Christmas is coming and 0ur culinary adventures have been continuing on three continents.
Claire has an annual ritual of watching Love Actually in December, no matter where she is in the world and what the temperature is outside. For her it marks the true start of the Christmas season. On Friday night she watched it with friends and served them her most elaborate Chinese meal yet. She prepared five fabulous Chinese dishes from Fuchsia Dunlop’s Every Grain of Rice including her first attempt at using tofu and her first buckwheat noodles dish. I’m very proud of my daughter’s growing culinary expertise and maybe she will even write it up for the blog (big hint Claire!!). I just wish I could watch Love Actually with her.
Meanwhile Shane and Shan were out to dinner with his good friend Steve who was visiting Beijing for a few days. They went to Jing Zun restaurant which specialises in Peking Duck and where we had a lovely meal with them and with Mike and Claire early in July. They didn’t sit outside this time though as the temperature is dropping as low as -12C in Beijing these nights.
We also had friends to dinner on Sunday and I cooked up my own Chineseish feast with a lot of help from friendly chefs on Twitter. These same friends had participated in my dim sum experiment a few months back and this time I wanted to be able to sit down and enjoy the meal with them. So the menu went like this:
- Shredded Duck Pancakes with Sichuan Flavours
- Braised Pig’s Cheeks with Orange and Star Anise, served with Steamed Potatoes and Five-spiced Steamed Greens
- Thin Apple Pie with Pecan Carmel Sauce and Vanilla Ice cream
Here is how I went about an Irish take on the classic Peking Duck Pancakes. These have five essential ingredients:
- Shredded duck
- Thin wheat flour pancakes
- Spring onions
Cooking a whole duck Peking style is quite an undertaking and one I haven’t got around to yet but I have discovered that P.M. O’Loughlin Foods in the Barbecue Centre in Shankill, County Dublin can supply a box of really tasty duck legs from Monaghan, frozen and vacuum packed in pairs. Twenty packs of duck legs cost €60 and I split the box with friends. These are a very handy freezer staple for €1.50 a duck leg and a convenient way of preparing the shredded duck meat.
As for the pancakes, Ive had one disastrous attempt at making my own with flour, hot water and a little oil (the phrase “lumps of lead” spring to mind), so I picked up a freezer pack in the Asia Market which are reliably skinny. But the treatment below gives these shop bought pancakes an extra lift.
I was going to do a traditional Peking sauce but a recipe from Ken Hom in Exploring China – A Culinary Adventure caught my eye. In it he used a sauce with Sichuan flavours inspired by Beijing Chef Da Dong who is widely regarded as one of the best chefs in China for his skill in re-interpreting regional Chinese dishes. Da Dong prepares shredded pig’s ears in a sauce similar to the one below. Note to self – must ask Shane to take us to Da Dong’s restaurant the next time we are in Beijing.
Shredded Duck Pancakes with Sichuan Flavours
Serves 4 – 6
- 4 duck legs
- Salt and white pepper
For the sauce:
- 1 tbs dark soy sauce
- 2 tsp Chinkiang vinegar
- 2 tbs Lee Kum Kee chilli bean sauce (Toban Djan)
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp roasted and ground Sichuan peppercorns
- About 24 wheat flour pancakes
- Sesame oil
- 1 cucumber
- A little white rice wine vinegar and a pinch of sugar
- A bunch of spring onions
- Preheat your oven to 200C.
- If your duck legs have been frozen, ensure they are fully thawed and dry them out, uncovered, at room temperature for about an hour, then give them a final pat dry with kitchen paper.
- Score the skin of the duck legs in a cross hatch pattern, season well with salt and white pepper and place in the oven in a roasting tin, skin side up.
- Roast for about one hour or until the skin is crisp and golden and the fat has run off (you can save the fat for making delicious roast potatoes) and place on a wire rack to cool.
- When cool, finely shred the meat and most of the duck skin and set aside in a serving dish. (Thank you Derry for excellent shredding skills.)
- Assemble the pancakes in pairs by brushing a pancake on one side lightly with sesame oil and placing another on top of it.
- Preheat a large flat, non-stick frying pan until smoking hot and then reduce to medium.
- Place a pair of pancakes onto the dry pan and turn them over with a spatula as soon as brown spots begin to form on the underside. Repeat on the other side then remove from the pan and gently peel apart and fold the pancakes, cooked side in, onto a plate.
- Repeat the process until all the pairs of pancakes are cooked and stacked. Cover them with a damp tea towel, ready to be steamed briefly before serving.
- Mix all the sauce ingredients together in a bowl and divide into small dipping bowls, one for each diner.
- De-seed the cucumber and julienne it. Place on a rectangular serving dish and drizzle with a little white rice wine vinegar and a pinch of sugar. Try to do this about 30 minutes ahead of time so that the flavours mingle.
- Julienne the spring onions and serve on a separate rectangular dish.
- Just before serving place the wheat flour pancakes in a small bamboo steamer over a wok or pot of boiling water and steam for 4 – 5 minutes at most. If you have stacking bamboo steamers you can also reheat the shredded duck at the same time.
- Alternatively you can re-heat both briefly in a microwave or steam oven.
- Serve the pancakes and the duck on a platters to share.
Your guests can help themselves at the table. Just spread a little of the sauce on a pancake with the back of a spoon, place some shredded duck on top, followed by some spring onions and cucumber. Fold and eat. These taste moreish and were a very big hit with our friends – definitely set to be a household favourite.