Crispy-Pressed Duck with Mandarin Sauce

This dish was on the menu at Rockpool for the first 10 years and I still cook it at home. It’s a classic multi-cooking method that’s used by the Chinese to create great flavour and texture. The marinating imparts flavour, the steaming is done to remove the bones and create a parcel of duck that the pressing tenderises. The coating that gets steamed onto the duck creates a super crispy crust when fried. There you have it in just a few steps — one of the best duck dishes ever. The Chinese certainly know a thing or two about cooking duck.

Ingredients

  • 1 × 2 kg (4 lb 8 oz) duck
  • 2 egg whites
  • 4 tablespoons cornflour (cornstarch)
  • 2 tablespoons rice flour
  • 3 tablespoons grated palm sugar (jaggery)
  • zest from 2 mandarins, cut into very fine julienne
  • 1 large knob of ginger, peeled and cut into julienne
  • tablespoons fish sauce
  • tablespoons mandarin juice
  • 2 mandarins, filleted
  • vegetable oil, for deep-frying

Marinade

  • tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons shaoxing
  • 2 spring onions (scallions), white part only, finely sliced
  • 2 pieces dried tangerine peel
  • 1 knob of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 star anise, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon crushed yellow rock sugar

Method

Put the duck on a chopping board and remove the fat from the cavity. Use a heavy cleaver to chop off the wing tips at the first joint, to chop off the neck, and to split the duck in half lengthways.

Put all the marinade ingredients in a small pot and simmer for 2 minutes, then leave to cool. Rub the cooled marinade all over the duck and marinate for at least 3 hours, or preferably overnight.

Put the duck into a large bamboo steamer over a pot or a wok of rapidly boiling water, cover with the lid and steam the duck for 1 hour. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.

While the duck is still warm, gently remove the bones, being careful not to break the skin. Use a small knife to ease out the wing and leg bone. You should now have two rectangles of duck. Place them, skin-side-up, on a board and fold any excess skin underneath the flesh. Wrap them loosely in plastic wrap, allowing some slack so they can spread. Put them into a container, side by side, put another container that fits inside the first on top and place a 5 kg (11 lb) weight on top of that, then refrigerate overnight.

Remove the ducks from the container and plastic wrap. You should now have two solid pieces of duck with flat, smooth sides. Whisk the egg whites until they start to thicken, but before soft peaks form. Sift the flours together. Dip the skin side of each piece of duck into the egg white, making sure the skin is evenly covered, then dust with the combined flours, blowing off any excess.

Put the duck on a plate, crust-side-up, then put the plate into a large bamboo steamer over a pot or a wok of rapidly boiling water, cover with the lid and steam for 25 minutes. The crust should be dry to the touch — if it’s undercooked the crust will detach from the duck during the frying process, so make sure that it’s cooked through.

Meanwhile, to make the sauce, put the palm sugar and 3 tablespoons water in a pot and bring to the boil. Add the zest and ginger and simmer until the palm sugar turns a dark caramel colour. Add the fish sauce and mandarin juice and stir, then add the mandarin fillets and keep warm.

Heat the oil in a wok until just smoking (180°C/350°F), and deep-fry the ducks for about 6 minutes, or until the crust is crispy and the duck is warmed through. Remove and drain on paper towel.

Cut the ducks into 2 cm (¾ inch) wide slices and arrange on a serving plate. Spoon the mandarin sauce over the ducks and serve immediately.