Birds 40: Hanged Soy-Braised Duck

“Stuff green onion into the duck body cavity, cover the duck well and braise it at high heat. Xu’s store at Shuixi gate does this dish very well. This is a dish that cannot be made at home. There are yellow and black variations of this braised duck, of the two the yellow one is better.”

掛鹵鴨
塞蔥鴨腹,蓋悶而燒。水西門許店最精。家中不能作。有黃、黑二色,黃者更妙。

Certain sites online says that this duck recipe is actually the predecessor of the modern “Peking duck”, with the yellow version mentioned being salt water duck (滷水鴨) and the darker version being soy-braised and roasted. Sadly the connection between the previous duck dish and the famous roasted one in Beijing is rather hand-wavy.

Nevertheless the recipe does provide one hint that this might be a roasted duck. In Chinese cuisine, when something can’t be made at home it is usually because the home kitchen does not have the specialized equipment or facilities. Then as now, these are usually ovens and grills, so maybe… *waves arms vigorously*

Steam-Braised Bear Paw with Chicken (雞燉熊掌)

Today, a recipe from the Hong Kong Chinese cookbook 燉品食譜100種 published in 1978.

Ever since Zhou Dynasty (from more than 500 hundred BCE), bear paw had been considered one of the most precious and sough-after ingredients in Chinese cuisine. While I am not sure if this was because it was actually enjoyable, or if it was simply served and eaten for bragging rights, we know for a fact that bear paw was almost always served on the banquet tables of Chinese nobles and kings, and appeared regularly on the table of emperors. Not surprisingly the newly wealthy and/or autocrats of modern China too have sought out bear paw for their tables in order to gastronomically affirm their status and pad their egos. No doubt both the old and new trends for eating bears have been detrimental to the remaining wild bear populations in China (if they still exist) and have led to a rise in dirty and inhumane bear farms.

In North America, quite the opposite seems to have been true. While bear hunting in the 1800s and first half of 1900s have dramatically reduced the bear population, it appears that their wild population has increased greatly in recent years. So much so, in fact, that many US states and Canadian provinces sell bear hunting licenses to maintain the population. I know here in Ontario, bear hunting licenses are sold on a yearly basis and quite reasonable for residents of the province.

Originally, I was going to post this recipe solely for the purposes of research, education, and reading amusement, however now knowing the above, if you do happen to go on a legal and successful bear hunt and are interested in trying out a Chinese recipe, this is for you. Otherwise, you if want to try out the recipe without bear, you can also substitute in pork trotter and hocks. The pork version will probably be quite a good dish in its own right.

  • Bear Paws, a pair ………… 1.5kg
  • Old Hen ……………………. 1 whole
  • Duck, cleaned ……………. 1 whole
  • Lean Pork …………………. 750g
  • Chinese Ham …………….. 228g
  • Shitake …………………….. 76g
  • Second Broth …………….. 20kg
  • Top Broth …………………. 8 cups(1.5kg)
  • Rice Wine …………………. 380g
  • Salt …………………………. 1tsp
  • MSG ………………………… 0.25tsp
  • White Pepper ……………. a pinch
  • Ginger …………………….. 114g
  • Green Onions ……………. 250g

1. Choose a pair of fat and tender bear forepaws (not including the limb portion), put in a pot and add 7.5 kg of water, boil at high heat for around an hour and a half. Remove the bear paw and clean it of any blisters, cankers or scabs (繭巴), use tweezers to remove the hairs (the bear paws must have the skin still on), then wash and reserve for use.

2. Peel the ginger and slice it. Remove the old leaves and roots from the green onions (around 6 stalks), then rise and reserve for use. Soak the shitake in water until soft, wash them and remove the stalk, then squeeze them dry and reserve for use.

