Oh. My. Gosh. My eyes nearly popped out of my head when I tasted the first bite of my succulent homemade Peking Duck.
Having tasted the best Peking Duck in the world (in my opinion) at Peking Duck, Private Kitchen in Beijing, I was on the search for perfection. And it was exactly how I remembered and imagined it to be. Epic!
The wafer-thin skin was so light and crisp it was more like eating light layers of duck crackling. No fatty bits whatsoever. The meat itself was beautifully moist and tender and flavorful. I just wished we’d made more pancakes!
The challenge was set for me by a friend (E) who was coming over for dinner. We’d decided to have Peking duck while watching Masterchef and without giving it much consideration I committed to making it myself.
I googled some recipes (here, here, here and here) and was astounded to find that the process, in some cases, takes upto 10 hours. I knew I needed to come up with shortcuts without compromising on the quality of the finished dish, so in my true food adventurer style I did.
To be honest, the hardest part was finding a fresh duck. I scoured most of Chinatown with no luck and then I remembered I had seen some Luv-a-Duck ducklings at Coles (Broadway). Bingo! I got myself a duck and went home cooking. The company also makes pre-cooked Peking Duck packs which I bought just in case and will be kitchen-testing against my perfection… more about that soon.
I made the mandarin pancakes as well, (E) helped roll them out too and as a result we ended up with a few weirdly shaped ones. Practice makes perfect (E) *grin*
If there is one thing I’d improve on in the future, and yes, I’ll be making this again, it’s the hoi sin sauce. We used a store-bought one and it tasted slightly odd. It was ok with the pancake, but could have been much better home made.
Serves 2-4, makes 12 pancakes
Homemade Peking Duck incl mandarin pancakes
The recipe is easy and prep is quick if you follow these five steps: clean, marinate, hang, refrigerate, roast. Having said that there is a few hours of “wait time” involved so its best to try this on the weekend. You won’t need meathooks or fans or bicycle pumps (!), called for in other recipes, just some kitchen string and a roasting tin with a rack.
Note: 3 of the ingredients repeat in the recipe, so just be aware that you will need 1 whole lemon, 10cm knob of ginger and 3 tablespoons of five spice in total – divisions are listed below.
- 1 fresh duck (I used Luv-a-duck and mine was 1.88kg)
- 1 tbsp five spice
- 2 star anise
- 1/2 lemon
- 5cm knob of ginger
- Sea salt flakes
- 750ml water
- 125ml Shao Xing cooking wine
- 4tbsp brown sugar
- 2tbsp five spice
- 5cm knob of ginger, sliced
- 1/2 lemon, sliced
- 1 cup plain flour plus extra
- 1/2 cup boiling water
- sesame oil
- Hoi sin sauce
- 1 cucumber, deseeded and cut into thin 5cm long strips
- 3 sprigs spring onion, cut into 5cm long pieces and sliced finely longways
Marinade: combine water, cooking wine, sliced lemon and ginger, five spice powder and brown sugar in a pot or wok large enough to fit the duck lying down. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, and cook for about 15 minutes to infuse the flavours. In the meantime, prepare the duck.
Duck: wash the duck under cold running water and pat dry all over with paper towel. Cut out any excess fat around its bottom cavity. To separate the skin – this will make it beautifully crisp and fatless, gently lift the skin with one hand and poke and slide your other hand in-between the breast meat and skin until you reach the neck, ensuring you don’t tear the skin through but it has detached from the flesh.
Marinating: turn off the heat under the marinade. Place the the duck into the liquid for 3 minutes and spoon it over any parts that are not submerged. Turn the duck over and repeat the process for a further 3 minutes. Reserve the marinade for roasting.
Drying: the other important step to getting a perfectly crispy skin is making sure it’s dried out before roasting. Pat dry the marinated duck with paper towels. Tie a long piece of string around the bottom of the duck’s neck and hang it up over a roasting tray in a well ventilated place to drip dry for about 1 hour. I did this over the stove attaching the string to a cupboard door. Pat dry with paper towel again. Transfer duck to a roasting rack positioned over a roasting tin and place uncovered in the fridge for at least 3 hours. This will help dry the skin further.
Roasting: preheat oven to 170C fan forced (190C, 375F, gas mark 5). Place ginger, lemon and star anise inside the belly cavity, cover with excess skin and cross the legs, securing them up with kitchen string. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of five spice onto the duck and rub it into the skin. Place duck on a roasting rack inside a roasting tin. Add 2 cups of the marinade to the bottom of the tin to stop the fat from splattering.
Cook on the lower middle rack for 1.5 hours at 170C fan forced (190C, 375F, gas mark 5). I turned the tray around halfway through roasting for an even “tan”. Then turn the heat up to 190C and roast for a further 10 minutes to crisp up the skin. In the meantime make the pancakes.
Note: roasting times are 1 hour per 1 kilo of duck.
Pancakes: using a spoon mix flour with boiling water in a bowl until it starts to form a dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and work for a couple of minutes until there are no lumps. Cover with a plastic freezer bag and refrigerate for 5 minutes. When ready, knead the dough for a couple more minutes and form a log. Cut into 12 even pieces. Flatten each dough ball with your hands, dust with flour and roll out to about 2mm thin between 2 sheets of grease-proof paper. Peel the paper away, grease one side of the pancake with some sesame oil and set aside. Continue with the rest of the dough, stacking the pancakes on top of one another for frying.
To fry, heat a small frypan on mendium heat and cook each pancake for about 20 seconds on each side or until they start to rise gently and get golden spots. You don’t want the spots to go to dark though.
Serving: cut the duck in half down the middle. Gently lift off the skin, place on a clean roasting tray, sprinkle with sea salt and grill for a couple of minutes to keep it from going soggy from the steam of the meat. Slice duck breast and leg meat and arrange on a warmed platter alongside finely sliced cucumber sticks, shallots, pancakes, crispy skin and hoi sin sauce.
Smear each pancake with a teaspoon of hoi sin sauce, top with cucumber, duck meat, shallots and duck skin crackling. Wrap up and enjoy.