Chestnuts have been discovered in tombs dating back to the earliest part of China’s recorded history, and are still used fresh and dried in China, as well as in Japan. In China, they are mainly used with braised dishes. Dried chestnuts can be found already peeled in Chinese grocers or supermarkets. They are delicious and actually easier to use than the fresh ones. Soak them overnight, then simmer them for an hour before using them.
This classic duck recipe re-heats very well. It makes a wonderful, hearty meal especially in cool weather. Serve it with rice and another vegetable dish.
If you are using dried chestnuts, soak them in warm water overnight. Cook the soaked chestnuts in hot water for 1 hour. If you are using fresh chestnuts, peel them.
Cut the duck in half lengthways. Dry the halves thoroughly with kitchen paper. Heat the oil in a wok or large frying-pan until it is almost smoking, then deep-fry the 2 halves of the duck, skin-side down. Turn the heat to medium and continue to fry slowly until the skin is browned. This should take about 15-20 minutes. Do not turn the pieces over but baste the duck as it fries. Drain the lightly browned duck on kitchen paper.
Combine all the sauce ingredients together in a large pan and bring the mixture to a boil. Add the duck halves and chestnuts and turn the heat down to a simmer. Cover the pan and slowly braise the duck for 1 hour or until it is tender.
Skim off the large amount of surface fat which will be left when the duck is cooked. This procedure will prevent the duck from becoming greasy. Now remove the duck pieces with a slotted spoon. Let them cool and then chop them into smaller pieces. Arrange on a warm platter, garnish with the fresh coriander and serve at once.
Alternatively you can let the duck cool thoroughly and serve it at room temperature. Once the sauce has cooled, remove any lingering surface fat. Now the sauce can be frozen and re-used to braise duck or chicken.
© 1996 Ken Hom. All rights reserved.