The origins of Nanjing Salted Duck date back more than two millennia. Even though it has a simple appearance, the taste will blow you away. This Nanjing Salted Duck doesn’t need the traditional ginger scallion sauce like White-Cut chicken or Bai Qie Ji.
The capital of Jiangsu province, Nanjing is conveniently located near Shanghai. Huaiyang cuisine, which includes Nanjing cuisine (also known as Jinling cuisine, is one of China’s four culinary heritages, along with Cantonese cuisine, Shandong cuisine, and Sichuan cuisine.
The food in Huaiyang is sophisticated. Everything from the choice of ingredients to the methods of preparation must be geared at highlighting and preserving those elements in order to achieve concentrated but not oily, light but pleasant flavors. The knife talents of Huaiyang chefs are likewise well-known. While the cleaver has multiple purposes in western cooking, it is the workhorse of the Chinese kitchen. Creating knives in China is a highly respected profession.
The sequence in which two brothers hone their knife skills by cutting tofu was included in the Chinese documentary serial A Bite of China (which you should check out on YouTube—food porn for all!). They worked for hours, their faces dripping sweat, to achieve their aim of slicing it thinner than a toothpick.
This Nanjing Salted Duck will serve as a gateway dish into Huaiyang cooking for today. You can get Nanjing salted duck anywhere in the city, from restaurants to grocery stores to souvenir shops. They come vacuum-packed, ready to go, or in cute little gift boxes.
That duck is more popular than chicken among Nanjing residents is probably not news.
- 1 whole 4 – 4 ½ pound of duck
- 5 slices of ginger
- 4 star anise
- 3 bay leaves
- 3 scallions; cut into large segments
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1/2 cup of Shaoxing wine
- 4 tablespoons of salt
- 2 ½ tablespoons of Sichuan peppercorns
- 2 teaspoons of cumin seeds
- 2 teaspoons of whole white or black peppercorns
- 2 teaspoons of sesame oil
- Remove any remaining giblets from the duck and give it a good rinsing under cold water. Remove any dirt or grime by soaking it in cold water for an hour.
- A flat-bottomed pan over medium heat should have the salt and Sichuan peppercorns added to it. Stirring continually, dry roast them for 5–8 minutes, or until the salt develops a pale yellow color. Turn off the stove and let cool. Burning the Sichuan peppercorns would be a terrible mistake.
- To prepare the duck for serving, remove it from the water and dry it completely with paper towels on both the interior and outside. Rub the duck all over with the salt and Sichuan peppercorns. Make full use of the compound, reserving at least a third of it for the void. To marinade the duck, let it be uncovered in the fridge for three hours.
- You can get your spice pouch ready while the duck is marinating. Wrap the star anise, cumin seeds, bay leaves, cinnamon, and peppercorns in a square of cheesecloth and secure with kitchen thread. Don’t bother with it right now.
- The next thing to do is get a pot big enough to fit the duck in one piece. Put in 12 to 15 glasses of water, or enough to completely cover the duck. Combining the ginger and scallion with the spice bag is a great idea. Water in the pot should be brought to a boil before the Shaoxing wine is added. Melt the butter and add the ingredients to a pot.
- After the duck has marinated for the appropriate amount of time, place it in the prepared pot, along with all the marinade ingredients (including the salt and Sichuan peppercorns). Get the water boiling.
- When the water boils, carefully remove the duck and drain the water that has accumulated in the cavity. Place the duck back into the saucepan and bring the water to a boil once more. This prevents any ice from forming in the duck’s cavity.
- Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 15 minutes. You want the water to be hot and simmering for these 15 minutes without coming to a full boil.
- Cover and let set for 40 to 45 minutes. After the duck has rested for 40 to 45 minutes, remove it to a cutting board. After roasting the duck, rub it lightly with sesame oil and then let it cool fully before slicing and serving.