This dish finds special favor with the Cantonese during the summer months, when it is very humid and hot in subtropical South China. The sweet-and-sour plum sauce reduces the grease of the duck and rouses people’s appetite to eat even in the heat.
14-4½-pound oven-ready duck, oil sacs removed and discarded
1teaspoonthick soy sauce
Vinegar to taste
1½tablespoonsShaoxing wine or medium-dry sherry
6ounces pickled salty and sour plums plus 1-2tablespoons liquid from the jar
Prepare the plum sauce. Pit the plums (reserving the stones) and mash with the liquid. Add the sugar and salt.
Scald the duck by pouring a large kettle of boiling water over it. As the water is poured over the skin, it shrinks and becomes shiny. Wipe off any excess water. While the skin is still warm, brush all over with the soy sauce to add color.
Heat the wok over a high heat until smoke rises. Add the oil and swirl it around. Add the duck, breast side down, and brown for 45-60 seconds. Turn over to brown the back and then the sides in the same way. Remove and discard the oil. Wash the wok and set it up for steaming.
Place the duck in a heatproof dish with raised sides. Spread the plum sauce and half of the pits over the skin; put the remaining pits inside the cavity. Steam for about 1½ hours, until the duck is tender, replenishing the water in the wok 2-3 times.
Remove the duck to another dish and scrape the plum sauce into a saucepan. Discard the pits. Spoon off most of the fat on the liquid in the heatproof dish, then pour the liquid into the saucepan. Test for taste and add alittle vinegar, and more salt and sugar, if necessary. Add the wine or sherry. Slowly bring to a simmer and thicken with cornstarch, allowing 1teaspoon1½teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 1tablespoon water for every 3fluid ounces of sauce. Keep the sauce hot.
Either chop the duck through the bones into 1-inch pieces the Chinese way or carve it. Pour over the plum sauce and serve immediately.