Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Peking Duck Pancakes

After eating all the nice crispy legs and wings yesterday, we were left with two lovely cooked duck breasts. I had a huge craving for duck with pancakes, so dropped by the Oriental Supermarket on the way home to see if they had the right kind of pancakes. Sadly, they did not. So I picked up a kilo of rice flour and some Peking Duck sauce, and headed home to get cooking!

Googling for duck pancake recipes, I found that many chefs simply made French-style crepes, which I have indeed done before for this meal. But I really felt like the floury, slightly chewy, aromatic rice pancakes you get in Chinese restaurants. I found a great recipe on Youtube by VideoJug showing exactly how to make them at home, and since the whole process was new to me, I followed the recipe exactly. I was absolutely amazed at the results - a stack of wafer-thin rice pancakes, aromatic with sesame oil, ever so slightly caramelised in places and wonderfully soft and flexible. It did take an hour or so the first time, but I think I could make these a lot faster with some practice. I tried to speed things up by using the breadmaker but actually it didn't save any time as the dough was very sticky and got stuck in the paddle.

To go with, I stir-fried a couple of spring onions with a large bunch of pak choi (stalks for 1-2 minutes, then leaves with a splash of soy sauce). The duck we simply shredded; we deseeded and sliced a cucumber and chopped up some coriander. I don't like raw spring onion in my duck pancakes :)

I'll recap the pancake recipe here but the video is worth a watch for a nice clear demonstration. This makes enough for about 4-5 people, or 8 for a starter. We froze the extras.

My pancake-making set-up, with tea-towels temporarily folded
back to show the uncooked (left) and cooked (right) pancakes.
  • 300 g flour - I used half rice, half plain white (wheat)
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 240 ml boiling water
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil, 1 tbsp of vegetable oil, combined
  • some flour for dusting

Mix the flour, sugar and water together until it forms a sticky dough. Generously sprinkle the dough with some flour, dust the work surface with more flour, and spoon the dough into the flour. Fold the dough and knead it for a few minutes. Don't be afraid to add more flour to the dough, if necessary, as it might still be too sticky. Continue to knead until the dough takes on a smooth, non sticky, elastic consistency. Finally, cover it with a clean, damp tea towel and set it aside for 30 minutes, to rest. (I only left it for 15 minutes and it was fine.)

The finished stack, with shredded duck, sliced cucumber,
chopped fresh coriander,  a ramekin of Peking duck sauce,
and bowls of stir-fried pak choi.
Uncover the dough and cut it in half. Rub the rolling pin with flour and roll one half into a thin sheet of about 1/2 cm in thickness. Repeat exactly the same process with the other piece. (I thought this sounded thick, but it's fine, you'll roll it again in a minute!)

Take one sheet and cut it into circles using a 7cm biscuit cutter or the rim of a large mug. Take off the excess pastry but do not discard. You can roll it again later. Now brush each circle with a little bit of oil. Place one disk on top of the other, with their oiled sides together, to create a pair and repeat exactly the same process with the other half of the dough. It's vital to cover with a damp tea towel to retain the moisture.

Re- flour the working surface. Take each pair and using your rolling pin, roll them out to make them paper thin. Repeat until all of the pairs are rolled flat. Then cover again to retain the moisture.

Place the frying pan onto a medium-high heat and allow it to get very hot. Do not add any oil. When the pan is hot enough, add a pancake. Let it cook for about 1.5 minutes, until it begins to look char-grilled and slightly inflated. Then turn it over and cook other side. Remove it from the pan and separate it into two pancakes. You may want to leave it for a minute or so as they are very hot. This method of cooking gives one slightly charred side, and a moist side. It also gives the pancakes more flavour and the dough is more elastic. Repeat with the rest of the pancakes. As soon as you remove a pancake from the pan, put it on top of the stack and keep the stack covered with a tea towel so it doesn't dry out.

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