Roast duck

Roast duck

By
From
Hong Kong Diner
Photographer
Kris Kirkham

Like most blokes, my attention span when it comes to shopping is incredibly short-lived. In fact WINDOW-SHOPPING is pretty much as far as it goes for me, unless I know exactly what it is I want to buy. In Hong Kong, however, window-shopping is a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT EXPERIENCE. While for some it’s handbags a-plenty, for others like myself it’s A FEAST FOR THE EYES (and soon afterwards the belly), with ROASTED AND CURED MEATS hanging in just about every third storefront window. Now that’s my kind of window-shopping!

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
1 whole duck

The filling

Quantity Ingredient
2 star anise
1 small cinnamon stick
2 cloves
10 fennel seeds
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon garlic powder
50ml shaoxing rice wine
1 thumb-size piece ginger
2 spring onions

The glaze

Quantity Ingredient
4 tablespoons maltose, (swapsies: thick honey)
3 tablespoons red rice vinegar, (swapsies: red wine vinegar)
2 tablespoons hot water
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dark soy sauce

Method

  1. Put the star anise, cinnamon stick, cloves and fennel seeds into a dry frying pan over a medium heat and dry fry for 1–2 minutes, until fragrant. Tip the spices into a small bowl, along with the ground ginger and garlic powder and the Shaoxing rice wine. Finely slice the ginger and spring onions (scallions), then add to the bowl and mix together well.
  2. Rub the mixture into and all around the cavity of the duck, leaving any excess bits of fat or skin intact to help close it up. Closing the duck cavity needs a little intuition and resourcefulness. Traditionally, we use a duck needle or meat needle to twist and turn the fat around the cavity until closed. If you do not have such an implement, you can either sew the cavity up with a large needle and some cooking string (butcher’s twine) or use a couple of soaked bamboo skewers (soak them in cold water for 30 minutes before using). Most importantly, you want to ensure that the whole spices do not fall out if you are hanging the duck to roast, as the rest of the filling ingredients will get absorbed by the bones and meat eventually while marinating.
  3. Once the cavity has been filled and closed, place the duck, breast side up, on a large metal tray in the sink. Bring a full kettle of water to the boil and pour all of it gradually over the duck. Refill the kettle and bring to the boil once more, turning the duck back side up on the tray, and pour the water over the other side.
  4. Repeat this boiling and pouring on both sides of the duck at least 3 times per side, turning the duck each time. This blanching process will tighten the skin and remove the fatty impurities from the outer layers of the duck skin, eventually creating a crispier finish.
  5. Mix the glaze ingredients together in a jug or mixing bowl, stirring until all the maltose or honey has melted.
  6. Pat the outside of the duck dry with kitchen paper, making sure to get all the way round the skin. Then brush the glaze all over the outside. At this point, the duck will need a few hours to dry out. Traditionally, duck hooks are used to hang the duck in a cool, dry place (I once had a customer dry out a duck in his airing cupboard, although I wouldn’t recommend this if your towels are precious to you). The best place to air-dry the duck is either in your oven, hanging off the top shelf with a duck hook, or lying flat on a grill tray in the oven. No matter which way you choose, keep the oven door slightly ajar to allow the air to dry out the skin as much as possible. Hang for a minimum of 6 hours, and a maximum 8 hours before cooking.
  7. For best results and the most even colouring, roast the duck slowly on a barbecue spit, keeping the temperature as close to 160°C as possible for 90 minutes to 2 hours, until the skin has a good reddish brown colour. However, if this isn’t an option for you, the duck can also be roasted in the oven following the same principle of low and slow. Preheat the oven to 160°C and roast for 90 minutes to 2 hours, turning your duck over and around a few times during the process to achieve as even a colouring as possible. No matter which cooking method you choose, baste the duck with the glaze every 15–20 minutes, making sure you brush the glaze all over every part of the skin, in order to get a good colour and, of course, flavour.
  8. Once the duck is cooked, the skin should be a deepish red colour. Don’t be put off if your duck doesn’t look exactly like the ones you see in restaurants – many tend to favour a bit of help from food colouring to achieve that colour. Remove the duck from the barbecue or oven and allow it to rest for 30 minutes. Then portion the duck into legs, thighs and breast, as you would a chicken. If you’re brave enough and you have a good sharp cleaver, chop through the bones carefully with your cleaver to portion it in the more traditional way. Otherwise, just cut it up in the way you feel comfortable with, and let everyone dig in.

Warning:

  • This dish requires time, patience and a bit of love (don’t we all). So if you’re planning on serving this show-stopper for your Sunday lunch, you’ll need to begin your preparations by staying in on Saturday night to get started. Rest assured, though, your efforts will be well rewarded.
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