Crisp, crunchy, and wonderfully colorful, this salad is simple enough for a solitary lunch or festive enough for a party. It combines a luxury meat with the most humble and inexpensive of vegetables, a yin-yang duality common in Chinese cuisine. Mustard sauce, a Cantonese accompaniment, gives the salad sparkle. Sesame sauce, a northern touch, gives it depth.
Up to a day in advance of serving, skin and bone the duck and remove any fat, membrane, or cartilage. Be fastidious. For a clean cut, chill the meat thoroughly in the refrigerator before slicing.
Flatten the meat with the broad side of a sharp, thin-bladed Chinese cleaver or chef’s knife, then slice it crosswise against the grain into thin shreds a scant ⅛ inch thick. If you are working in advance, put the shreds aside neatly on a plate, seal airtight with plastic film, and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before using.
Blanch the bean sprouts in plain boiling water to cover for 30 seconds. Drain promptly, then flush with cold running water to chill. If you are doubling or tripling the recipe, plunge the drained sprouts into a bowl of ice water to chill them quickly. Cover with water and refrigerate until use.
String the snow peas from both ends, then slice lengthwise into slivers ⅛ inch wide. Blanch in plain boiling water to cover until deep green, about 10 seconds, then drain promptly and chill as above. Pat dry. If you are working in advance, spread the snow peas on a plate and refrigerate until use, sealed airtight.
Shred the remaining vegetables—peppers, celery, and carrots—just before assembling the salad so they are perfectly fresh. Peppers should be cored, seeded, and the white inner ribs removed with a sharp knife, then slivered lengthwise into strips ⅛ inch wide. Celery hearts do not need stringing; just sliver. Carrots may be shredded in a food processor or, for a finer shred, with a grater.
Just before assembling the salad, swish the bean sprouts to dislodge any green seed cases, drain, and spread on a clean, dry towel to blot up excess water.
Mound the duck shreds in the center of a large platter of contrasting color, then surround the duck with mounds of the cut vegetables, alternating the colors and placing the prettiest slices on top. If you are working in advance, seal the platter airtight and refrigerate it for 1–2 hours. Bring to room temperature before serving, or serve slightly chilled.
Present the salad flanked by bowls of the two sauces. Invite the guests to help themselves to the different salad ingredients and one or both of the sauces, tossing the salad on their plates and mingling the sauces together. Just like the salad ingredients, they are delightfully compatible opposites.
Leftovers keep 1–2 days, sealed airtight and refrigerated.
© 1982 Barbara Tropp estate. All rights reserved.