Culinary Adventures Beyond Menus
Ever felt a touch of ennui scanning the usual lineup of Cantonese, Shanghainese, Sichuan, or even Japanese, Vietnamese, and Italian restaurant menus? The joy of savoring something unique, like duck paired with earthy taro, can uplift one’s dining saga. It’s easy to overlook the gems tucked within traditional recipes, those cherished dishes of yesteryears, whipped up by our grandparents or parents. Think back to heartening meals, such as this delectable duck preparation.
I was introduced to this delightful Braised Duck with Taro dish years ago, thanks to Bill’s father. Its authenticity and rich flavors were such that, unfortunately, most commercial eateries overlooked it in favor of more mainstream dishes.
Embarking on this Culinary Journey
Navigating through this dish, you’ll realize the importance of using large taro. Yet, if you find yourself taro-less, russet potatoes can be your backup. And while duck adds a certain lavishness to the dish, a humble chicken can be a worthy alternative.
Little tidbits for you:
- Shallow frying taro ensures its firmness during braising.
- Though surprisingly, taro cooks in a flash; be vigilant to retain its texture.
- Consider giving the ducktail a miss before getting down to cooking.
- A secret weapon, fermented red bean curd sauce (腐乳汁), can elevate the flavors when used judiciously. If you’re feeling adventurous, swap 2 tablespoons of light soy sauce for this robust condiment, easily available at Chinese grocery stores.
Gathering the Ensemble
- A duck, weighing 4-5 pounds
- Taro, weighing around 1 1/2 pounds (680g)
- 1/2 cup of oil
- A chunk of rock sugar, roughly 3/4 inch in dimension
- 5 slivers of ginger
- 8 garlic cloves, crushed
- 3 scallions, split into white and green segments
- 1/4 cup of Shaoxing wine
- 1 tablespoon of oyster sauce
- 3 tablespoons of light soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons of dark soy sauce
- 2 cups of water
Steps to an Unforgettable Feast
- For those using frozen ducks, ensure it’s thoroughly defrosted. Immerse the duck in water for about 30 minutes, aiming to eliminate any gamy notes. Once cleaned, pat it dry, then chop it into modest portions. Don’t forget to trim off the ducktail. Keep it aside for now.
- Transition to the taro; after peeling, cut it into thick slices. Warm the oil in a wok and shallow-fry these taro chunks till they exhibit a hint of golden hue on the edges. Once done, transfer them to a plate.
- In the same wok, reduce the oil, leaving about 2 tablespoons. Let the rock sugar dissolve within this warm oil, followed by the addition of ginger, garlic, and white segments of scallions. After a minute, introduce the duck pieces, ensuring they’re evenly spaced. Pour in the Shaoxing wine, sauces, and water, stirring occasionally. Allow it to simmer for approximately 20 minutes.
- It’s taro time! Incorporate these chunks into the duck mixture, letting it cook for an additional 5-7 minutes. Ensure the gravy remains consistent; add water if needed. Aim for well-cooked taro without overdoing it. Lastly, sprinkle the green scallion segments as garnish and serve.
Authentic dishes, often absent from restaurant menus, encapsulate a nation’s history, culture, and sentiments. They’re more than just flavors and ingredients; they’re memories, experiences, and a bridge to the past. As we embark on such culinary journeys, we not only satiate our taste buds but also feed our souls, understanding the profound significance of traditional meals. So, the next time you yearn for an authentic experience, remember, the journey begins at home.