December 29, 2003
Oh Christmas Duck, oh Christmas Duck, How lovely are your juices
Like you, I think my Mom is the best cook in the entire world. One of my favorite things she makes for the holidays is Ba Bao Ya, or Eight Treasure Duck. It gets its name from the eight different ingredients that are used in the stuffing. There are a milliion different ways to make this recipe of course, and my mom's version is loosely modified from the traditional recipes you might see in a cookbook that include lotus seeds and lily flowers. I think my mom thinks that's too fancy, and adds all kinds of flowery flavors and starchy textures that she's not a big fan of.
So my mom's version, the one my family likes, uses sweet glutinous short-grain rice (or sticky rice), dried shrimp, shitake mushrooms, chinese sausage, carrots and soy beans: hardly eight ingredients. She prepares the night before by soaking the rice in water overnight.
Just like you would start a risotto, she sautes all of the ingredients in some oil. Then she adds a combination of light and dark soy sauces for the right color. You can cook this rice mixture in the rice steamer just like this and chow down. This kind of rice is called You Fan, or Oil Rice because it's cooked with oil. Usually we take the leftover rice that doesn't fit in the duck, steam it and serve it as you fan with the final duck.
After stuffing the cavity of the duck with the rice mixture, loosely, she trusses the bird (old school-like with a needle and thread) so the rice filling doesn't fall out during cooking.
At this point you are supposed to either deep fry the bird or ladel hot oil over it to crisp and brown the skin. Instead, we just put it under the broiler for several minutes and brown each side.
Last year at CostCo, my mom found a 24-pack of Budweiser beer in the parking lot that someone had left behind. She snapped it up to use for cooking and to add to her flower garden. Here it is the perfect ingredient to braise the duck along with soy sauce, fresh ginger slices, whole star anise and rock sugar. Mom says you have to use rock sugar because it tastes better than if you use regular sugar.
She brings the mixture to a boil and lowers the temperature to a simmer. Then she tops off the duck with some fresh green scallions, covers and lets it braise. Slow braising in soy sauce like this is a classic chinese technique called Hong Sau, or Red-Cooked.
Two and a half hours later of simmering and basting you get the most succulent, sweet, savory, tender bird basted in its own juices. The rice filling is completely cooked and has taken on the flavor of the duck and the surrounding ginger infused sauce.
I love my mom.
Spec's Liquor Warehouse
At Spec's Liquor Warehouse [beware of one of the most awful sites you'll ever encounter] in Houston, you can find just about any kind of liquor, choose from a large selection of wines, barware/tools, and gourmet snacks and deli items (perfect for holiday parties) all with a knowledgable staff at this Houston-based chain which is also somewhat of a Houston tradition. I am happy to learn over the holiday that they opened a smaller branch right by my parents' house in Jersey Village at 290 and Jones Road. It's not as fancy as the downtown location on Smith, but it'll save me a 40 mile drive roundtrip to stock up on some wine and dirty martini essentials, and maybe some cheese twists, by just going right around the corner.
Hi. I'm going to write about food and other yummy things here. I'm not a professional cook or a critic or a picky foodie. I just like food... all kinds of food, from Happy Meals to Sushi Nigiri to my Mom's Chinese recipes I grew up on.