When you buy a roast duck at a Chinese barbecue shop (often attached to an Asian market or near one), it’s customary for the man behind the counter to hack it into bite-size pieces. That way, you can start nibbling as soon as you get home. About a year ago, I decided that I wanted to do the hacking myself so that I would have better control over how the duck was cut up and used. Plus I liked the light butchering practice that came with the $15 purchase of the duck.
With the duck left more or less intact, I saw many more possibilities with it than just a single meal. I found various ways to deploy the meat, skin, fat, and bones for a host of dishes. Here’s how I make the most of one Chinese roast duck:
Eat the choice parts bone in or off the bone: Start off here. Cut up the duck as you would a roast chicken. Cooked duck bones are relatively soft so you can chop through the bones with a heavy chef’s knife or cleaver. A 5-inch boning knife is great for getting into tight areas.
Put the cut pieces, flesh side down, on a foil-lined rimmed baking tray and reheat in a toaster oven preheated to 350F till hot and the skin has crisp. I often enjoy these choice bone-in pieces with rice (dip in the sauce(s) that came with it) or add them to a bowl of instant Chinese noodle soup.
The duck can also be cut off the bone into smaller pieces for crispy duck pot sticker tacos, stuffing into a steamed bun (replace that pork belly), or stir-fried with pressed tofu and broccolini (jump to the Sunset magazine recipe).
Save that skin: Duck is rich and a lot of that is in the skin. I often set aside the relatively flat pieces of skin (from the back side, usually) for a down-and-dirty version of Peking duck. Use a flour tortilla, same sauce as for the duck pot sticker tacos, cucumber, and scallion. Roll everything up and eat.
Cook with the fat: Set aside the little pockets of fat that you encounter as you cut up the duck. Pour the fat that renders from heating the duck up into a small bowl. Use either or both to stir-fry with and you’ll inject extra ducky richness. It would be delightful with Brussels sprouts (replace the oil and/or use the cracklings too).
Stir-fry with the sauce: The container of dark sauce that often comes with the duck is usually a little oily, salty, and sweet. I often toss some into the wok to season bok choi or other vegetables. Serve that kind of veggie with the choice duck pieces and you’ll neatly tie the meal together.
Freeze bones for broth: Discard the head and any spices you find in the body cavity. Then freeze the bones for an improvised stock later on. Add them to chicken or chicken and pork stock to inject ducky goodness into your brew.
Roast duck shopping tips
Choose the largest one as it will likely have more meat. The duck is usually sold per duck, not per weight, at a Chinese barbecue shop.
Select a duck with moderately brown skin, if you’re going to reheat it later on. It’ll brown more so if you start off with a dark one, the skin will deepen in color more and perhaps not taste so good.
If you don't gobble up the duck when you get home, store the duck for 3 or 4 days in the fridge. Return it to room temperature before reheating.
When I switched to cutting the duck up at home, I initially had the barbecue man cut the duck in half so that it would fit relatively well in Styrofoam box. Last Friday, I told him to not cut the duck at all. He looked at me a bit quizzically, then chopped off the head and broke the neck so that the duck sort of fit in the container. The top wouldn’t close and the market no longer gave out plastic bags. The photo at the top is of the very exposed, vulnerable looking duck atop my shopping cart. A little awkward looking. Next time, I’ll revert to having him halve the duck.
That’s how I make the most out of a single Chinese roast duck. I’m sure there are many other ways to deploy its various parts. Thoughts and ideas? Do share.
- Crispy duck pot sticker tacos
- Chinese steamed rolls
- Pork belly stuffed buns
- Pressed tofu, duck and broccolini (Sunset.com)
- Brussels sprouts with Chinese sausage
- Homemade Peking Duck