3. Heat the wok over the stove until red hot, then add a soup-spoon of rendered lard, a stalk of green onion, a chunk of ginger, then immediately add 2.5 kg of second broth (broth made from ingredients already used to make a broth) and 76g of rice wine. Add the bear paws, and cook for 10 minutes than scoop out the bear paw. Pour away the other contents in the wok and discard. Repeat these instructions 3 times, using the same quantity of ingredients. Reserve the bear paws, remove their bones, then take a knife and slice each of the bear paws into around a dozen thick rectangular slices. Since bear paw has a very strong odor, one needs to be especially meticulous in these steps of preparation.

4. Slaughter the chicken, pluck out its feathers and remove its innards. Wash it clean, along with the duck and lean pork, chop each into 4 chunks, and blanch in a boiling water to rid them of blood and scum, then scoop out and rinse them clean. Slice the ham and arrange them with the thick slices of bear paw inside an earthenware pot used for double steaming, then place the prepared chunks of chicken, duck, and lean pork. Add 2 slices of ginger, 2 stalks of green onion, 76g of rice wine, then add 8 cups of top broth (a clear concentrated broth made usually from ham and chicken) and a small amount of salt. Cover the pot with its lid, then place it in the bamboo steamer, separated from the water, and steam for a minimum of five hours. Next, take out the chicken, duck, and pork within the pot and discard. Finally, place the prepared shitake into the pot, seal the pot well (using coarse paper on the edge of pot and its lid to ensure the gap is completely sealed), and place it back into the steamer to steam for another twenty minutes. Remove, season and serve.

* The meats in this dish are meltingly soft and of remarkable fragrance. It is an item of the utmost preciousness in any high class banquet.

Birds 39: Broiled Duck (燒鴨)

“Take a young duck and mount it on a spit fork to broil. The cook employed by Examiner Ping makes this exceptionally well.”

燒鴨
用雛鴨上叉燒之。馮觀察家廚最精。

e790b5e790b6e9b8ad_pipa_duck_-_mabrown_28237639405729
Pipa duck, a broiled/roasted duck dish prepared by butterflying and cooking the marinated duck, which gives it that delicious char-broiled flavour. (Credit: Alpha)

I posit that the fork broiled or roasted duck described by Yuan Mei is probably like the modern Pipa duck (琵琶鴨), which is butterflied and flatten, then skewered on a spit fork for broiling. The name “Pipa” refers to the duck’s form that vaguely resembles the pear or loquat-shaped traditional Chinese musical instrument of the same name after it preparation.

Of course, fork roasting duck is not exclusive to Pipa duck, since the method can also be used to make whole Cantonese roast duck, or even Peking duck. However, this is rather rare for both since these two latter duck dishes are usually roasted hanging on hooks.

Another short undescriptive recipe by Yuan Mei.

 

Birds 38: Duck Breast (鴨脯)

Use the breast from a fat duck and chop it into large square pieces. Simmer it in half a jin of wine, one cup of autumn sauce, bamboo shoots, shitake, and chopped green onions. Reduce the cooking liquid and serve.”

鴨脯
用肥鴨,斬大方塊,用酒半斤、秋油一杯、筍、香蕈、蔥花悶之,收鹵起鍋。

duck_breast2c_smoked_and_panfried
Tea smoked duck breast with fried potatoes. Not much similarity to the recipe here, except for the duck breast and the fact that tea smoking is a very Chinese cooking technique. (Credit: FotoosVanRobin)

Another braised duck recipe, except in this one the duck has been glazed by the reduced cooking liquid.

Cookbook on 100 Double-Steamed Items

A few years back I was browsing through the overstacked shelves of a used bookstore in the Montreal (somewhere around Ave. Mont-Royal). It was a quaint and messy place, and despite the sheer quantity of books in it, I could not find anything particularly interesting out of its mass of predominantly old French novels and yellowing art books. I was about to turn and leave, when unexpectedly from the corner of my eyes spotted a string Chinese characters.

