While not as fancy as its Peking relative, the Sichuanese Duck hails from the same imperial kitchens that made the Peking Duck famous. For those who don’t know, a Peking Duck is a famous preparation that requires the duck to be full blown with air, then coated with syrup and left to dry thoroughly before roasting. With a Sichuanese duck, there’s no blowing of air involved, but it still requires some patience. The stuffing will flavour the duck from within and the constant glazing, coupled with air-drying it upside-down will result in crisp skin outside and sweet duck meat within. If you’re looking to change-up Christmas traditions this year, putting a duck on the table, as opposed to a chook sounds like a fun idea to me. The way to eat it is actually quite fun- you pull the bits of meat off the bone or simply carve some and drop into a bowl, spoon over some stuffing and finish with the soy-rich gravy, made using the duck’s gizzards. Make the duck a part of a whole meal by serving stir fried greens- a mix of bok choi and mustard greens/saag on the side, a noodle preparation and some dessert.
As you can see, I’m pretty kicked about my Asian Christmas. I sourced this duck from Meats & More for a little over a thousand rupees, and while it may seem expensive to some, you can use the leftovers to make so many more meals, so I think of it as an investment. Everything from the gizzards to the fat and carcass- you can and should use it all- my favourite way of doing this is by dunking any leftovers in clear noodle soup. I’ve littered the recipe below with several tips, so don’t be afraid if you’re cooking duck the first time.
Takes 2 days to make
Feeds 4 as part of a whole meal or 2
Duck 1, about 2 kilos in weight
Toasted sesame oil to serve (available at gourmet stores)
Ginger 2-inch piece, grated
Spring onions 2, white and green parts finely chopped
Black bean sauce 1 tbsp (available at gourmet stores)
Chinese vegetables 3 tbsp, julienned, salted, and left for an hour at least. You can also add 1/2 tsp of red chilli powder to this (these can include a mix of carrot, mooli, broccoli stems, snow peas)
Chinese Hot Bean Sauce (Toban Djan) 3 tbsp (available at gourmet stores)
Shaoxing Wine 1 tbsp (available at gourmet stores)
Sichuan peppercorns 2 tsp, slightly roasted (available at gourmet stores or online)
Salt to adjust
Honey 3 tbsp
Chiankiang vinegar 3 tbsp (Difficult to find, so use a mix of balsamic and red wine vinegar or balsamic and rice wine vinegar if you can’t find Chiankiang)
Water 2 tbsp
Ginger 1 2-inch piece, grated fresh
Spring Onion 1, both white and green parts, chopped finely
Dark Soy Sauce 1 tbsp
Sichuan peppercorns 1 tsp, slightly roasted
Star Anise 1
Cinnamon 1 small quill
Fennel seeds 1 tsp
Clean the insides of the duck and remove any giblets and set them aside. Trim any extra bits of neck. Pat dry the bird and get started on the stuffing till the bird comes to room temperature. Combine all the ingredients for the stuffing and stuff it inside the duck’s cavity, then use toothpicks to fasten the cavity. Close any openings on the neck end of the duck as well, because we don’t want all the flavour from our stuffing to be dripping out, but rather stay inside and flavour the bird. Let this bird rest overnight in the refrigerator uncovered. We want the skin to start drying out.
The next morning start early, and bring a large pot of water to boil. Pour this water over the duck to scald it. You will see the skin shrinking as you do this and it’s quite fun to watch. Repeat this process once again, scalding it twice yields best results. Dry the duck’s skin with kitchen tissues.
Mix together the ingredients for the glaze in a small pan and combine over low heat till the honey has melted.
Using a metal hook or an old steel hanger that you may have lying around, find a way to hang the duck upside down from it’s tail end/flap. Don’t worry, it’s not going to break off. You must air-dry this till about dinner time, as this is what contributes to the crisping up of the skin. Alternately, if you are queasy about air hanging, just stick the duck back in the refrigerator uncovered and let it sit there and dry up slowly till it’s time to roast it. Once it is drying, keep basting the bird with the glaze once every hour at least, letting the coat dry out before adding another coat of glaze. Do this for six hours at least.
While the duck is drying, start on the gravy. Put the giblets of the duck in a pan with 1 litre of water and let it come to a boil. Any scum that rises to the surface should be skimmed off. Add to this the rest of the ingredients- spices, peppercorns for the gravy, bring it up to a boil again, then let it simmer for about 2 hours. Check for salt and set aside till it is time to put the duck in the oven.
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees celsius. Fill a roasting tin with about an inch of water and place the rack on top of this. Place the duck over the rack and let it cook for an hour, turning it halfway. Check on the water at this stage and refill if necessary. All the duck fat will be rendered into this water, which shall later be added to the gravy. After the 1 hour cycle is done, baste the bird with some of the fat rendered into the pan below and crank up the heat to 200 degrees celsius for a final 15-20 minutes of cooking to get even browning and some really crisp skin.
Let the bird sit undisturbed in the pan after you’ve turned the oven off for 10 minutes. Try to skim off as much fat as you can from the pan juices and add the rest of it to the gravy. If possible, at this stage, try to slyly spoon a bit of that stuffing from inside the duck- a tablespoon will do, and add to the gravy. Bring all of this up to a boil, season with salt and pepper, strain, and serve together with the duck and a drizzle of toasted sesame oil.