Getting My Ducks In A RowOno, You Know
December 10, 2017
Story By: Ali Resich |
There are many joyous aspects of the holidays, but when I reflect on what I love most about this time of year, it always comes back to the sweet memories of enjoying homemade feasts with my family around the dinner table.
Though most households gobble up the same Thanksgiving menu, more or less, Christmas dinners open up a whole new world of varying traditions, depending on cultural, and even personal, customs. For my family, Christmastime means digging into my mom’s amazing Polish-style roasted duck, perfected with an awe-inspiring apple-sauce gravy that becomes extra lavish with duck-fat drippings.
Since I’ve already been salivating in anticipation of our upcoming poultry soiree at home, I got to thinking — there must be tons of fabulous duck preparations around town that may just complete your holiday spread. And, as I found out, there are some unexpected treats along the way that you’re going to want to wolf down. Let’s take a look:
Just like in my family, duck dishes are an important part of Chinese celebrations as well. And whether dining during the holidays or in the middle of summer, the power of Peking duck can light up any family gathering.
With the perfect balance of golden, crispy skin and juicy, tender meat — not to mention the aromatic bliss of Chinese spices — it’s no wonder the classic dish is so popular. One of the best places to get it locally is Golden Palace Seafood Restaurant in Chinatown, where the Lam ohana has been cooking up homestyle Chinese fare since 2001.
Gary Lam, manager of the family business, tells me that there are some seasonings and techniques he can’t reveal, but that part of what makes Golden Palace’s Peking Duck ($35) so special is the chef’s method of prepping the skin, slow roasting the meat, and seasoning the inside of the duck to provide more flavor.
“The one thing that really stands out with ours is that the skin stays crispy,” he says, adding that Golden Palace makes its own puffy steamed buns (also available a la carte) to accompany the dish.
For something a bit less common, Lam recommends jazzing up your holidays with Stuffed Duck ($35) nuanced with star anise, among other herbs and spices.
“Overtime, a lot of restaurants stopped offering Stuffed Duck, due to the amount of work that goes into making the dish, so it’s not as well known by the younger generation,” he explains. “It’s more popular among the traditional, older Chinese and the older local Chinese (customers).”
Thankfully, Golden Palace is still willing to go the distance for this laborious masterpiece — first marinating and steaming the duck for 1.5 hours, then deboning it. The bird is then filled with a cooked mix of barley, lotus seeds, ginkgo nuts, shiitake mushrooms and ham, and steamed once more. And for the finishing touch? A thick, savory slathering of gravy.
Because of the lengthy cooking process, the restaurant asks for at least two day’s advance notice when ordering Stuffed Duck — but trust me, it will be worth the wait.
In other holiday news, Golden Palace is extending its popular Turkey packages ($138, cash only; takeout or dine-in; limited quantity available) for Christmas, while its party menus continue to be great options for seasonal shindigs.
A ONE-OF-A-KIND BITE
At the beginning of our journey into the delectable world of duck, I promised you a tasty surprise, and I’m here to deliver that right now. I bet you’ve never tried duck on a pizza — am I right? — but you’ll absolutely want to do so after hearing about Fendu Boulangerie’s Smoked Muscovy Duck Breast Pizza ($15.25 for 8-inch, $23 for 14-inch).
The charming bakery, tucked away within Manoa Marketplace, is known for its made-from-scratch offerings, ranging from baked goods, fresh breads and sweet creations to breakfast, lunch and dinner fare. And though Fendu’s bites are prepared with fresh, wholesome ingredients, they’re by no means simple when it comes to flavor.
This duck breast pizza is evidence of that, as chef and owner Niel Koep always is coming up with creative flavor combinations. Here, he balances the smoky notes of the duck with creamy goat cheese and the sweet tang of balsamic-marinated figs. Garlic and pancetta build upon the richness of flavors, while fresh mozzarella, Parmigiano Reggiano and house-made tomato sauce bring those familiar flavors to the pie.
“We wanted to come up with a pizza that’s a bit more upscale,” says Koep, when talking about the inspiration behind the dish.
“I love duck myself, and the duck and goat cheese together is a great combination.”
Fendu’s rustic pizzas feature house-made dough as well, and they crisp up beautifully in the bakery’s old-school gas burner oven. And did I mention that you can revel in Smoked Muscovy Duck Breast Pizza all year long?
There are some seasonal menu items that you have to eat up before they’re gone, however. Fendu’s famous Stollen Bread is one such specialty now delighting palates with a modern twist on the classic German bread (see our Christmas guide starting on page 11 for more details).