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Chinese Style Crispy Duck

Posted May 28 2009 12:23am
Every so often I get a hankering for Chinese food. Unfortunately for those avoiding gluten, going out to dinner at a Chinese restaurant is pretty much out of the question as almost all Chinese food contains soy sauce or oyster sauce. (The exception is P.F. Chang's which has a fabulous gluten free menu.) So I took it upon myself to make my own version of crispy duck, a Sichuanese dish that rivals Peking duck in taste and aroma but uses a completely different cooking method.

The technique is to first marinate the duck in aromatic spices including ginger, sake, star anise, scallions and Sichuan peppercorns. The duck is then steamed and fried resulting in tender, aromatic meat and a crispy skin. The duck is often served with steamed buns, scallions, cucumbers and hoisin or duck sauce.

I didn't have all the ingredients for the marinate so I made up my own based on what I had on hand. I added star anise, black peppercorns, ginger, red onion, garlic, lime leaf, lemongrass, sake, gluten free soy sauce and sesame oil.
I let it marinate for 5 hours, then steamed the duck in the marinade by placing a plate directly into my steamer (see photo). Once the meat was tender, I let the duck cool and then deep fried it until the skin was crispy.

I shredded the duck and served it with lettuce wraps, chopped cilantro, lime wedges and sliced cucumber. It was delicious.

Here's the recipe:

1/2 or 1 whole duck
3 star anise
5 black peppercorns
1/4 red onion, sliced
3 garlic cloves, sliced
1 inch fresh ginger, sliced
2 lime leaves (optional)
2 inches of lemongrass (optional)
5 tablespoons sake
2 tablespoons gluten free soy sauce
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
corn starch (or potato starch)
canola oil for frying
lettuce leaves
lime wedges
sliced cucumber

If you are starting with a whole duck, cut the duck in two halves and remove the backbone. Then remove the wings. (Set aside the backbone and wings to make stock.) If you like, you can quarter the duck by separating the leg and thigh from the breast. This is not strictly necessary but can make it easier to fit in the steamer.

Next, combine the duck with the star anise, peppercorns, red onion, ginger, garlic, lime leaf, lemongrass, sake, soy sauce, and sesame oil and allow to marinate for 5 hours or overnight.

Place the duck and marinade on a heatproof plate or bowl in your steamer and steam on high heat, covered, for 2 to 3 hours. Add more water as necessary. The duck will be very tender.

Remove the duck from the marinade, pat dry and allow to cool. The duck must be completely cool for the skin to crisp. I've read some recipes that suggest letting it cool in the refrigerator for 4 or 5 hours before frying, however this is not strictly necessary.

When the duck is cool, rub gluten free soy sauce all over the skin and allow to air dry for 10 to 15 minutes. Then lightly dust the duck with corn starch or potato starch.

Heat oil in a wok or pan and deep fry the duck until the skin is crispy and browned, approximately 4 minutes per side. Remove the duck and drain on paper towels.

When cool enough to handle remove the duck from the bones and shred. Serve with lettuce wraps, slices of lime, cucumbers and cilantro.

Don't be intimidated by all the steps in this recipe. Although there is quite a bit of time required between each step, the steps themselves are easy and the result is definitely worth the wait !
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