Tea smoked duck & steamed barramundi cooked for friends.
Tea smoked duck is not a dish you see often. It is claimed to have originated in central China, though you will find it listed in the cuisine of many regions. It takes up to three days to prepare if marinated to full effect, so is best left to a special occasion.
After slow marinating in a rub of Chinese sorghum spirit, ginger and spices you air dry the duck, then blanch it to tighten the skin. This also renders some of the fat. Then you air dry it again before smoking over tea leaves, rice, sugar and cassia bark to assist the smoky flavour to penetrate the skin.
I reduced the blanching water to a concentrate, and poured the resting juices from smoking into it to make a broth. The juices are flavoured with star anise, cassia, mandarine peel and spring onion stuffed in the duck cavity. I served this at the start of the meal.
Next stage is steaming the duck. I added lemon to my steaming water to draw some of the more intense smokiness off the skin.
Just before serving I rubbed the duck with potato starch and deep fried it to crisp the skin. The meat was moist and tasty. Well worth the effort.
The barramundi was steamed and seasoned in the traditional manner, with the hot oil added from the deep fryer to sear the skin, ginger and spring onion topping.
In the background are Mantou (Bao - steamed bread) which curiously were said to have been invented by Zhuge Liang - known as Crouching Dragon - a famous Chinese strategist and inventor who live in the 1st century AD, the Three Kingdoms period. Mantou were said to be the heads of the enemy war lords and soldiers battling in a war to unify China under their command.
I have a porcelain statue of Zhuge Liang in my home. I knew nothing of him when I spotted the statue in a dark and dusty shop in the world heritage listed part of Hoi An in Vietnam. When I brought him home my father was amazed, he told me I had purchased a fellow strategist who loved to cook - serendipitous!