AKA Peking Crispy Duck with Pancakes Substitute
The last time I went to a Chinese restaurant, I was a bit underwhelmed with the meal. It wasn’t bad. It was just that the sparse veggie options were definitely the also-rans of the menu. My satisfaction levels weren’t helped by my eating companions having a full Chinese banquet beside me. I tried not to look envious at their plentiful dishes, well cooked and beautifully presented, but I think I got a bit yearning when they got to the crispy duck with pancakes. I loved that when I ate meat. I averted my eyes and went back to my not completely crispy noodles with vegetables.
Maybe because I yearned a bit more than usual over a meat dish, it got me thinking. As with most meat dishes, it’s actually the vegetables and the sauces that add most of the flavour. What you would need is a vehicle to carry that flavour and add a bit of mouthfeel with it. Once you ask the right question, the answer is obvious – mushrooms!
I’ve used ordinary button mushrooms here, but if you can get shiitakes they would be the ultimate replacement. You also don’t get the crispy skin texture from the mushrooms, so I’ve upped the crunch quotient in the vegetable garnishes, adding a crispy little gem lettuce. Finely sliced mangetout or sugarsnap peas (if you don’t mind the carbon footprint) would work brilliantly too.
There’s enough sauce left around the mushrooms after cooking that I nearly left the separate hoisin sauce out. I kept it in, however, and I’m glad – it adds another level of flavour that the dish wouldn’t be the same without.
I can definitely recommend this one. And next time I go to a Chinese restaurant I won’t feel quite so forlorn.
For the mushrooms:
100g mushrooms – thinly sliced
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp five spice powder
1 tbsp shaoxing rice wine
1/2 tbsp sesame oil
1/2 tbsp sugar
6 chinese pancakes
spring onions – finely sliced
2 inches of cucumber – sliced into matchsticks
1/2 little gem lettuce – shredded
4 tbsp hoisin sauce
Heat up a small frying pan or omelette pan. Add the mushrooms, the soy, five spice powder, rice wine, sesame oil and sugar. Stir round until the mushroom are cooked and sauce is thick, bubbling and clinging to the mushrooms.
Warm the pancakes through either by steaming them or in the microwave.
Plate the mushrooms, spring onions, lettuce and cucumber so that everyone can take bits of each. Have the hoisin sauce in a dish, and the pancakes on a plate.
To eat: take a pancake, spread with a little hoisin sauce. Add a little of the mushrooms, onions, lettuce and cucumber. Fold the pancake and eat, trying not to dribble out of the other end.
Serves 2 as a starter.