100simmered
The cover of the book, with some goopy winter melon and wood ear, an open qiguo (氣鍋) showing its conical chimney, a lidded soup pot with some hopefully nourishing brew, and saucy pork hocks. The decorations are classic 1970s Hong Kong, including that rather out-of-place bottle of muscatel (translated “rose fragrance grape wine”). (Credit: Some people on Taobao)

Wedged unceremoniously between some gargantuan art books on Kandinsky was a soft cover copy of “The Cookbook on 100 Double-Steamed Foods” (燉品食譜100種). Although printed in 1978 half way around the world, it was in surprisingly good shape and its charming cover with 70s-era puke coloured food photos beckoned. I quickly flipped through this book and by page four I knew I had to buy it.

While many of the recipes are relatively common, then as now, some of them, especially those from its chapter on “Treasures from the mountain and flavours from the wild” (山珍野味) absolutely blew my mind. The recipes read like a veritable zoo: rabbit, dog, bear paw, deep penis, partridge, civet, pangolin, soft shell turtle…etc. I’ve always thought that most of these recipes were lost in history after the end of the Qing dynasty, but to be able to read about it in a book published so recently was very surprising, if not a bit shocking.

Given how incredible and research resource this is, I think I’m going to translate and post some of the recipes from the cook book. Just reading through the book now, I know it’s going to be very interesting.

Stay tune.

Birds 37: Soy Braised Duck (滷鴨)

“Do not use water, rather use wine to braised the duck. Remove the bones and add seasonings before eating. This is a recipe from the household of Magistrate Yang Gong of Gaoyao.”

滷鴨
不用水,用酒,煮鴨去骨,加作料食之。高要令楊公家法也。

braised_duck_teochew
Teochew style soy-braised duck is definitely one of my favorite duck dishes. The only tricks to making it successfully is to not overcook the duck and to be generous with the galangal. (Credit: Chensiyuan)

Braised the duck with wine. Debone. Season. Serve.

(Overly) Short and sweet.

Birds 36: Duck in Disarray (鴨糊塗)

Take a fat duck and boil it in water until eighty percent done. When cool, remove its bones and tear the meat in natural and disorderly pieces, neither ‘squared nor round’. Place the meat back into its cooking liquid than add three qian of salt and half a jin of wine. Also add coarsely crushed mountain yam into the pot to thicken the dish. When the meat is braised tender, add finely chopped ginger, shitake, and chopped green onion. If one wants an especially thick soup, add powdered starch. The dish is also very good if one substitutes the mountain yam with taro instead.

鴨糊塗
用肥鴨,白煮八分熟,冷定去骨,拆成天然不方不圓之塊,下原場內煨,加鹽三錢、酒半斤,捶碎山藥,同下鍋作縴,臨煨爛時,再加薑末、蕈、蔥花。如要濃湯,加放粉縴。以芋代山藥亦妙。

Whitefaced duck (with one confused fulvous duck among them)
A duck that is confused. Or lost. Or perhaps just lonely? (Credit: Derek Keats)

The rather comical name of this dish probably comes from the fact that the duck is intentionally torn into random pieces and the yam is bashed into chunks. This is definitely a dish attributable to the culinary endeavors of a clumsy or confused person. To be honest, the name of dish can also be accurately translated as “Canard a la Clutz”, however I decided to side on the formal since it felt a bit more correct, for whatever the reason.

On a separate note, I’m not too sure about the appeal of this dish, but I suspect the scholars and high officials like to contrast their usually impeccably prepared meals with something that has the air of being haphazardly and coarsely cobbled together in a “peasant-like” way. After all that ultra-rich family in the largely biographical work Dream of the Red Chamber did this too, once eating grilled meats around the fire with their bare hands (which was used to hint at their eventual demise as beggars). So perhaps Yuan Mei and company, ate this dish while pretending they live the simple country peasant life, much in the way Marie Antoinette enjoyed playing make-believe at her fake peasant village?

Maybe the latter can be someone’s Master thesis?