China in our hands: Peking duck

Today is our WordPress anniversary, which means we cooked our first dish for this challenge, Welsh cawl, exactly one year ago! It’s crazy to think how that time has flown. Thanks to those who’ve followed us along the way. Now, 365 days later, we have another dish to share…

We mentioned last week that we’d missed out on commemorating Chinese New Year and (for the first time in Mash history) Pancake Day – mostly due to a abundance of other food. Well, seeing as the next country on our culinary tour list was China, there was no better way to rectify this disaster than to combine the two and make that most iconic of Chinese dishes, Peking duck (otherwise known as crispy duck pancakes). A couple of Miranda’s Chinese students had also recommended it out of all the Chinese dishes out there, which was another reason to give it a go.

This also seemed like a perfect excuse to go exploring in Chinatown in order to track down some authentic hoisin sauce and a bamboo steamer for the pancakes (not to mention the pancakes themselves – we weren’t taking any risks after our recent dosa disaster), so we had a fun afternoon exploring London’s Gerrard Street, getting some crispy duck inspiration and feeding our faces with pork dumplings and pineapple buns.

Chinatown fun

We then enjoyed the relative ease of cooking our Peking duck and enjoying an informal meal later that evening. There were so many different recipes out there, but we chose one by Ching-He Huang on FoodNetwork.co.uk.

Peking Duck

Ingredients
One 2.25-2.7kg duck
Salt and pepper

For the glaze:
6 tbsp honey
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
4 tbsp five spice powder
2 tbsp brown sugar
6 tbsp water

For the sauce:
1 tbsp cornflour
1 tbsp cold water
2 tbsp sesame oil
6 tbsp hoisin sauce
6 tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp dark soy sauce

To serve:
Spring onions, sliced into long thin strips
Cucumber, cored and sliced into long thin strips
Chinese/Mandarin style pancakes

Method
1. Prick the duck all over with a small knife. Carefully pour hot water over the duck to rinse and dry by patting it with paper towels. Season the duck with salt and pepper and leave it in a roasting pan until ready to cook.
2. Mix the ingredients for the glaze together and brush all over the duck inside and out. Let it dry for about 10 minutes and brush again. Continue until all but 4-5 tbsp of glaze has been used (reserve this glaze). Let the duck marinate for as long as possible (ideally overnight but we left it for about 6 hours) in the fridge.
3. When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 180C.
4. Cook the duck, breast side down, for 45 minutes. Turn it over, baste it with the leftover glaze, and cook for another 45 minutes or until crispy (not burnt). When cooked, remove from the oven and let it rest while you make your sauce.
5. To make the sauce, mix the cornflour and water together and set aside. Next, heat a small pan and add the remaining ingredients. When the sauce starts to bubble slightly, add the cornflour mixture and stir well to thicken.
6. Carve the duck and serve with the pancakes, spring onion, cucumber and sauce.

Uncooked duck

Cooked duck

All set

Duck pancake

Dinner

Things we’ve learnt from this recipe:
1. There is lots of yummy food in Chinatown. And 30p fortune cookies with insightful messages like ‘You like chocolate’ and ‘You can do it’.
2. Duck is a right nuisance to carve and extract meat from. Chicken is far easier.
3. Choosing a more authentic recipe that involved hanging the duck for hours to dry it out, rather than soaking it in a marinade, probably would have made it crispier.
4. You need to watch the sauce really carefully otherwise it will thicken too much and turn into some sort of Oriental toffee.
5. We need to learn how to steam pancakes in a bamboo steamer. Our attempt resulted in vaguely pancake shaped mush. Fortunately, we’d bought another two packets of pancakes. The steamer was a good aesthetic prop, though.
6. Roasting a honey-based glaze on the bottom of a pan is not a good idea if you value your time spent not scrubbing dishes.
6. The combination of duck, glaze, pancake, sauce, spring onion and cucumber was REALLY good! There’s a reason it’s such a popular dish in Chinese restaurants. Whether we’d make it again probably depends on whether we can be bothered buying a duck again, but it was definitely a fun experiment.

Next stop: Bangladesh. More curry. Hurrah…!

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3 thoughts on “China in our hands: Peking duck

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