Millions of people will be celebrating Lunar New Year tomorrow, and with that celebration comes much feasting. There are the traditional dishes, such as Longevity Noodles, Steamed Whole Fish, and Sweet Rice Balls, but perhaps my personal favourite is Peking Duck. I love ordering this at restaurants because of the multi-course aspect: the crisp skin is commonly eaten first while still hot, followed by the carved meat that one wraps in thin crepes, and sometimes also served with more of the meat chopped and used in a fried rice. The rich flavour of the duck meat and the shattering crispiness of the skin are heavenly. However, true Peking duck is a very challenging dish to make at home. The preparation involves blowing air into the whole duck to separate the skin from the meat, then blanching the whole duck before hanging them to air dry to tighten the skin. The hanging duck gets brushed with honey and spices before left to dry for 24 hours. The final step is roasting in a preferably wood burning oven until the skin is lacquered and the meat to fully cooked.
As much as I like to try to make everything myself, this is one of those dishes that is just so much better at a restaurant that knows what they’re doing. However, there’s nothing holding us back from replicating the flavour of Peking duck at home with some spices and a duck breast. Is it authentic? No, it is not. Is it delicious? Absolutely.
Five-Spice Roasted Duck Breast with Chive Crêpes
4 duck breasts
to taste salt
1 tbsp Chinese Five Spice Powder (approximate amount)
2 tbsp honey, warmed to liquify
2 large eggs
1¼ cups milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp vegetable oil, plus more for cooking
1 tbsp minced fresh chives
1 cup cucumber, sliced into thick matchsticks
1 cup green onion, thinly sliced
to taste hoisin sauce
- Using the tip of a sharp knife, score the skin of each duck breast in a crosshatch pattern at ¼-inch intervals. Score only the skin so the fat can escape while rendering, not the meat. Season the meat with salt and pepper, then sprinkle lightly all over with the five-spice powder. Set the duck, skin side down, in a large frying pan, place over medium-low heat, and allow the duck to warm and cook slowly for about 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare the crêpes. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and whisk vigorously until a smooth batter forms. In a small non-stick frying pan, heat a little oil over medium heat, using a paper towel to spread the oil around the base of the pan. When hot, add a stream of the batter until it just coats the bottom of the pan. Allow the batter to set (about a minute), before flipping to finish cooking for another 30 seconds or so. Transfer the crêpe to a plate and cover with a clean towel. Repeat the process until all the batter is used.
- At the 10-minute point, turn the duck breasts over and brush each skin with the honey. Turn up the heat to medium-high and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more. Transfer the duck breasts to a plate and allow them to rest.
- To serve, thinly slice the duck breast and arrange on a platter. Serve with the warm crepes, the vegetables, and the hoisin for dipping/spreading. Enjoy!