King Wah’s Pressed Almond Duck

This imaginative Western adaptation of the Cantonese classic pressed duck dish was one of the most popular offerings in my uncle’s restaurant. The Chinese themselves prefer either a roast duck or Peking duck. Our American patrons loved this version because it is delicious, and also perhaps because, after preparation, although it is clearly duck, it does not require any skill in carving: convenience food, not fast food. And I am sure that an added appeal was that it was fried and had a crispy texture. The almonds and Chinese seasonings, of course, add a pleasing touch of the exotic.

Once the duck has been braised, it is boned, floured and then fried. It is quite aromatic and delicious in this version.

Ingredients

  • 1×1.58–1.8 kg (3½–4 lb) duck, fresh or frozen
  • 6 tablespoons chopped roasted almonds
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped spring onions
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped smoked ham
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Potato flour or cornflour, for dusting
  • Groundnut oil, for deep-frying

For the Sauce

  • 1 litre ( pints) Chinese Chicken Stock or store-bought fresh stock
  • 1 litre ( pints) dark soy sauce
  • 350 ml (12 fl oz) light soy sauce
  • 350 ml (12 fl oz) Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 115 g (4 oz) Chinese rock sugar
  • 5 whole star anise
  • 3 whole Chinese cinnamon barks or cinnamon sticks

Method

Cut the duck in half lengthways. Dry the halves thoroughly with kitchen paper. Combine all the sauce ingredients in a large pot and bring the mixture to the boil. Add the duck halves and turn the heat down to a simmer. Cover the pot and slowly braise the duck for 1 hour, or until it is tender.

Skim from the surface of the liquid the large amount of fat that will be left when the duck is cooked. Allow the duck to cool. Once the sauce has cooled, remove any lingering surface fat and reserve.

When the duck is quite cool, carefully remove all the bones, keeping the meat and skin intact. Place the duck halves between 2 pieces of cling film and press the meat and skin together with your hands. Remove the film and distribute the almonds, spring onions and ham evenly over all the duck. Now baste the duck halves with the beaten egg and dust with cornflour.

Next set up a steamer, or put a rack into a wok or deep pan, and fill it with 5 cm (2 in) of water. Bring the water to the boil over a high heat. Put the duck on a heatproof plate and then carefully lower it into the steamer or onto the rack. Turn the heat to low and cover the wok or pan tightly. Steam gently for 20 minutes. Allow the duck to cool thoroughly. The dish can be completed to this stage a day in advance.

When you are ready to serve the duck, heat a wok or large frying pan over a high heat until it is hot. Pour in the oil and, when it is very hot and slightly smoking, carefully lower in the duck halves, skin side down, and deep-fry until they are crispy. Remove and drain well on kitchen paper. Heat some of the reserved braising liquid and serve as a sauce with the duck.

Save the remaining liquid in the freezer for future braised dishes.

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