min. Add all remaining ingredients except bean thread, gizzard, and MSG (if used).
Cover and cook until cabbage is tender, 3 min or so. Bring soup to a boil, add bean thread, gizzard, and MSG. Turn heat off. Serve immediately