Aromatic crispy duck is the UK’s answer to Peking Duck, the latter of which originated from the Yuan Dynasty on the imperial court menus for the Emperor of China. My grandmother told me that the imperial chefs were sworn to secrecy about the recipe and for dynasties, this delicacy was enjoyed by only the Emperors of China. However, by 1912, the Republic of China was born and the head chef left the imperial kitchens and used this recipe to create duck for the masses. Note that Peking Duck can only be made with a number of requirements. The duck must be white feathered and be no older than 2 months of age. The ducks then had to be plucked, boiled and left to dry to ensure a crispy skin. Then the key to the cooking was a special real fire stove where the duck had to be turned every five minutes to ensure even cooking. The number of steps to achieve the ultimate Peking Duck was difficult for most establishments (especially in the UK) to replicate. Therefore, aromatic crispy duck was created as an homage to this wonderful dish and its no surprise that aromatic crispy duck is a bestseller at Sweet Mandarin. This is a wonderful way to enjoy duck. The key to perfecting the recipe is twofold: firstly to ensure the duck remains moist and tender and absorbs the marinade, and secondly make sure that the skin is crispy. It is ever so satisfying to tear the meat with two forks and see the steam rise from the duck and smell its aromatic spices.
Prep time 1½ hours
Cook time 25 minutes
320g duck legs
cornflour, for dusting
vegetable oil, for deep frying
For the marinade
1 tablespoon Szechuan peppercorns
1 teaspoon five spice powder
2 star anise
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
For the pancakes
220g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
½ teaspoon salt
150–170ml boiling water
sesame oil, for basting
1 cucumber, sliced into 7cm batons 0.5cm thick
plum sauce (see Duckenail recipe page 000)
4 spring onions, white part only, cut into 7cm batons and quartered lengthways
Score the duck skin in a criss-cross to help drain the fat when cooking. Add the marinade ingredients to a saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the duck and boil for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave in the marinade to brine for 1 hour. The duck will be cooked through and soft.
Remove the duck from the marinade, drain and pat down with kitchen paper and cool to fridge temperature in the fridge. Then dust with cornflour to absorb any further liquid. The key is to soften the duck with the marinade but for it to be as dry as possible before the next step.
Put the duck in a wok and cover with oil. Heat the oil and deep fry the duck for 8–10 minutes until the duck turns a dark brown. Don’t worry if it looks a little charred – this makes it even more aromatic and seals in the spices. Drain, pat dry with kitchen paper. Place the duck on a plate and shred with two forks.
To make the pancakes, mix the flour, salt and boiling water roughly with a fork in a bowl until the ingredients start to come together. Use your hands to bind the dough together. The dough will be hot but after you keep kneading it will cool down. Knead till smooth and add a drop of water or flour if needed. Rest the dough under a damp tea towel for 30 minutes.
Knead the dough into a smooth consistency so it is not sticky. Roll to 2mm thickness and cut out small circles about 6cm in diameter with a large cup. With a pastry brush, brush sesame oil on each side of the pastry circles and pan-fry each side for 1–2 minutes.
Serve the pancakes with the shredded duck, cucumber, spring onions and plum sauce.
Sweet Mandarin is a Chinese Restaurant in Manchester which serves delicious Chinese cuisine and exotic cocktails.
We make our own sweet chilli sauce,
bbq sauce, sweet & sour sauce which you can buy from Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Ocado, Booths, Wing Yip and Chi Yip.
Sweet Mandarin Chinese Restaurant and Cookery School can cater for the gluten free, dairy free diners.
We are a short 15 minute walk from the Manchester Arena.
We are not based in Chinatown, but based in the trendy Northern Quarter
near the Arndale Centre, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, Debenhams and Primark.
The nearest hotels to us are the Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn Express, Premier Apartments,
Blue Rainbow Aparthotels, Light Hotel and Hatters Hostel.