A couple decide to celebrate their anniversary at their local Chinese restaurant. After looking at the menu, they finally decide to share the Chef’s Special Chicken Surprise.
The waiter brings them their dish served in a large cast-iron pot.
Just as the wife is about to start, the lid of the pot rises a little and she sees two beady little eyes looking around before the lid slams back down. ‘Did you see that?’, she asks her husband, just as the lid rises again and two beady little eyes look around again before the lid slams down.
Rather perturbed, the husband calls for the manager, and asks for an explanation.
‘What did you order sir?’, asks the manager.
‘The Chef’s Special Chicken Surprise’, says the husband.
‘Oh, I do apologize’ says the manager, ‘The waiter has made a mistake and brought you the Peking duck.’
Peking Duck (北京烤鴨), or Crispy Aromatic Duck (香酥鴨), a similar dish in the UK, has been another thing that I miss on occasions while in the states. Peking Duck, or maybe now it should be called Beijing Duck is a very old dish from China and the dish that we know today was fully developed during the Ming Dynasty. It seems to be missing from every Chinese restaurant or take-away we’ve visited so far. This maybe because the majority of Chinese restaurants we have seen so far, seem to be Hunan (a province of South-Central China) and a large majority of UK Chinese immigrants originally came from Hong Kong and therefore they may have different food cultures. Another thing I cannot find here in the US, is Crispy Shredded Chili Beef, but I have a method for cooking that.
Last night the craving for Peking Duck, became too much and I was sent on a search to find it. First stop was a nearby Asian supermarket and after looking for pre-packaged frozen duck and pancakes, I found whole roasted Peking Ducks at the barbecue counter with a whole roast pig and other delicious looking goodies. The lady who served me asked if I wanted the duck chopped up. I declined as I wanted to take a photo of it at home, but also to ‘scare’ Ems with it, as the head and beak were still attached. Finding the other supplies was easy.
Duck is fairly difficult to find the the US and is not readily available even in the biggest stores. However I did find fresh and frozen whole ducks in the Asian supermarket, but no duck breasts. There wasn’t a huge saving to be made by buying a fresh or frozen duck and preparing it myself compared to the pre-roasted duck, but see below the method for preparing your own Peking Duck if required. This is a simplified method of perparing the duck at home, without the need for bicycle pumps and days of drying.
Simple Method for Preparing Peking Duck
After washing and drying your duck, rub it all over, inside and out with a lot of salt. Sprinkle Chinese 5-Spice all over the outside of the bird and rub some grated fresh ginger inside the cavity. Place the duck on a roasting tray in a 170C (325F) oven for about 2 hours. Check on it every so often and spoon out the excess fat to prevent smoking. The duck will be ready when the leg meat pulls away from the bone and the skin has become wonderfully crispy.
I shredded the meat and skin with two forks and put it the oven for 20mins to re-heat. While waiting, I shredded some spring (green) onions, made cucumber ‘matchsticks’ and laid out the moo shu pancakes, I had bought with some hoisin and plum sauces.
To eat, just spread a little of the hoisin or plum sauce on the pancake, add some onions, cucumbers and some duck. Roll up into a tube, eat and repeat.