Ying's ideas of easy Chinese home-cooking

Early Autumn seasonal food – How to cook braised duck and taro

初秋芋頭燜鴨

Early autumn, days before Mid-Autumn Festival, hot in day time but I can sense a little autumny in the air. Cantonese believe in ‘eat those in season/不时不食’, a famous line in The Analects of Confucius. Under this theory, it’s the right season to eat duck meat and taro now.

Though chicken is more popular worldwide, I prefer duck and goose, for their deeper meaty flavour. The colour of duck meat looks slightly darker than chicken but it is still categorized as white meat. In most western cuisines, only duck breast and thighs are consumed. I think Chinese has more creativity on cooking poultry. Take the most famous duck dish, Peking Duck for example, though the duck is deboned, Chinese would never waste the bones. We make a quick duck bone soup with winter gourd or other melon vegetable. Moreover, Cantonese Roasted Duck is always with bone. Meat with bone tastes better. Even internal organs and blood can be delicious. Such as Soy Sauce Marinated Duck Liver and Intestine, Duck Blood and Vermicelli Soup.

Duck has thicker fat under the skin since they stay in water sometimes. No matter roast, grill, pan-fry or stir-fry, the key theory is to crisp the skin and reduce the fat. Thus, adding some lean root vegetable is a choice to reduce the greasiness of the meat. Taro, particularly seasonal in autumn, is a popular root vegetable in Asia. It’s getting more popular worldwide in recent years due to the well-known taro balls desserts. You could also read my previous taro dessert recipes, Taro and Purple Glutinous Rice Pudding, and Homemade Taro Balls.

For many people, taro may just be an ingredient of Asian dessert. In Cantonese cuisine, taro can be cooked with fat meat, such as Steamed Taro and Pork Belly or Pork Ribs, or Braised Duck with Taro. Simple soy sauce for seasoning would be good enough. Usually when we cook duck, generous ginger and Cantonese rice wine are necessary. Professional chef would deep-fry the taro chunks before braising, for a better presence of shape after cooking. But for a home-cooking version, I would prefer them melt a little in the sauce, though not looking good, but surely tasting better.

Ingredients
Half a duck, with bone, about 800g. Well if you really don’t like duck meat with bones, use duck breast and duck thighs from one meaty duck;
Taro, half, about 600g depends. Taro can be easily found in any big Asian grocery stores;
Light soy sauce, 3/4cup;
Dark soy sauce, 2tbsp;
Cantonese rice wine, or any Chinese cooking wine, 1/2 cup;
Rock sugar, 40g, or any cooking sugar would do;
Ginger, 40g;
Garlic, 4 cloves;
Red chili, 4, optional;
Spring onion, 1 stalk.

How to do –
1. Preparing – Duck chopped into big chunks, cut off some fat; Taro peeled, also cut into big chunks;

2. Poaching – Bring a big pot of water to boil, put in the duck, bring to boil again, then drain, wash. If you only use duck breast and thigh, skip this step;

3. Crisping – Heat a little oil in a big wok in high heat, put in the duck meat, ginger, garlic and chili, sauté till golden and fat released; Then put in the taro, stir-fry and mix well;

4. Braising – You could braise them in the wok or transfer the ingredients in a casserole. Mix in all rest seasoning ingredients and 1 cup of water. Lid on, bring to boil, then lower to medium heat. Cook for 15 minutes, carefully stir well, then 15 more minutes. Sprinkle some green onion on top, lid on and heat off. Let it sit for 10 minutes in the pot then serve with steamed rice.

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