On select weekends over the next few months, I am cooking a tasting menu for 30 guests attending The Illuminati Ball. The creator of this fabulous event, Cynthia Von Buhler, gave me free reign over the menu and made just two requests. The menu needed to be vegan and she wanted the final course to be Chinese Mock Duck.
There are two kinds of traditional Chinese mock duck. One is made from Seitan (pure wheat gluten) and one is made from Yuba (bean curd skin). Luckily for me (since I can’t eat gluten) she had the Yuba one in mind. Yuba is an amazing ingredient, which I had cooked with when I was a vegetarian. It absorbs flavor, and crisps up beautifully when fried mimicking the crispy skin of duck very well. I also like that, unlike many modern meat substitutes, it is a simple minimally processed ingredient rather than a horrifying melange of proccessed god knows what. Yuba is the skin that forms on the top of vats of fresh soy milk as it is warmed. The skin is pulled off and dried. That’s it.I highly recommend seeking out frozen yuba for this recipe. The dry sheets are more common, but they are usually broken and crumbled. Broken Yuba will not work for this recipe! Also, to use frozen yuba, you just thaw it and get to work. Dry yuba must be soaked in water for exactly the right amount of time before you work with it. It’s a nightmare. Once thawed, the frozen sheets are easily unfolded and cut into manageable quarters. Each sheet is a huge circle (about 2 feet wide!).I would be lying if I told you that making mock duck is simple. It has a lot of steps. I’ve provided the photos of the process that I wished I had been able to find when I was figuring this out. I hope it helps! I read many, many recipes trying to figure this out and what I offer here is a big mashup. I’ve added my own touches as well. I used celery instead of the more traditional bamboo shoots and added five spice powder to the yuba marinade. Some garlic scallions or ginger might be nice additions too, although I did not try them.Mock duck might usually be served on lettuce leaves as part of a large banquet. I added Vietmamese style pickles and herbs for color, texture and a bit of acidity to cut the richness of the duck. It’s best eaten wrapped up in a lettuce leaf by hand.
CRISPY YUBA MOCK DUCK WITH VIETNAMESE PICKLES AND HERBS
Makes 20 small servings or 10 substantial servings
For the pickles
- 7 or 8 oz carrots, peeled and shredded into ribbons
- 7 or 8oz daikon radish peeled and shredded into ribbons
- some coarse salt
- 1 and 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 and 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
- Combine the sugar and vinegar and whisk it every once in a while until the sugar melts.
- Salt the vegetables and leave them to sweat for 15 minutes.
- Thoroughly squeeze the liquid out of the salted vegetables and put them in the sugar vinegar mixture to pickle for at least a few hours (overnight is better).
For seasoning the duck
- 5 Tablespoons tamari
- 3 Tablespoons sesame oil
- 1/4 cup mirin (or sugar)
- 1/2 cup stock made from good quality vegetable bouillon
Whisk the ingredients together. If you are using sugar instead of mirin make sure that you whisk it until the sugar melts. Measure out 2/3 cup of the marinade for the yuba and nearly 1 cup for the filling.
For the filling
- 2 oz dried Chinese mushrooms (shitaki)
- 2 Tablespoon mild oil
- 1 cup finely diced carrots
- 1 cup finely diced celery
- nearly a cup of marinade (recipe above)
- white pepper
- Soak the mushrooms in hot water for at least ½ hour, then drain and dice them.
- Heat the oil until hot. Sauté the carrots, celery and mushrooms for 2 or 3 minutes.
- Add nearly one cup of marinade along with white pepper to taste and cook until the liquid is absorbed.
- 8 Oz frozen Yuba, thawed
- 2/3 cup marinade
- 1 teaspoon 5 spice powder
- Mild oil for frying
- 20 perfect Boston lettuce leaves
- mint (optional)
- cilantro (optional)
- shiso (optional)
- Start a pot of water to boil. Line 2 bamboo steamers with wax paper. I use a plate on top of a baking wrack in my largest pot when I make this at home, since I don’t own a steamer. This works well if you are making just a few servings at a time. The wrapped parcels can be kept in the fridge for a day or two in a sealed container and then steamed and fried right before serving.
- Whisk 1 teaspoon of 5 spice powder into 2/3 cup marinade.
- Cut each sheet of yuba into four equal wedges. Keep the extras under a damp towel while you work so that they don’t dry out.
- Lay out one layer and brush it with the marinade for the yuba. Lay another layer on top and brush it again. Repeat with a third and final layer.
- Spread a generous 1/3 cup of the filling over the middle third of the yuba. Fold the edges to toward the center then fold that in half so that the edges are tucked in. Repeat in the other direction.
- As you finish making each parcel, place them into the steamers (You should have 5 parcels, 2 or 3 per steamer). Steam for 12 minutes.
- While the parcels steam, lay a perfect clean lettuce leaf on each plate (two per plate if you are serving larger portions to fewer people) and top with some drained pickles. Lay out a wrack lined with paper towels to drain the duck and a large cutting board with a very sharp knife.
- Heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok until it is very hot but not smoking. Fry the steamed parcels on all sides until they are golden and puffy. Drain them on paper towels. I do this one at a time since it does not take very long and spatters a lot.
- Slice each fried parcel diagonally in two triangles. Then slice each triangle in half to make skinnier triangles.
- Serve each slice on a piece of lettuce and pickles and garnish with cilantro, mint and shiso. Serve hot!
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