Dining with Jie: Duck Day afternoons
Published: Saturday, December 1, 2007 - 1:39am
Gargoyle staff reporter
Posted Saturday, Dec. 1, 2007
[Note: The Gargoyle's resident food expert, Jie Han, will publish articles throughout the year about her culinary adventures. If you have any cooking or dining suggestions for Jie, contact her by clicking here.]
OK, so I ended up having turkey this Thanksgiving. Well, not quite. Two days after the big Turkey Day, actually. I had duck on those other two days. And I must say, I liked the Peking duck much better than the big ol' turkey.
Instead of sleeping until sometime around noon as I had planned to, I got up at 9 on Thanksgiving morning. Not all too happy with the arrangement, I packed up a suitcase and travel bag for an overnight stay.
By the time my third-hour class would have been under way, I was strapped into a three-hour long journey (depending on how fast your transportation is) to the North Side of Chicago, to a house of some friends of my parents.
We arrived at around 1:30 p.m. Our hosts, thinking that we would be starved, served up a hot pot with at least 20 plates of raw squid, frozen tofu, white fishballs, pink shrimpballs, young beanstalks, Korean kebabs, sliced lamb meat, cow stomach ….
And, of course, we couldn’t even finish half of it.
Being the only teenager in the house, I watched "Fahrenheit 9/11" along with the other adults. It wasn’t a bad movie, but there was a slight irony in watching it on a day when we were supposed to be thankful.
By 4 in the afternoon my family, our hosts, and I were off to a party at some other people’s house. Again, there was no one my age. But there were quite a few "Calvin and Hobbes" books that kept me sufficiently occupied until dinner and a game of mahjong afterward.
My favorite dish was the Peking-style duck. It had a very aromatic smell of Chinese cooking wine and some other ingredients. Instead of just picking up pieces and piling them on my plate, I had to eat the duck in a special way to maximize its deliciousness.
First, I took a piece of translucent and rubbery sheet of rice paper and placed it on my plate. It’s not like the rice paper that is on many Chinese candies; it was quite a bit thicker, more pliable, and sturdier, much like a pita or soft taco shell.
Then, I placed a few choice pieces of duck in the center and drizzled some salty sweet sauce over them. On top of my little pile of duck, I added a few thinly sliced pieces of green onion. Finally, I used the rice paper to wrap around the meat, taco style.
And it was good. It was a bit too salty and sweet the first time, since I added too much sauce. However, the aroma was very tempting, and pretty soon I was back in line for more. My hand soon got quite oily, since the duck’s oil soaked through the rice paper pretty quickly and made it more filling. And the duck disappeared fast, since it was rather popular amongst the little kids too.
The next day, we went to Chinatown to eat a late lunch. The food there was awesome! I ordered my usual steamed shrimp dumplings, which I highly recommend if you are in the area, leaving my parents to decide on the other dishes.
It was a feast fit for Thanksgiving. Among the dishes, one could find fried pork, fried crab, boiled duck, stir-fried beanstalks, small clams, steamed fish, chicken feet. Needless to say, we had to take a lot of it home.
Afterward, I went off exploring various stores around the restaurant. I discovered two bakeries, both of which had the most gorgeous and tempting slices of cake. Some were topped with mousse; others had chocolate or fruit.
Unfortunately, I doubted that they would survive the three-hour journey home, so I purchased a bag of green tea bread, almond paste bread, and a bean paste and salted egg yolk dessert. The bread was excellent — sort of like green tea-flavored angel cake. I also highly recommend it; and it’s pretty cheap compared to some of the other items (namely $3 cakes with approximately a volume of 20 inches cubed) at 80 cents a bag.
The day after I arrived home, my family and I prepared for yet another party, but at our house this time. We invited a couple neighbors’ families over for a barbeque and potluck.
It wasn’t as elaborate as the dinners I had eaten in Chicago, but there was a large, authentic, stuffed and roasted turkey, along with a pecan pie and mashed potatoes and gravy, courtesy of senior Linda Song and her family. And of course, there were parts of ducks brought from Chinatown. I think the turkey won over my taste buds in that round, but the Peking duck completely owned them all.
I wish Turkey Day would come sooner. And I will cross my fingers for another Peking duck. If not, then I’ll just call Linda and ask her to bring over some turkey.