Sunday, July 5, 2009

Epicurean Adventures: Peking Duck, Long Island Duckling

My dad, just about one of the most awesome people ever, just treated the family to a super feast of duck. Crispy-skinned, juicy, succulent, tender, and delectably flavored duck. His variation of Peking Duck is as follows:

... quarter-inch slivers of juicy duck in its skin, clear fat sending rivulets of flavor and oils down the dark meat. A gorgeous brown, the color of toasted caramel, as the color of the skin on the whole duck, roasted to perfection, the flesh tender and well-done, though not the slightest bit dry, since the animal is basically cooked with all flavors sealed in--unbutchered and whole.

These slices of duck are then wrapped in a taco-shaped, slightly sweet mantao bun in the shape of a taco, or deli roll. Before placing the duck in these cute little puffed breads, you smear the insides with sweet and tangy plum hoisin sauce, and dress it with fresh-cut strips of green onions/scallions and/or cucumbers. You inhale the deep scent of the slightly gamey meat and the superbly crisp skin, take a massive bite, and roll your eyes heavenward.

And that's how you eat Peking Duck ... in America.

In China, it's a horse of a whole different color. The duck is puffed with air in the layer between meat and fat and skin for a more crisp effect before roasted in an open, wood-burning fire. The skin becomes puffier and crunchier, in the same way that a thin potato chip is crispy. It's a different type of crispy, though, than the standard roast duck, and although fatty, the skin is also a little drier. The slices are cut thinner, too, to feed more people (my dad, of course, being less concerned with making food stretch, since it's for his own family), and instead of the mantao buns, sheer mooshoo/mushu wrappers/flour crepes are used.

In other words, in the dish's original home, where frugality reigns versus the American way of bounty, it's all just thinner. And when there are fat piles of moist duck in browned skin in front of me ... well, I'll say it ... it's damned good to be in America.

Happy Independence Day weekend, y'all.

P.S. These pictures are not my dad, but were taken in Beijing, China. Enjoy!