There was a birthday yesterday and it called for bubbly and Peking Duck. The bubbly was easy:
In taking on the duck I was taking on a challenge which many have tried before me, with varying effort and success. It is not a difficult dish to make, but one which requires process and, for optimum results, a lot of equipment which I don’t have. Like after blanching the ducks in vinegar water, you’re supposed to hang them in a cool draughty place to dry out for 4-5 hours. Then you bathe them in a honey-soy-lemon concoction and hang them again for as long. People with meat hooks have tried this in their fridges, in their showers, hanging off table corners in front of a fan.
I have no meat hook and neither did I quite relish the idea of a duck hanging in my living space for a large part of one day. So I started (copped out) with the very beginner option of doing the first drying in the fridge, uncovered. After they had had their honey bath, I grew bolder and took advantage of a windy day in Cape Town, and they spent the afternoon on the balcony:
(The perspective shot:)
A lot of other stuff happened in between, but when they came out the oven some hours later, they looked like this:
Not quite as dark as they should be, but they looked and smelled good, like roast duck should. The carving (or shredding) was less painless. In fact, I’m not convinced about the ratio of bone to meat to fat on this bird to make it worth the effort (and the price). In truth, half way through negotiating the meat off the carcass I was wishing it was a chicken.
Nevertheless, the meal had to come together and come together it did. And not without Chinese pancakes neither. From scratch, of course.
I’m a sucker for process, and I love the things you can do with flour and water. That part was definitely worth it (Chinese pancakes are great: like little rotis, speckled on one side, lightly steamed on the other and with the faintest taste of sesame oil). The meal finally did well to fill hungry bellies.
The best part about Chinese food is that it is so clean and fresh (despite the fatty duck) and fills you up without making you sluggish. This was important, because being a birthday, we needed a cake. Fortunately someone else was in charge of the baking, because I doubt I would have had the energy to produce this little sugar bomb. It was not just any cake, you see. No. It was a double layered chocolate cake filled with caramel and smothered with THREE slabs of melted chocolate and spotted with smarties. So decadent, but very delicious, I might add. And, not to be outdone by the duck, the cake was kitted out with the best birthday candle I’ve ever seen. It’s a rose that, once you light it,
it opens up into the loveliest little flower:
You gotta hand it to the Chinese.