Crispy Sichuan Duck with Mandarin Pancakes

I am a freak for this crispy duck; it rates up there with smoked duck. I alternate these two in my modern Asian restaurants and people can’t get enough of them. The duck is first marinated and steamed for a long time to tenderise it and render the fat. Then it’s fried until crisp, and the meat is shredded off the bone and eaten in pancakes with traditional garnish. You can also just fry the duck, chop it up and serve with the mandarin sauce. Substitute blood oranges for the mandarin and the sauce will be out of this world.

Ingredients

  • 1 × 2 kg (4 lb 8 oz) duck
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon five-spice powder
  • 1 large knob of ginger, peeled and cut into four slices
  • 2 spring onions (scallions), cut into 4 cm ( inch) lengths
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • plain (all-purpose) flour, for dusting
  • vegetable oil, for deep-frying

To Serve

  • ½ quantity of mandarin pancakes
  • 16 small spring onions (scallions), trimmed, white parts with a bit of green left
  • 2 Lebanese (short) cucumbers, deseeded and cut into batons
  • 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) hoisin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil

Method

Rinse the duck inside and out, pat dry with paper towel, and remove any fat from the cavity. Place the duck on a board and cut off the wing tips at the first joint. Use the palms of your hands to push down firmly on the breast bone so you snap the bones inside and flatten the duck slightly.

Pound the sea salt and five-spice powder in a mortar with a pestle until fine. Rub the salt mixture over the duck, then cover and refrigerate overnight.

Push the ginger and spring onions into the cavity of the duck. Put the duck in a shallow bowl and place in a bamboo steamer over a pot or a wok of rapidly boiling water. Put the lid on the steamer and steam the duck for 3 hours. This steaming process will render the fat from the duck and prepare the skin so it crisps up nicely when you fry it. Check the water level in the pot several times during steaming and top up with boiling water from the kettle as necessary. Remove the duck from the steamer, drain any liquid, remove the ginger and spring onion from the cavity and leave the duck to cool.

Brush the duck all over with soy sauce and then lightly dust it with flour, blowing off any excess. Heat the oil in a wok or deep-fryer until almost smoking (180°C/350°F), and deep-fry the duck for about 12 minutes, turning occasionally, until the skin is golden and crispy all over. Remove from the oil and drain on paper towel.

To serve, shred the warm duck meat and crispy skin with a fork and arrange on a serving plate. Put the spring onions and cucumbers on a separate plate. Mix the hoisin sauce with the sesame oil and put in a small serving bowl. Steam the pancakes until they are hot, and fold them into quarters. Allow people to prepare their own pancakes at the table.