This dish was served to me over twenty years ago in what was then Soho’s only Japanese restaurant, called Fuji (funny that). None of the ingredients, with the exception of soy, is particularly Japanese, or indeed at all difficult to obtain. English mustard may seem a rather strange inclusion, but the Japanese are very fond of it; their beloved wasabi (green horseradish paste served with raw fish) is in fact nothing more than English-style mustard powder with green colouring and horseradish flavouring added. The real wasabi, a true horseradish, grows wild in Japanese mountain streams, is extremely scarce, expensive and virtually unobtainable outside its native land.
Put a large pan of salted water on to boil. Season the duck generously with salt and pepper, then heat a frying pan over a medium flame. Lightly slash or score the duck fat and skin, then cook skin side down for 10 minutes, pouring off any excess melted grease as it collects. Turn the breasts over and cook for a further 2 minutes on the flesh side, then allow to cool. Tip the spinach into the merrily boiling water, stir quickly and immediately drain through a colander. Transfer the spinach to a bowl of cold water and refresh for a minute or so. Squeeze the spinach into dry little balls then plump up into something resembling leaves again.
Take four shallow bowls and mound the spinach in each. Dress these little heaps with a spoonful of the soy-lemon mix. Slice the duck breasts as thinly as you can, then arrange in fans, skin side up, on top of the spinach. Sprinkle with the spring onion, and spoon a little more of the soy mix around. Finally dab a small pile of the mustard on the edge of each plate, warning any non-English or non-Japanese guests about its potency.
© 1999 Alastair Little. All rights reserved.