Peking duck is one of the glories of Chinese gastronomy. I never thought of it as barbecue until I visited Macao. This tiny Portuguese enclave, located an hour south of Hong Kong by hydrofoil, boasts some of the best food in Asia. (That’s what happens when you marry two cultures who love to eat: the Portuguese and the Chinese.) You may not find Lam Yam Wing in any of the guidebooks, but coming to Macao and visiting the restaurant afforded me a major gastronomic experience. The real pride and joy of the house is Peking duck, which has been brushed with honey and roasted to the color of mahogany. The waiter carves the skin into crackling crisp shards and serves it with silver dollar-size scallion pancakes. (No papery Peking pancakes here, but velvety, delicate, thin crêpes.) The actual meat of the duck is returned to the kitchen to be stir-fried with shallots and garlic. The recipe here is inspired by Lam Yam Wing. Cooking duck in a covered grill using the indirect method produces a succulent and crisp duck without a lot of mess and work. Leaving the duck to dry uncovered in the refrigerator overnight crisps the skin even more. Here, then, is a not strictly traditional, but eminently tasty Peking duck cooked on the grill. Don’t be intimidated by the length of the recipe—the actual preparation time is minimal. I’ve included a recipe for scallion crêpes, which you can make while the duck cooks. If you’re in a hurry, you could use packaged Peking pancakes or even flour tortillas, but neither is as delicate as the crêpes.
Advance Preparation: 24 hours for drying the duck skin
How to Make Scallion Brushes Box
Cut the roots and dark green tops off scallions, reserving the green parts for crêpes or another use. You want to wind up with three-inch pieces of scallion white. To form the individual “bristles” of the brushes, make a series of one-inch lengthwise cuts in each end of the scallion whites, gradually rotating the scallions. Soak the scallions in a bowl of ice water for a couple of hours to curl the ends of the brushes.Mandarin pancakes are crepe-thin flour pancakes used to wrap sliced Peking duck in before eating. They are also sometimes referred to as Chinese or Peking pancakes or as mu shu wrappers. Although made in a different way and served at the opposite end of the planet, they are similar to Mexican tortillas. Look for them at Asian markets or make your own, following a recipe from a Chinese cookbook. In a pinch you could use flour tortillas.
Total Timea day or more
OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together, Formal Dinner Party
Recipe Coursemain course
Taste and Texturecrisp, garlicky, meaty, savory, spiced, sweet
- 1 duck (4½ to 5 pounds), thawed if frozen
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
- 1 clove garlic, peeled
- 1 scallion, both white and green parts, trimmed
- 3 thin slices peeled fresh ginger
- 1 tablespoon Asian (dark) sesame oil
- 1 cup hoisin sauce
- ¼ cup honey
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- ¼ cup rice wine or sake
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh gingerFor serving:
- 16 Scallion Crêpes, or Peking pancakes (see Notes) or flour tortillas
- 16 scallion brushes (see Notes)
Prepare the duck: The day before you plan to serve the duck, remove and discard the fat just inside the body cavities. Remove the package of giblets and set aside for another use. Rinse the duck, inside and out, under cold running water, then drain and blot dry, inside and out, with paper towels. Place the duck in a roasting pan and let stand, uncovered, in the refrigerator overnight to dry out the skin.
Season the body cavity of the duck with salt, pepper, and ½ teaspoon of the five-spice powder. Place the garlic clove, scallion, and ginger slices in the body cavity, then turn the duck over on its breast so that the back side is up. Using the tip of a sharp, slender knife, make a small slit in the fatty part of the duck under each wing and a slit on the underside of each thigh. Prick the duck skin all over with a sharp carving fork, being careful not to pierce the meat. Brush the outside of the duck all over with the sesame oil and rub the skin all over with the remaining ½ teaspoon of five-spice powder and some salt and pepper.
Set the grill up for indirect grilling, place a large drip pan in the center, and preheat the grill to medium-low.
When ready to cook, place the duck, breast side up, on the hot grill grate over the drip pan. Cover the grill and cook the duck for 1½ hours. If using a charcoal grill, you’ll need to add 10 to 12 fresh coals to each side after each hour of cooking.
Meanwhile, make the sauce: Combine the hoisin sauce, honey, soy sauce, rice wine, and minced garlic and ginger in a small, heavy saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat. Let the sauce simmer gently, uncovered, until well flavored and syrupy, about 5 minutes.
After it has cooked for 1½ hours, turn the duck on its end over a bowl to drain off any juices that have accumulated in the cavity and discard the juices. Prick the skin again with a fork and make fresh slits under the wings and thighs to encourage draining. Continue cooking the duck until the skin is mahogany brown and crackling crisp and the meat is well-done and tender, 30 to 45 minutes longer. When done, an instant-read meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of a thigh, but not touching the bone, should register about 170°F.
To serve: Transfer the duck to a platter. Present it to your guests, then using a sharp knife, carve the skin and meat off the bones (you may want to do this in the kitchen). Spoon the sauce into small bowls or ramekins, one per guest. Arrange the duck meat and skin on one platter, the Scallion Crêpes and scallion brushes on another. Have each guest brush a crêpe with sauce, using a scallion brush. Place a slice of duck skin and meat on the crêpe (and a scallion brush, if desired) and roll it into a cone for eating.
Note:You’ll need to allow a couple of hours for soaking the scallion brushes.
1998, 2008 Steven Raichlen