A good roast duck on the table can set the mood for Chinese New Year, especially after learning it is homemade. Representing a healthy and prosperous year ahead, learn how to prepare this Cantonese Roast Duck packed with hours’ worth of flavour. Selected from Wet Market to Table: A Modern Approach to Fruit and Vegetables, this recipe is one to keep and bring out when creating epic dinners with family and friends.
(Note: While this takes about an hour to cook, it requires 2-4 days to prepare.)
- 2 L water
- 90 g salt
- 3 tbsp honey
- 3 tsp five spice powder
- 1 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns
- 25 g sand ginger, smashed with the back of a knife
- 25 g ginger, smashed with the back of a knife
- 3 spring onions, roots removed, smashed with the back of a knife
- 3 tbsps hoisin sauce
- 1 duck weighing about 2 kg, feet and wing tips removed, with the neck left intact
- 2 tbsp honey or maltose
Prepare the duck at least 2 nights before cooking or up to 4 days in advance. In a wok or large pot, stir together all the ingredients for the brining, except the duck, over high heat. Remove the brine from the heat as soon as the salt and honey dissolve. Allow the brine to cool completely.
Add the duck, breast-side down, ensuring that it is completely submerged in the brine, weighing it down with a heavy plate if necessary. Allow to brine in the refrigerator for 12 hours.
The next day, retrieve the duck from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature. Discard the brine.
Bring a wok filled with water to a rolling boil over high heat. Gripping the duck’s neck firmly in one hand, ladle the boiling water over the duck, about 2 minutes per side. Your goal is for an even shrinkage of the duck’s skin to be accomplished.
Pat the scalded duck dry with paper towels. Heat the honey or maltose briefly until runny. With a brush, glaze the duck thoroughly with the honey or maltose and set the duck on a wire rack.
Place the duck and the wire rack on a large oven tray and allow the duck to dry uncovered in the refrigerator at least for 24 hours or up to 3 days.
Remove the duck from the refrigerator an hour before cooking, and preheat the oven to 175 C. Roast the duck on the wire rack and oven tray for about 45 mins or until a thermometer registers 55 C when inserted into the duck’s breast. It is a good idea to start checking at the 40-min mark. When the duck is done, allow it to rest for at least 30 mins.
Fill a wok half full with oil and heat until smoking. Gripping onto the duck’s neck as before in one hand, ladle the hot oil onto the duck, focusing on areas that are not a rich golden colour. The duck is ready when it boasts an evenly-browned skin. Carve and serve while the skin is crispy.
Notes from the author: “Before being offered a kitchen job, a cook is typically asked to go to the restaurant for a trial. I was lucky enough to trial at one of Melbourne’s best restaurants, Lee Ho Fook. One big takeaway for me was being able to taste their dishes and to question the cooks on how they are prepared. The Lee Ho Fook roast duck looked like a typical Peking duck on the outside, but boasted juicy, pink flesh rather than the usual dull grey at most Chinese restaurants. Armed with tips from a very helpful cook, I set about replicating the duck at home. This recipe is the happy result.”
Wet Market To Table (published by Epigram), $44.90, is available at leading bookstores and shop.epigrambooks.sg.
Photos and recipes: Epigram Books