One of Peter’s patients gave him two wild game birds as a present. I couldn’t tell what type of birds they were. They were a little smaller than a chicken, but from the slightly iridescent feathers that were deliberately left on the wings they looked more like ducks than chickens. So I prepared them the way my grandfather always did on Chinese New Year’s eve during my childhood. He was the first original foodie that I knew. I wrote about him in a previous blog when I cooked Kung Pao chicken, a dish from my grandfather’s home province of Sichuan.
This duck dish is called 酱鸭 — “saucy duck,” a traditional Shanghaines braised duck with soy sauce, rock sugar, wine and a myriad of spices. My grandfather would always save the sauce from the braised duck and use it to braise eggs and extra firm tofu in the following days. They were the most delicious eggs and tofu I have ever tasted. Meat and poultry were so scarce that we wanted the taste of them to last for as long as we could.
The wild game birds were extremely lean, but not at all tough. Though this recipe is for ducks, these wild birds turned out absolutely delicious. I saved the sauce as my grandfather did and will use it to braise eggs and tofu in the next couple of days.
Happy Year of the Monkey!
Braised Wild Game Birds
2 small wild ducks (or 1 duck)
3 tablespoons oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed
8 thin slices ginger, separated
2 stocks scallion, chopped
4 star anises,
1 teaspoon Chinese peppercorn, separated
6 pieces dried orange peel
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup Shao Xing cooking wine
1/4 cup light Soy sauce
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 – 4 cups water or chicken broth
2 teaspoon honey + 2 teaspoon hot water
Heat 2 tablespoon oil in a dutch oven with 3 slices ginger, 1/4 teaspoon Chinese peppercorn. Brown the ducks on both sides.
When the ducks are browned, discard the ginger and peppercorn, save the oil. Set the ducks aside in a plate.
Add the last tablespoon oil and sauté the garlic, ginger, star anises, peppercorn, orange peel and sugar until aromatic.
Add soy sauce, wine, vinegar and water and bring to boil. Return the ducks to the pot. Turn the heat to low and simmer for one to one and half hour, turning the birds at half way time.
If you braise a whole duck instead of wild game birds, this recipe is for one duck.
You can cook ahead and let the cooked duck sit overnight in the fridge. Let it drain completely before cutting.
Vegetarian Lettuce Cups
1 cup cubed baked tofu or smoked tofu (You can find them in most super markets. I used braised tofu from Chinatown)
1 cup diced jicama
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup frozen peas
1 red jalapeño, seeded and diced
3 – 4 shiitake, fresh or dried, diced
3 slices ginger
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon Hoisin sauce
1/2 teaspoon Sriracha sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoon cooking oil
1 head butter lettuce
Wash and dry lettuce leaves. Set aside on a plate.
Heat oil in a wok on medium high. Add ginger slices and stir until aromatic. Add tofu, jicama, pepper, frozen peas and shiitake. Sauté for 3 minutes. Add minced garlic, Hoisin sauce, Sriracha and salt and stir for another 30 seconds to 1 minute. Do not over cook because you want the jicama cubes to be crispy.
Serve with a little Hoisin sauce, topped with chopped roasted peanuts and wrapped in lettuce leaves.
Braised pork is also a very traditional Shanghainese dish for Chinese New Year. Last Chinese New Year, I made it with winter bamboo and tofu skin. This year I cooked it with arrowheads and shiitake.
Pot Stickers are another Chinese New Year staple. The shape resembles that of a Chinese gold bullion. You can either make them with store purchased wraps or make your own wraps. We made our own wraps this year with chopped Napa cabbage and braised tofu inside.
Lastly, the dessert. There is nothing Chinese about this one, but it’s one of our family’s favorites. I posted the recipe in a previous blog. The only change I made today was to replace the almond roca with mocha roca.