Homemade Peking Duck 北京烤鸭běi jīng kǎo yā

Simply using oven and a few tricks, we can certainly make the famous Peking duck in our home kitchen. Though preparation takes more than 24 hours, the active cooking time is much less. And you get to enjoy this gorgeous, restaurant-quality Peking duck at home. The thin and crispy skin is nicely separate from the duck meat. Serve the skin or/and meat with sugar or sweet bean sauce as a dip. Keep the carved duck or the remainder of the roast duck to make a tasty soup for your next meal.

You will need to have one particular ingredient, maltose麦芽糖, help achieve the gorgeous skin color. Maltose is a very thick liquid sugar made from sprouted grains such as barley. It is less sweet than corn syrup but much sticker and firmer. It is used widely in Chinese disserts and sweets. It is available in small plastic tubs in Chinese grocery stores or Amazon. Maltose must be heated before it can be scooped into measuring spoons. This can be done in the microwave on low power in short bursts, or by placing the tub in a bowl of hot water.

Ingredients

  • I duck, about 5 lbs
  • 3 tablespoons                   maltose 麦芽糖
  • 3 tablespoons                    hot water
  • 1 teaspoon white rice vinegar, optional
  • 1/2 teaspoon    China five spice powder五香粉
  • 1/3 teaspoon                     salt
  • 1/3 teaspoon     black peppercorn powder, optional
  • 1 tablespoon,                     Chinese cooking wine
  • 1 loaf of bread, soaked with water

Equipment

  • a roast pan with rack OR a baking tray and baking cooling rack
  • an empty wine bottle and a pastry brush

To enjoy the duck

  • Peking duck pancakes, click here for how to make your own pancakes
  • sweet bean paste甜面酱
  • English or mini cucumbers, thinly sliced
  • Leek or spring onions, white part only, thinly sliced

Method

Preparation (start 24 hours earlier)

  1. Tuck an empty wine bottle into the cavity of duck and set the duck upright. Heat up a pot of water. Pour the hot water into a heat-proof water pitcher or a large bowl. The water should be about 90C°/180F°. Pour the hot water all over the duck skins include the skins inside the legs and wings.

2. Scoop three tablespoons of maltose into a bowl (you may find Maltose is sticky or too firm. If so, you can soften the syrup by placing the container of the maltose in a bowl of hot water 5 minutes ahead of time.) Add three tablespoons of water into the bowl Mix it well. Or place the bowl into microwave on low power for about 1 minute. Add a teaspoon of white rice vinegar.

3. Use a pastry to brush diluted syrup all over the duck skins include insides of the legs and wings. Leave the duck in room temperature for 30 minutes. Then repeat the brushing process by using up all your syrup. Clear a space in the fridge. Place the duck in the fridge overnight (no less than 24 hours.)

Roasting the duck (this takes about a total of 3 to 4 hours)

  1. Heat up the oven to 360F°/180C°. Line up the roasting pan with two layers of aluminum foil (this makes cleaning work easier!).

2. In a bowl, mix 1 teaspoon of five spice powder, ½ teaspoon of salt and black peppercorn powder and 1 tablespoon of Chinese cooking wine. Place the duck on the roasting rack with breast facing up. Soak a loaf of bread in the water.

3. Brush the cavity of the bird with the liquid. Tuck the soaked bread into the cavity of the duck. Wrap the legs and wings with aluminum foil – this prevents this leaner part of the meat from burning during the slow roasting process. Place the roasting pan into the lower rack of the oven. Close the oven. Bake for 30 minutes.

4. Turn down the oven heat to 250F°/125C°. Tent the duck with aluminum foil. Bake for 2.5 hours to 3 hours. The roasting time depends on the size of your bird. Add 10 to 12 minutes for each additional pound.

5. Heat up the oven to 360F°/180C°.  In the meantime, carefully remove the roasting pan from the oven – the pan is hot so not to burn yourself. Use a spoon or fork to remove the bread from the duck. Remove the aluminum foil from the legs – but still leave the wings and bones part of legs. Place the roasting pan back to the oven – depending how deep the skin color looks like now. To prevent the skins from darkening, you can tent the duck again with aluminum foil. Bake in the oven for 30 to 45 minutes.

