Oriental Roast Duck

 

Based on Chinese tradition, a duck is often hung to dry, glazed and then roasted. Peking duck with its crispy, lacquered skin is the most famous example of this roasting method. There are various stages to the technique.

PREPARING THE DUCK

Before roasting, boiling water is poured over the duck. This tightens the skin and seals the pores so that the skin will be crisp when cooked.

1. Trim away the excess fat from the tail end of the duck. Cut a long piece of kitchen string and tie it in a double knot around the fat at the neck end of the duck.

2. Bring about 2 litres water to the boil in a wok. Hold the duck in the water and ladle it over the duck until the skin becomes taut. Remove the duck and pat dry.

3. Hang the duck over a dish to catch the drips. Leave in a cool (10°C), airy place until the skin is dry, about 3 hours.

ROASTING THE DUCK

Once the duck is dried, the cavity is stuffed with Chinese seasoning mix and the skin is basted with maltose* mixed with water. During roasting the flesh of the bird will take on the flavour of the Chinese seasoning and the skin will become crisp and dark in colour.

* Also known as malt sugar, maltose is formed by uniting two units of glucose that provide the first link in a process that eventually results in the creation of starch.

1. Soak a bamboo skewer in water for 30 minutes. Cut the string from the air-dried duck. Put the duck on a rack over a roasting tin. Spoon Chinese seasoning mix into the body cavity.

2. Thread the soaked bamboo skewer through the skin at the tail end of the duck to ensure that it remains closed while cooking. Roast the duck in a 200°C oven for 15 minutes.

3. Remove the duck from the oven and brush with maltose and water. Lower the heat to 180°C and continue to roast, basting every 15 minutes, until the duck is dark brown, 1½-1¾ hours.

MAKING CHINESE SEASONING MIX

An aromatic mixture of garlic, ginger, chillies and spring onions is combined with spices and herbs to impart a delicate Oriental flavour to roast duck.

Heat a wok until hot. Add 2 tsp vegetable oil and heat until hot but not smoking. Add 3 finely chopped garlic cloves, 1 tbsp crushed fresh root ginger, 2 finely chopped and seeded fresh red chillies and 2 sliced spring onions and stir-fry until fragrant and just soft, about 2 minutes. Add 2 tsp toasted and crushed Sichuan peppercorns, 2 tbsp each yellow bean sauce and soy sauce and stir-fry to mix, then remove from the heat and let cool. Stir in 2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander. Just before applying to the skin of the bird to be roasted.

CARVING THE DUCK

This is the classic Chinese method for carving roast duck. The pieces are reassembled on the serving plate in the shape of the bird. Garnish with sprigs of fresh coriander, if you like.

1. Let the duck rest for 15 minutes to allow the meat to retain its moisture and then place, with the breast-side up, on a cutting board. Carefully remove the bamboo skewer from the tail-flap. Cut each wing away from the body at the shoulder joint with a cleaver or large chef's knife. Cut each wing in half at the middle joint.

2. Remove each leg from the bird, cutting down through the thigh joint with a cleaver to separate it from the body. Cut the thigh from the drumstick at the joint between them.

3. Turn the duck on its side and cut away the whole breast from the body, cutting through the rib bones and leaving the backbone behind. Cut the backbone and the meat still attached to it across into pieces.

4. Cut the breast in half lengthwise, splitting the breastbone with the cleaver. The breastbone is quite soft and splits easily.

5. Cut each half-breast across into roughly equal pieces, cutting down through the breastbone.

6. Arrange the meat on a warmed platter in the shape of the duck, starting with the wings, thighs, and drumsticks. Pile the pieces of back on top, followed by the pieces of breast.

MALTOSE

This dark syrupy sugar solution is made from the fermented grains of barley, wheat or millet in a process sometimes called malting. It has been produced in China since the 2nd century BC and is commonly used in Chinese cooking for darkening the skin of roasted poultry and meat. Kept sealed, it will last indefinitely. Look for it at Oriental stores and large supermarkets. To use it for Oriental roast duck, mix 1 tbsp maltose with 4 tbsp boiling water. If maltose is not available, you can use molasses instead.