Project: Aromatic Crispy Duck – Part 2: Aromatic Salt and Spice Mix

Here’s the second part of our quest for that perfect Crispy Aromatic Duck, served with delicious, thin pancakes and homemade hoisin sauce. In part 1, we made the Five Spice Powder, so that’s crossed off the list and all that remains to do before we get to sink our teeth into the crisp duck is marinating the duck, curing it and then steaming it, cooling it, drying it and… at last… frying it. I am making all the condiments from scratch, including the Hoisin Sauce, which is why I made five spice powder. We only need a half a teaspoon for the Hoisin Sauce, so I won’t blame you if you just buy some. BUT you will miss out on something quite special, because I promise you, nothing you can buy gets anywhere near the homemade one in depth of flavour. Not. Even. Close!

  1. Five Spice Powder (see Project: Aromatic Crispy Duck – Part 1: Five Spice Powder)
  2. Aromatic Salt and Spice Mix
  3. Marinating the Duck
  4. Black Bean Sauce
  5. Hoisin Sauce
  6. Pancakes & Garnishes
  7. Frying the Duck

Aromatic Salt & Spice Mix

  • 1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1 star anise
  • 4 cloves
  • ½ tsp green fennel seeds
  • 1 Chinese or black cardamom pod
  • 1 piece cassia bark or 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 Tbsp dried sand ginger slices (see Note)
  • 45g fine sea salt, about 3 Tbsp
  • 3 Tbsp Chinese rice wine

Break the star anise into pieces, lightly crush the Sichuan peppercorns, open the cardamom pod and scrape out the seeds inside, break the cassia bark or cinnamon into smaller pieces and crush the pieces without reducing them to powder. Now heat a small stainless steel pan. It is best to use a thick bottom pan, as the heat will distribute much better. Add all the spices into the pan, pour in the salt and toss in the heat until your kitchen smell like a church in Russia. Pour the spice and salt mix into a flat plate and leave it to cool down. Once it has cooled pound it in a mortar to get a rough mix.

Hausfrauen Ratschlag – Tip:

Make a double batch of the spice mix and keep the extra for other dishes. Just grind the extra to a fine(ish) powder and use it to flavour chicken or beef for a stir-fry, marinate beef or lamb in it for an hour before turning it into stew. Try a light sprinkle of the spiced salt on a more robust fish, like a cod or garoupa fillet. Rub the inside of a seabass with the spiced salt just before you steam it. It will all turn out delicious, I promise.

Marinating the Duck:

  • 1 duck, obviously
  • all of the spice mix
  • 3 Tbsp Chinese rice wine
  • 30g of ginger, unpeeled
  • 4 spring onions
It had a happy life, I promise.
Once you’re finished, your duck will hopefully look something like this.

If your duck looks like this one, you need to start by trimming the unwieldy animal. This can be a little daunting and if you’re scared of floppy dead animals, I suggest you get your butcher to deal with it. Just tell him it’s a duck for roasting and ask him to cut the wings off and give them to you to make stock out of. But really, all you have to do is empty the inside of the duck of all things it needed for life, lungs, liver, heart, kidneys. Hopefully the guts have been taken out, because that’s the really horrid stuff. Then you cut the neck off and pull out whatever bits of windpipe there may be left in there. Cut off the feet at the joint, but leave the drumsticks and thighs on. Cut the wingtips off and keep them for stock. Cut the tail off by slicing a V shaped piece out from the sides of the tail to a point in the cavity. You’ll find it when you try. Wash your duck inside out and dry it properly.

To make sure your duck is dry, use paper towels to pat down the inside of the cavity first and then pat down outside. I then leave the duck uncovered in the chiller while I do the spice mix. That way the skin dries out completely.

Now crush the ginger and the spring onions with the flat of a cleaver or heavy knife. Prick the duck all over with a fork. You want to prick the duck deeply, so the spice salt can penetrate well into the flesh. Rub the duck inside and out with all of the spice salt mix, massaging it well into the meat. Exert some pressure on the thorax of the duck, to break the ribs and flatten the duck a little. Break the leg joints, if you’re not too squeamish, so the duck doesn’t tighten up when it is being steamed. Stuff the crushed ginger and spring onions into the cavity of the duck and place the bird into an ovenproof dish. I like to use an oval dish, because it holds the duck just nicely.

Last thing to do is gently pour the rice wine over the duck. You might think that this is going to wash the salt mix off, but you’re wrong. The wine will be absorbed into the mix, as long as you pour it gently, tablespoon by tablespoon.

The last thing for today is to tightly wrap the dish containing the bird and put it in the chiller for 2-3 days. 48 hours will be enough, but an additional day won’t do any harm, so do what’s convenient.

NOTE:

Depending on where you live, you may find it difficult to find sand ginger, whether dried or fresh. Scientifically, Sand Ginger is Kaempferia Galanga. Here in Malaysia, it is known as Cekur, in Indonesia it is called Kencur and to the Chinese it’s Sha Jiang. If there is a Chinese medical shop anywhere to be found, they will probably stock it. If you can find it fresh in the market, drying it is easy; just wash it and slice it into about 2mm slices, skin and all and cry it in the oven at 100ºC for about 30-45 minutes.

If you can’t find it at all, try a mix of dried galangal and dried ginger. It is available online, but it’s quite pricey, so might not be worth investing in for just one dish.

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