6. The duck is ready to serve now.

How to cut the duck

  1. Once the duck is out from oven, rest the duck for 5 minutes. Then cut a line around the beast. Use the tip of your knife to remove the half of the breast with the skin on. Slice the duck breast into a bite size piece. Continue to work on the other piece of the breast.

Jade Dumplings 翡翠水饺fěi cuì shuǐ jiǎo

The Year of the Ox is just around the corner. It’s time to get together with family and friends to wrap health and delicious dumplings, or “Jiao Zi” in Mandarin. Let us wish these beautiful jade dumplings bring us good luck and prosperity for the year ahead.
 

Yields about 60 dumplings

Wrappers

  • 200g + 200g       all-purpose flour
  • ¼ + ¼  teaspoon    salt
  • 110g                   water in room temperature
  • 110g                   spinach juice (to make spinach juice, place 3 to 4 cups of baby spinach and ½ cup of water in a blender. Pour the ground spinach into a cheese cloth and squeeze the juice into a bowl.)

Filling

  • 250g                    ground pork
  • 125g                    ginger and spring onion water* (calls for 15g sliced ginger and 15g roughly chopped spring onions and 200g water)
  • 1 teaspoon         salt
  • 1 teaspoon         sugar
  • 1 tablespoon      light soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon        sesame oi
  • 1 tablespoon        Chinese cooking wine (substitute it with Japanese mirin)
  • 1 tablespoon       cooking oil (optional)
  • 250g                    vegetables – you have the option of shredded zucchini, minced mushroom (either brown or button mushroom is fine) or minced Napa cabbage

Dipping sauce per person

  • 1 tablespoon      Chinkiang vinegar 镇江香醋 (substitute it with Balsamic vinegar)
  • ½ tablespoon       light soy sauce 生抽
  • 1 teaspoon           any chili oil or minced chili, optional

Method

For wrappers and filling

  1. Get a medium size mixing bowl. Place into 200g all-purpose flour and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Gradually add into 11g of water. Use your hand to mix them together. Tip the dough out on a lightly floured surface and, using your fingers and palms, knead for 5-6 minutes till the dough becomes smooth. Cover the dough/mixing bowl with clingy film. Leave to rest for 20-30 minutes.
  2. Get another medium size of mixing bowl. Place into 200g all-purpose flour and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Gradually add into 11g of spinach juice. Use your hand to mix them together. Tip the dough out on a lightly floured surface and, using your fingers and palms, knead for 5-6 minutes till the dough becomes smooth. Cover the dough/mixing bowl with clingy film. Leave to rest for 20-30 minutes.
  3. While dough is resting. Let’s season the filling. Add sliced ginger, spring onions and water in a bowl. squeeze ginger and spring onions in the water, rub them in the water then drain by discarding spring onions and ginger.
  4. Use chopsticks or pork to stir in the water. Stir in one direction for about 1 minute. Add into 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of sugar, 1 teaspoon of sesame oil,1 tablespoon of light soy sauce and 1 tablespoon of Chinese cooking wine. Mix well. Prepare your preferred shredded vegetable. Combine them with seasoned ground pork. Set Aside.
  5. Now, let’s make the wrapper and assemble the dumplings. Divide white dough into three equal pieces. Divide the green dough into three equal pieces. Pick one piece of white dough and roll it out into a rectangular shape. Do the same with 1 piece of green dough. Place the green piece on top of the white piece. Use a rolling pin to press the dough down for them to be stick together. Pick up the longer side of the rectangular dough then roll up the into a rod shape. Cut them into 18- 20 equal small pieces.

6. Simply use your hand to pick up each piece and pound it into the floured surface to make a small circular disc. Then use a rolling pin to smooth out each disc till it’s about 9cm in diameter – edges are thinner than the center as this has to hold the filling. You can constantly dust the rolling pin with flour to keep the wrappers from sticking.

