Com­fort Food – Pek­ing Duck Tacos

Food writer May Tien shares one of her most cher­ished recipes from her very own reper­toire of Asian-Amer­i­can in­flu­enced cook­ery.

Indonesia Expat - - NEWS - BY MAY TIEN

Ican’t re­mem­ber when I ate my first taco or Pek­ing duck. I sup­pose I had the lat­ter first as it was tra­di­tion in my fam­ily dur­ing our early years in Amer­ica to eat at least one fancy Chi­nese restau­rant meal when we trav­elled far into the bow­els of old Chi­na­towns for our weekly Asian gro­cery procur­ing binge. Ev­ery once in awhile, we would or­der the mag­nif­i­cent Pek­ing Duck feast; a meal unto it­self us­ing a whole roasted duck served in sev­eral dif­fer­ent cour­ses. The roasted and crispy duck skin with suc­cu­lent meat wrapped in a flour pan­cake and served with sliv­ers of scal­lions, cu­cum­bers and hoisin sauce was al­ways served first and con­sumed in a flash. Mex­i­can food made an im­pact later, when I spent a few col­le­giate years nes­tled just north of the Cal­i­for­nia-Mex­ico bor­der study­ing par­ty­ing late into the nights. What bet­ter op­tion for cheap and de­li­cious sus­te­nance than the “open-til-3 am.” taco shop just stum­bling dis­tance from the old beach house where I shared good qual­ity study hang time with two (and some­times four or five) other room­mates? A fiver would buy me a cou­ple of juicy car­ni­tas tacos and a side of fresh tor­tilla chips with salsa or a bag of chichar­rones – that won­der­ful, crispy snack of deep fried, puffed and sea­soned pork skin. When I moved to New Zealand, I couldn’t find de­cent Chi­nese or Mex­i­can food. At the time, the only Chi­nese food most cities out­side of Auck­land had were hid­den away in fish and chip take­aways and those could hardly be taken for any­thing other than fast fried food. The Mex­i­can food rage had not be­gun, and dur­ing an on- cam­era in­ter­view with a famous New Zealand chef, I had to ex­plain to him the fal­lacy of the crunchy taco shell (for those who don’t know, and I’m sorry to burst your bub­ble, the crispy taco shell was in­vented in the United States much like for­tune cook­ies, chop suey and rain­bow sushi rolls). By the way, that piece with the famous chef never aired as the pro­duc­ers didn’t want him to look any­thing less than an al­l­know­ing food god. Hence, I learned to adapt and make my own favourite meals at home. With fresh in­gre­di­ents and a well- equipped kitchen, I cre­ated a dish that cel­e­brates these food cul­tures that have made such an im­pact on who I am to­day. With a lit­tle bit of time and good prep, you can also make these de­li­cious tacos for your fam­ily. The fol­low­ing recipe serves two as a main dish, and four as ap­pe­tiz­ers.

Pek­ing Duck Tacos For the Tor­tillas

• 1 cup of all-pur­pose flour

• 1/2 cup cold wa­ter

• 1/3 cup cold lard (can be sub­sti­tuted with short­en­ing if lard is un­avail­able)

• 1 tsp of fine sea salt Mix salt and flour to­gether, then add lard and mix with fin­gers un­til flour looks crumbly. Add wa­ter, but not all at once. Do it 2-3 ta­ble­spoons at each time and mix dough un­til it be­comes tacky and sticks to your fin­gers, but not mushy and wet, and you can form a ball with it. Take dough, and work on floured bench un­til it has a smooth and elas­tic con­sis­tency. Place dough in bowl and rest un­der ei­ther plas­tic or wet towel at least 30 min­utes and up to one hour. Roll the dough into a tube shape and then cut into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and flat­ten be­fore us­ing a rolling pin to roll out into a thin tor­tilla. Flour each side and set aside. Us­ing low-medium heat and a heavy non-stick pan, toast tor­tillas on both sides un­til you see golden brown spots form. You might get some air bub­bles, and that's OK. You can pop them with a knife or by press­ing down on them. When done, the tor­tilla should be pli­able and soft while look­ing toasted with nice golden-brown spots through­out. Try not to over­cook or your tor­tilla will get flaky and break apart when folded over. Keep warm sand­wiched be­tween a kitchen towel in a bas­ket.

