Food that looks real: Make your own Chinese-style roast duck.
You probably know that I'm the great encourager for everyone to know where their food comes from and for it to resemble the actual living organism as closely as possible. Having dirt still attached to potatoes and carrots still having their tops on, apples with blemishes and no sticker gives you evidence that they were grown. Seeing pumpkin cut up in a plastic tray with plastic wrap seems like such a waste of time and resources when it comes off the vine packaged in its tough skin.
Likewise, it's sad seeing trays of meat, neatly and exactingly sliced into serving sized piece so you can actually throw this straight into the pan and never have touched it. I'm guessing this makes it easier to distance yourself from the actual animal that gave up it's life to feed you.
So I'm all for everyone knowing more about the food they eat, see it for what it is then you can make the decision to consume it. You've probably seen in your local supermarket these packages of roast duck. Well there's a picture on the packaging alluding to the contents being of duck origin.
Convenient, sure, having them in the shopping aisle, alongside cut up, wrapped celery and pre-sliced ham but you know you can buy roast ducks for a Chinese take-away. Yes, they can appear to be quite real, tortured even, but if you've made the decision to eat a duck, buying it in three layers of plastic doesn't mean that it just became a Peking duck breast.
I don't rejoice in being this Loki-like character, you know a chaotic neutral who just wants to upset people without any real reason. You may not care either way, thinking about this stuff or having these dead creatures and dirt-encrusted vegetables thrust your way. I do think people should get out of the supermarket; get to know a butcher, visit a delicatessen who will slice ham for you, choose your ducks from the window.
Speaking of ducks - and to finish my thought gymnastics, just the other day - my friend Jeff Fook came to work and asked if I wanted a duck. Sure I want a duck, I said to myself, who doesn't? Then, on my affirmative nod, he says "What about two ducks?" Again, I can think quickly under these conditions, two ducks sounds way better than just one. "And do ya want some duck eggs?" I'm thinking we should play poker, I like his style. "Yes, I would love a pair of ducks and some eggs ... can you raise me some foie gras?"
The deal is done and the next day we have the ducks. If you are concerned about food looking real then you won't like this. It's definitely a duck, even without my childhood memory of Daffy I can see that the head, bill and feet all point toward a canard. It's big and clearly very fresh so what to do with my new found wealth in water birds?
Having the eggs makes me think of the beautiful egg nets that are used to encase Thai salads at Longrain in Sydney. And what could be better than using the duck eggs to make these gossamer wrappings.
Here is a process to make your own Chinese-style roast duck, which involves preparing the skin to form that lovely, glassy exterior and an intense stuffing to flavour the duck with loads of Asian sounding items. I've leaned toward Thailand but you can just buy a roast duck from your favourite Asian take-away which speeds up the process considerably.
Duck egg nets with roast duck salad
1 large duck
4 tbsp hoisin
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp five-spice powder
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp white pepper
1 thumb sized knob ginger, sliced
2 spring onions, tied up
4 star anise
Cut off wing tips, wash the duck and pat dry. Mix together the hoisin, sugar, five-spice powder, salt and pepper. Smear this into the cavity of the duck and place the fresh ginger, star anise and spring onion in there too.
Sew it all up with a metal skewer - take your time, this needs to hold in all that gear you just stuffed inside. Place on a rack and leave uncovered in the fridge for at least 24 hours.
6 kaffir lime leaves
1 lemongrass stalk, smashed
2 thick slices galangal
4 coriander roots
1 cup grated palm sugar
1 cup white wine vinegar
Bring water to the boil with the lime leaf, lemongrass, galangal and coriander roots. Cook for 10 minutes, strain. Dissolve into this the palm sugar and half the vinegar and keep warm.
Bring a large pot of water with the other half of the vinegar to the boil and blanch the duck in this for 20 seconds and drain on a rack. While the duck is still hot, paint with the marinade a few times.
If you have room have the duck hanging over a tray in the fridge for six hours or place on a rack.
Bring the oven to 200C, bake the duck, breasts up, on a rack over a tray with a cup of water in it for 45 minutes. Lower the heat to 170C, turn the duck over and cook for another 45 minutes. Cover with foil and rest. You can serve this salad hot or cold.
Duck egg nets
6 duck eggs
Whisk the duck eggs well and strain, chill for a few hours. Using a non-stick crepe pan or similar, heat the pan and brush with a little oil. Now dip your fingertips into the eggs and quickly make criss-cross patterns, re-dipping with the eggs as needed, once each is cooked pile them up on a plate. They will cook quickly so you need to be organised.
1 roast duck, as above or from your fave Chinese take-away
2 long red chillies, sliced
2-3 eschalots, slice finely
1 lemongrass, slice finely
6 kaffir lime leaves, shredded
1 packet of bean sprouts, super fresh, pull off the threads and seeds
1 cucumber, seeded and sliced
1 green mango, sliced finely (optional)
½ cup mint leaves, chopped
½ cup coriander leaves
¼ cup roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
1 small red or green chilli, chopped finely
2 tbsp fish sauce
60ml lime juice
1 tsp sugar
Mix together the dressing components. Pull the meat off the duck and slice, trying to keep some skin and fat on each slice, mix together with the other salad ingredients and dress.
To serve: Place one egg net on a plate, add enough salad to cover one side and fold over.