Assemble

  1. Place a wrapper in the palm of your hand and spoon 1 to 1.5 tablespoon of filling into the center of the wrapper, form a taco shape and bring the front and back together in the middle.
  2. Start pinching one end of the wrapper to seal, heading towards the middle. Then do the same with the other end.

Continue working on the rest of the dough and filling to make 40 more dumplings by repeating the process with the rest of the dough and filling.

How to cook  

  1. The whole process takes about 12-15 minutes.
  2. Make a big pot of water to a boil.
  3. Add the dumplings into the boiling water and cover the pot. Fill into the pot with 1 cup of cold water every 2-3 minutes for three times whenever the water starts boiling. Use the slotted spoon to push around the dumplings in the water to keep them sticking to the bottom from time to time.

Tips

You can always make large quantity of the dumplings and keep them in the freezer. Just allow 2-3 more minutes of cooking time when cooking the frozen dumplings.

Chicken with Bell Peppers意式炖鸡

This colourful one-pot dinner dish is warm and comforting. You may have all the ingredients in your pantry already!

Serves 4

  • 1.2 kg (about 2.5lb) chicken or 900gram chicken thigh, cut into serving pieces
  • salt and black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons        olive oil
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 120ml or (1/2 cup)   white wine
  • 2 large bell peppers, red, yellow or green, sliced into small strips
  • 2 big tomatoes, fresh or canned, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, roughly chopped

Method

  1. Clean the chicken under running water. Pat dry with kitchen towel. Cut the chicken/chicken thigh into serving pieces. Season the chicken with salt ground black pepper. Heat the oil in a large heavy pan or casserole. Add the onions and cook over low heat until soft. Transfer to a side dish.

2. Increase the heat to medium. Add the chicken and cook for 6-8 minutes to brown both sides. Return the onions to the pot. Pour in the wine and cook until it has reduced by half. Stir in chopped tomatoes. Add chopped garlic. Lower the heat. Cover the pot. Cook for about 30 minutes.

3. Add the pepper strips and stir well to coat. Cook for another 4 – 5 minutes until the peppers have softened and chicken is cooked. Taste and add more salt if needed. Stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with parsley before serving.

Lotus Root and Pork Rib Soup莲藕排骨汤lián ǒu pái gǔ tāng

This is a classic dish of Hubei food, one of the eight major China regional cuisines. Though pink lotus blossoms reach peak bloom in high summer. The rhizomes (the Lotus Root) hidden underneath the plant and in the pond are harvested much later. The most prized rhizomes are the fat, long, juicy specimens that are almost meaty, which is best served in late autumn or early winter.

Serve 3-4

  • 500g (a little over 1LB) pork ribs, cut into bite size
  • 1 tablespoon              cooking oil
  • 2 inches, fresh ginger, sliced生姜
  • 2 spring onions, trimmed
  • 3 tablespoons    Chinese cooking wine
  • Boling water, as needed
  • 2 lotus roots
  • Salt to taste
  • White peppercorn powder白胡椒粉, optional
  • 1 spring onion, minced
  • 1 sprig, cilantro, coarsely chopped

Method

  1. Soak the pork ribs in cold water for a half hour. Rinse thoroughly and drain. The soaking process helps to get rid of any impurities or blood, to keep the soup clear.

2. In a large stock pot, heat the cooking oil over medium high heat. Place into the pork ribs, and then brown the meat on all sides. Tie the 2 spring onions into knots. Add into the pot the spring onions and sliced ginger. Cook for about 3 minutes. Add into the cooking wine. Cook for another 2 minutes.

3. Cover the ribs with water. Bring the pot to a boil. Lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Cover the pot with lid. Cook for about 1 hour until the meat is very tender.

4. While the meat is cooking and almost done, peel and clean the lotus roots. Trim the ends and roll cut them into pieces in inch wide. If you notice any mud at all inside the roots, wash it off carefully.

5. Discard the ginger and spring onions from the pot. Add the salt to taste. Add into the lotus roots. Bring the pot a boil again before lowering the heat to a simmer. Cook the lotus roots until tender, about 30 minutes.

6. Portion out the soup into large individual bowls, sprinkle with white peppercorn powder, chopped green onions and cilantro. Serve hot.