For the Duck and Duck Chichar­rones

• 2 duck breasts, trimmed of ex­cess fat and skin (save this to make duck chichar­rones later)

• 4 cin­na­mon sticks

• 6 star anise

• 5 cloves

• 1 scant tbsp fen­nel seeds

• 1 scant tbsp Sichuan pep­per­corns • Salt

• Pep­per

• 1/4 tsp Cayenne pep­per First, make the spice pow­der: toast two cin­na­mon sticks, four star anise, cloves, fen­nel seeds and Sichuan pep­per­corns on low heat in a heavy bot­tom pan. Once you can smell a warm and rich aroma de­vel­op­ing from the spices, take it off the heat and grind un­til fine in a cof­fee or spice grinder. Use a fine mesh sifter to sift away any large pieces and keep the pow­der for sea­son­ing the duck. Pre­pare the duck breasts: score the skin di­ag­o­nally across a few times mak­ing sure not to slice into the lean meat. Sea­son breasts with one ta­ble­spoon of fresh spice pow­der and a gen­er­ous amount of fine sea salt and white pep­per on both sides, mak­ing sure to rub into the skin well. Set aside the breasts. Turn oven on to 170 de­grees Cel­sius. For the duck chichar­rones: us­ing fat and skin, chop into large dice and toss into fry­ing pan on medium-low heat. They should start siz­zling and ren­der­ing right away. Once the crack­ling is golden to medium brown, take crack­ling out of pan and put on pa­per towels to drain oil. toss in bowl with a dash of spice pow­der, cayenne, salt and white pep­per. Set aside. To get medium rare and well-ren­dered breasts, put both breasts skin side down on medium heat in a fry­ing pan. Ren­der off fat while cook­ing for 5- 6 min­utes on that side. Add two star anise and two cin­na­mon sticks to oil. Flip breasts over and give it an­other two min­utes on medium heat and fin­ish in 170 de­gree Cel­sius oven for five min­utes. Take duck out of oven and rest the breast on counter for ten min­utes.

Toss into the rub­bish the star anise and cin­na­mon sticks.

Hoisin-Lime Sauce

• 1 tbsp of minced gar­lic

• 1 tbsp of minced gin­ger

• Juice from 3 large limes

• 1/2 bot­tle of hoisin sauce (I use Lee Kum Kee brand)

• Salt

• 2 tbsp of light olive oil Saute gar­lic and gin­ger in oil on medium heat un­til fra­grant and add hoisin sauce, stir­ring con­stantly to pre­vent the sauce from burn­ing. Turn off heat and stir in lime juice. Add salt to taste. Blend mix­ture in blender un­til smooth, and if there are any lumps, pass through a fine mesh sieve.

Pour sauce into con­tainer and set aside.


• Cilantro/co­rian­der leaves and stems picked through, washed and dried

• 2 large green onions

• 1 large English cu­cum­ber You’ ll need about 5-8 good stalks of cilantro, chopped. Chif­fon­ade the green onions into 2-3 inches in length. Slice cu­cum­ber length­wise and de-seed. Cut cu­cum­bers into thin ba­tons, roughly the same length as the green onions.


Slice into duck breast against the grain into thin strips or large dice. The in­side should be warm, juicy and slight pink. Spoon some sauce over the tor­tilla, take about

30- 40 grams of the duck, then cu­cum­ber/ green onions/cilantro to taste. Sprin­kle

chichar­rones on top of taco and eat. Note: Fre­quently, I like to make a red cab­bage braise to add as a filler to this taco. The red cab­bage braise can be made by stir­fry­ing the resid­ual duck fat, thinly sliced red cab­bage, equal parts rice wine vine­gar and sugar, a sprin­kling of salt and then brais­ing for 15 min­utes un­til the cab­bage is com­pletely wilted. This dish pairs nicely with a cerveza served with a wedge of lime or full-bod­ied Mer­lot.

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