So, last week I cooked peking duck. Yes really. It was somewhat time consuming and kinda annoying, but I think I did an OK job, considering it was my first time. Peking duck is one of my favourite meals, so I was really concerned I’d screw it up.
First challenge was finding a way to dry the duck. You have to first separate the skin from the meat, and then dry the duck after painting on the marinade. Problem the first: It was really hard to separate the skin. The guy I saw in the youtube video did it so easily, I think my duck was really stubborn. So I used a wooden spoon and promptly shoved it right through the skin, causing a gaping hole. Oops. Anyway, after doing as much as I could I painted on the marinade. Luckily, we have a bar fridge with a fan in it (Yeah, who knew? It was just in the spare room) so in it went overnight to dry out.
The next morning it looked just like the pics online did; slightly dark, and the skin was very dry and stiff. This was my first tactical error. I had to roast this thing standing up, and now the cavity was kind of flattened so it was really hard to shove a can in there. My mum tried to violate the duck while I held it in place, but the can simply crushed against the force. The opening was too narrow for a full sized can, but perfect for an energy drink can. What you see in this image is ‘brain tonic’ or something. Fit like a glove. Note, I opened and poured out the tonic and just added some water to the can.
Side note: You know those recipes where they reckon a can of beer or coke or water will steam the duck/chicken? That’s all bullshit apparently – there is no way the liquid can get hot enough without burning the meat first, and it just does nothing. You can read about this here and here.
So, with the duck comically standing up in the roaster, I left it alone to cook while I had a drink.
After an hour and a half (Have to roast it relatively slow, cos of the sugar in the coating) it actually looked like a real one!
Disappointingly, the part where the hole was didn’t go crispy, but the rest was pretty good. The back wasn’t as crispy as the front and sides, but I think that’s my fault, I should have lay it down on its breast once the fat had rendered and got it nice and browned.
I’d made the pancakes earlier in the day. I was going to cheat and buy them, but for the life of me, couldn’t find them anywhere (Unless they were bought with some duck as well.. pfft) and making them Chinese-style required actually rolling out dough and dusting it with flour before briefly heating it. That sounded hard, so I just made French style crepes. Which, while pretty and lace-like, don’t hold their form as well when folded around duck, so I guess that’s why you have the stiffer less cooked Chinese version. Oh well!
Chinese 5 spice mix (about a teaspoon)
honey or maltrose (I couldn’t find any maltrose, so honey it is!)
Now, you know my aversion to measuring. This was a 2kg duck, and I used about 2 x tblspn of soy sauce (the non-sweet version) and about twice as much of the honey along with the 5 spice. Mix it up and paint the duck all over with it on a pastry brush. Then, put the duck somewhere cold to dry. If you don’t have a fan fridge, or a walk in fridge with a hook, just leave it on a clean towel un-covered in the fridge, away from anything that could drip moisture on it. Turn over after a few hours to get it all even. You might even want to shove a can filled with rice/beans up it before you dry it, so that you don’t struggle with shoving it in there afterwards, like I did,
Once it’s dry (around 6 hours, although I just left it overnight)– pour boiling water all over it, to shrink the skin. I just did this on a rack in the sink and poured straight from the kettle.
Pat dry, and then paint another round of the marinade on. Optional step to dry for another 6 hours, but some of the cooks I spoke to (and read online) say this is of little use as the water doesn’t really penetrate the bird, and you dry it off anyway.
Shove it in the oven, standing up on about 150 degrees for about half an hour or until there is an unhealthy amount of duck fat in the pan. Stand it up on a rack so that you don’t fry the bottom.
After this, I just lay it down, as standing it up the whole time in my oven would have burnt it. As it is, the wings and leg bones did darken, but on eating it, tasted really good so I dunno. Win.
Once it’s done, leave it to cool slightly, and then try and carve off all the skin. I used a ceramic knife, and even that wasn’t seemingly sharp enough, but I think it was more my lack of expertise than anything. After a mess of the butchery, I served with pancakes, hoi sin sauce, chilli oil, spring onion and cucumber.
Another little wrestle later, and I made the breast and leg meat into san choi bau. I used a packet for this, I’m not insane.