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Duck leg rice 腊鸭腿饭

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abcdefg

When the weather cools off in late fall and early winter dry-cured meats flourish, especially in the south of China. It's too hot and too rainy to make them in the summer months; spoilage would be a problem. But now they are everywhere you look. Today I found these air-cured duck legs 腊鸭腿 for a pittance. Snapped up a couple to turn my rice 米饭 into something special. It's easy to do: I'll show you how. 

 

(Please click the photos to enlarge them.)

 

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These duck legs 腊鸭腿 are made by brining in a salt and spice solution and then hanging them in a place with good air circulation for several weeks at a cool temperature (in the shade.) They develop a rich color and flavor, much like top-notch sausage. 

 

You may recognize the 腊 part of the name from the common name for sausage 腊肠 and bacon 腊肉, both of which are basically dry-cured meats. 

 

                                                                                                               
 

 

 

 

 

In the bin next to these legs at the store, they were offering whole ducks, pressed flat, brined and smoked over a combination of tea leaves and camphor wood (from the eucalyptus tree) 樟茶鸭。Next week I'll try one of those! (Pictured below.) 

 

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Got my two noble duck legs home (after paying ¥3.98 each -- about 50 cents US. )  These have been cured to such an extent that they don't require refrigeration. 

 

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Simmered them for two or three minutes and then cut them up. This poaching does a couple of things: slightly tenderizes them and removes some excess salt. (Don't use your thin-edged vegetable cleaver 菜刀 to cut through the bones.) 

 

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Chop some long green peppers (mildly hot) 青尖椒 and a couple spring onions 大葱。You can remove some of the pepper seeds to reduce the heat if you'd like. 

 

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Wash and soak your rice like you normally would. Use the same proportions of rice to water as for basic steamed rice 米饭。Add the vegetables and meat, give it all a stir. No need for additional seasonings, the duck supplies all you need. 

 

 

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Press the "cook rice" button 烧饭 , starting the same cycle you normally would select for plain steamed rice 米饭。(On my rice cooker, this function takes about 30 minutes for completion.) When it beeps, I let it stand with the lid closed for another 5 or 6 minutes on "keep warm" 保温 to develop a little bit of tasty brown crust on the bottom of the cooking pot. Serve it up. 

 

 

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You can do something similar with rotisserie chicken if duck is not available where you live. 

 

 

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anonymoose

I see you've been fully indoctrinated into the Chinese style of eating bony meat.

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abcdefg
On 11/5/2018 at 4:45 AM, anonymoose said:

I see you've been fully indoctrinated into the Chinese style of eating bony meat.

 

Yes, I have been won over to that camp most of the time. Meat on the bone delivers more flavor. It bothered me a lot when I first came to China; thought the chefs were just being lazy. Could not fathom it. Gradually I saw the light. 

 

Similarly, I now share the Chinese penchant for leg meat instead of breast meat when cooking chicken or duck. This cut/this part yields more flavor. 

 

I found these smoked whole ducks and dry-cured duck legs somewhat exotic and was surprised to see them in large displays at my corner supermarket at a low price. As I understand it, they aren't really a "gourmet" item; just winter fare. I've read they are quite popular in Hong Kong and Guangzhou, sometimes cut up and cooked with rice porridge 粥。

 

Always eager to explore new ingredients, I could not resist. 

 

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anonymoose
15 hours ago, abcdefg said:

Yes, I have been won over to that camp most of the time. Meat on the bone delivers more flavor. It bothered me a lot when I first came to China; thought the chefs were just being lazy. Could not fathom it. Gradually I saw the light. 

 

I have yet to see the light, I am afraid. Personally I cannot really appreciate the difference in flavour. In most Chinese cooking, the majority of the flavour comes from the seasoning anyway. On the other hand, I detest having to spit out bones all the time.

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Shelley

I have to agree with you @anonymoose

Would rather have no bones or not chop them up, always a chance of a sliver of bone.

I am also not a fan of air dried anything, I always have cooked hams, and don't eat salami or similar. Not keen on all that hanging around in the environment. Who knows what else is there. But then I am a self confessed wimp when it comes to food.

 

I am sure that it actually tastes really good, thanks again @abcdefg

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abcdefg

I must agree that this ingredient is a little unusual and will probably never be a hit with most western palates. Don't think I'm likely to find it as a best seller at Panda Express next time I'm in the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport waiting for my flight. 

 

What drives my quest to explore such things is seeing large piles of them on sale in local stores, and ordinary local folks snapping them up. I usually hang around long enough to ask one or two people how they use them at home, just to get general ideas. Then I talk to one or more of my local cooking friends, research a bit on the Chinese internet and give it a try myself. Sometimes it's a flop and sometimes it's winner. Difficult to predict. 

 

China uses lots of preserved meats, more than I realized before moving here. 牛肉干吧, similar to beef jerky, is probably the most loved one here in Yunnan. The local sausage used to drive me nuts because it had so much fat. Gradually I've learned how to use it in small amounts sliced thin as a flavoring ingredient; in that role it shines. 

 

These eucalyptus-wood smoked pressed ducks and air-cured duck legs are not destined to be a staple of my daily diet; more of a culinary research project. A casual "try it and see" self challenge, undertaken because I was wondering whether this local favorite would appeal to me or not. My thinking is that it would be a shame to pass up the opportunity to learn first-hand about something so exotic to my western mind. That would be a case of 浪费机会 (wasted opportunity.)

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Shelley

Yes and its that attitude of yours that is probably why you love the adventurous side of eating and the open mindedness to be willing to speak to people and try things.

You certainly are making the most of your unique and wonderful opportunity of living in China.

 

Thanks again for sharing what not all of us can take part in.

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