I think it was my favourite meal in China. A Sichuan restaurant in Shanghai where I ordered the crisply fried duck which arrived with steamed buns, cucumber and a chilli sauce. The restaurant was also memorable, though not as much as that duck, but because it was simply massive. It was so huge yet so popular, arriving at around 7pm (about usual for dinner you would think) there was not a seat in this maybe 1000 seat establishment. The next night I arrived at 5pm and got a seat AND a friendly, helpful waiter. He told me to eat the duck, cucumber and sauce in the steamed bun, I just had to work out how to organise this using chop sticks.
This is a quick, non-Chinese way to cook this dish. Non-Chinese because a Chinese cook would cook the whole duck and serve it on the bone and quick because the duck breast takes 8 minutes to steam whereas the whole duck or just the legs as I would normally cook take 1 1/4 hours.
Sichuan salt and pepper
1 tblsp Sichuan pepper
3 tblsp sea salt flakes
In a hot, dry fry pan heat the salt and pepper until just smoking. Tip into a mortar and pound with a pestle until roughly ground.
2 duck breasts
1 tblsp shoaxing
3 slices ginger
2 spring onions, chopped
Marinate the duck breasts overnight in 1/2 tsp of the Sichuan salt and pepper blend, the shoaxing, ginger and spring onions. The remaining salt and pepper goes on your table to sprinkle on the cooked duck.
For the duck you also need:
cornflour for dusting
grape seed oil for deep-frying
Ok they are not the prettiest steamed buns you have ever seen but they are easy to make and so good with the crisp, tasty duck. Actually I like them just dunked in the chilli sauce too.
1/4 cup warm milk
1/4 cup warm water
3 tsp castor sugar
1 tsp dry yeast
1 3/4 cups self-raising flour
peanut or grape seed oil
Put the milk and water in a glass and stir in the sugar and yeast, leave for 10 minutes until frothy on top. Put the flour in a bowl make a well in the middle and add the yeast liquid plus an extra tablespoon of water. Stir with one finger in a circular motion until the dough starts to come together then get your whole hand in and form the dough into a ball. Knead for 5 minutes. Smear a clean bowl with some oil and leave the dough here, covered with cling film, in a warm place, for 1 hour.
Knock the dough down then pull and twist the buns from the dough to make irregular rather ugly looking buns like I did.
Put the buns on small pieces of grease proof paper and steam for 10-12 minutes.
Back to the duck
Steam the duck on the plate with the marinade, in a steamer over a wok, for 8-10 minutes or until just firm to the touch. Rest the duck another 10 minutes then slice on an angle. Save the juices that form on the plate in the steamer, they go in the chilli sauce which you can make while the duck is resting.
2 tblsp chilli soy bean paste
2 tsp chilli oil
1 tsp sugar
Mix the chilli paste with the chilli oil, sugar and about 3 tablespoons of the juices from steaming the duck.
To fry the duck heat 2 cups of grape seed oil in a sauce pan. Have some paper towel and a slotted spoon at the ready. Coat the duck slices well in the cornflour then add carefully to the hot oil. The oil is hot enough if a slice of duck bubbles up well when it hits the oil. I twice fried the duck for extra crispness but it works well to fry once until golden brown then drain on the paper towel. Serve absolutely asap.