I have been calling it 3 day duck (for the last 3 days). And look, I know that it is not what you would call normal to want to go home after a long day at work and chop a duck in half lengthways, marinate it overnight, steam it the next day, de-bone it completely, press it under a 4k weight for another night, coat it in whisked egg white then flour, steam it again, have you lost me already? It does not stop there, next you deep fry it, chop it and serve it with a mandarin sauce. Not normal behaviour really, but Niel Perry makes it sound so simple. What I will attempt to do with this post is give you photos for some of the steps as a photo tells a thousand words, or the extra few hundred we need to make it actually simple, not just theoretically simple. Broken down into 3 days does actually make it less daunting. Thank you to Kasia, the generous provider of such a stunning cook book and to Neil Perry of course.
Day 1, Get your whole duck, chop it in half and marinade it overnight (preferably, but you don’t have to which would cut the process back to 2 day duck): Make the marinade first as it needs to cool before being rubbed over duck.
Marinade: 1 1/2 tbsp light soy sauce, 3 tbsp shaoxing (Chinese rice wine), 2 spring onions, white part finely sliced, 2 pieces dried tangerine peel, 1 knob ginger, peeled and chopped, 1 star anise, crushed, 1 tbsp yellow rock sugar, crushed.
Dried tangerine peel can be sold as dried citrus peel or orange peel. The rock sugar is easy to find in Asian supermarkets as well and both the sugar and star anise can be crushed in a mortar and pestle. Heat all the marinade ingredients in a saucepan and simmer a minute to infuse the flavours, then cool.
To prepare the duck firstly chop off the neck and the wings to the first joint. Using a heavy clever and I use the wooden pestle from my mortar for extra muscle, using knife in one hand and bashing down on the clever with the pestle in the other hand, firstly chop through the breast bone. Then remove the back bone by chopping down both sides. This will remove the tail as well which wont fit in the steamer anyway. Now you have two halves of duck with breast and leg, when removing the back bone try not to cut away any of the thigh. Put the duck on a plate that will fit in a steamer and rub the marinade all over the duck. Cling film and refrigerate overnight.
Day 2, Steam, de-bone and press duck: I have cut the bottom out of one bamboo steamer to get a double height, so two on top of each other then the lid on top of that, it is the only way to fit in a whole duck. The bases are sold separately to the lids so you can pile them on top of each other and they are not expensive. The other option to steam a whole duck is the metal steamers from Chinese shops. Put the plate with the duck and all its marinade in the steamer and steam for 1 hour (from the time when the water is boiling). Let the duck cool enough to handle then turn skin side down and remove the rib bones and leg bones with a small sharp knife, remove the wing entirely if it is easier. You are trying to achieve two pieces of boneless duck without cutting through the skin. Wrap each piece loosely in cling film and place on a chopping board that fits inside a plastic container. You need another container that fits in the first one. On top of this you need 4k of weight, I used my mortar and pestle filled with some rice, pasta, flour etc. To the fridge overnight again. Here is my set up and the finished pressed duck.
Day 3, Crust duck, deep fry and make sauce: You need 2 egg whites, 4 Tbsp corn flour and 2 Tbsp rice flour (I used brown rice flour) for the crust and 1 litre of oil (I used grape seed) to deep fry. See below for the sauce as you should be ready to make this while the duck steams again.
Unwrap the duck and put the 2 halves back on the steamer plate. Sift the flours together. Whisk the egg whites until fluffy but before soft peaks form, coat the skin side of the duck halves in the egg white then sift the flour onto the egg white coated duck, blowing off the excess. Steam again for 25 minutes.
For the sauce you need: 5 mandarins, 4cm ginger, 3 tbsp grated palm sugar, 2 1/2 tbsp fish sauce. Peel 2 mandarins with a vegetable peeler then julienne the peel. Peel off the rest of the peel and rub the pith off the outside of the 2 mandarins then slice between the segments to remove each segment without the adjoining white pith. Juice the remaining 2 or 3 mandarins to make 2 1/2 tablespoons of juice. Peel and julienne the ginger. Heat the palm sugar with 3 tbsp water in a sauce pan until the sugar dissolves. Add the julienne mandarin and ginger and cook until the sugar is a deep, almost burnt brown, then add the juice, fish sauce and segments of mandarin. Take off the heat but keep warm or zap over a high heat for a few seconds again when serving. Use a good fish sauce like the Megachef brand endorsed by David Thompson, there is so much of it in the sauce it needs to be good.
Heat the grape seed oil in a wok to 180 degrees and deep fry the duck until attractively golden brown and crisp, about 1 1/2 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to take out of the oil and put on paper towel on a chopping board. Slice into 2-3cm thick slices and serve with the sauce, some on top but most on side to keep the duck crisp. I didn’t fry them together because the oil would have cooled too much.