It's a production that until recently I didn't have the gumption to tackle. I let the pros at Chinese restaurants do the work. But those meals were rarely as regal as those described in books. Though the skin was always crisp, the flesh was sometimes mealy or the pancakes were mass-produced and characterless. When the courses arrived too fast and overlapped, flavors got jumbled up, diminishing the overall experience.
I was never truly satisfied, but making the Chinese classic myself seemed like a culinary deed of derring-do, beyond the reach of mere mortals. Then, around Lunar New Year in February, I decided that I'd had enough with paying for so-so duck dinners and would try to master Peking duck three ways. Home cooking so much fun ...
That's a lot to do for one dinner. But it's really worth it !!! I was lucky to over see chinese chefs during my career in south east Asia , and was carefull to observe how they mastered the duck
2 tablespoons salt
3 cups plus 1 tablespoon water, divided
2/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry, divided
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon light (regular) soy sauce
11/2 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon dark (thick) soy sauce, divided
1/4 cup sweet bean sauce or hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon sugar, optional
1 teaspoon sesame oil, optional
4 or 5 slender green onions, cut crosswise into 3-inch lengths and lengthwise into thin strips
Cucumber strips same size as above
As it turns out, the pancakes can be refrigerated for days and freeze beautifully for weeks. I realized after several trials that once the duck is roasted, its glossy skin stays crisp for a good hour, allowing me to start the broth, assemble the stir-fry ingredients and even clean up the kitchen a little bit before enjoying a little sun on balcony first .
Sure, I had to run back and forth between the kitchen and table during the set up , but it was worth it. My two companions were as amazed as I was that terrific Peking duck could be made at home in a regular oven with no super-special equipment.
Called bao bing in Mandarin, these thin pancakes are the classic accompaniment to Peking duck. Sandwiching the dough pieces and rolling them out in pairs produces translucent results. Skip the fancy flour and use a moderate gluten flour, such as Gold Medal brand, for toothsome pancakes. For the just-boiled water, bring water to boil, then let it calm down before measuring it out.
13/4 cups (71/2 ounces) flour, plus extra for dusting
Tea spoon of salt
Water and sesame oil