Among Asian cooking techniques, “braise” (“tiềm” or “tần” according to a Northern dialect), is one of the familiar cooking processes that is intended for nutritious dishes. In the old days, cooks liked to put all the precious ingredients into a terracotta pot, then solder the lid to the pot while bringing the pot to a steam so that the nutritious liquid would not vaporize. Later, if the cooks wanted to “keep all the nutrients”, they would slow-cook, that is, they used an airtight plastic bag, then placed it in a temperature-controlled steam environment for longer than normal cooking time to cook the item evenly, ensuring that the inside is properly cooked without overcooking the outside while retaining moisture. But the easiest way to cook is braise the food slowly on low heat so that the broth will reduce to a stew consistency, and this helps get the flavors into the duck meat. But make sure that the duck is shallow-fried before braising in order to have a tender, but not falling-apart, duck breast fragrant with aromatic lotus seeds.
DUCK BRAISED WITH LOTUS SEEDSPrint This
- 1kg duck breast
- 200g fresh lotus seeds
- 50g black fungus soaked to swell
- 200g carrots
- 100g straw mushrooms
- 50g dried shiitake mushrooms
- 500ml coconut water
- 500ml pork bone broth
- 20ml soy sauce
- 20ml black soy sauce
- 50g shallots
- 50g garlic
- 10g white pepper
- 10ml sesame oil
- 50g red dates
- 5g seasoning powder
- 12g salt
- 100ml cooking oil
- 20g ginger
- 50ml rice wine
- 10g cilantro
Preparation: Place duck breast into the mixture of smashed ginger, and 50ml rice wine with 10g salt and rub to remove its fetidness, then clean thoroughly and drain it well. Peel shallot and garlic cloves, squash 30g of garlic and 30g of shallots to get the extract, leaving the rest whole. Peel then carve carrots, and cut into pieces 5mm thick. Cut soaked black fungus into bite-size pieces. Soak the shiitake mushrooms in water until softened, then boil them and take out to drain. Clean the lotus seeds well, and remove their hearts. Roast the white pepper, then smash it. Remove the volva bits at the bases of the stalks, clean them thoroughly and soak in salt water for five minutes, then take them out and drain them well. Wash the red dates and soak in water for ten minutes till they swell.
Marinate and fry the duck: Marinate duck breast with soy sauce, sesame oil, black soy sauce and garlic and shallot extract, let it soak in spices. Heat the pan first, then pour 100ml cooking oil into it; tip the duck into the pan until caramelized and the duck meat became firm, take it out; add 20g shallots, 20g garlic until they are crispy and wellbrowned, take them out and transfer to the paper towels to drain.
Braise the duck: Pour the coconut water into the wok and bring it to a boil, then add the duck breast and roasted shallots and garlic; when it boils again, skim off foam from the top. Add 5g seasoning powder, shiitake mushrooms, red dates and bring them up to a simmer; if there is too little water left, pour some boiling water to submerge them. After about an hour, test for doneness; if the duck is tender, add lotus seeds and carrots to braise until they are cooked evenly, add straw mushrooms, black fungus, white pepper and bring them to a boil, add 2g salt to taste, and turn off the heat.
Ladle the braised duck and all the kinds of mushrooms into serving bowls, sprinkle cilantro over the top, and serve hot with rice or noodles.
The duck meat should be cooked through and fragrant. The broth should be elegant, sweet and clear. The lotus seeds should be tender and nutty, not falling apart, and pleasing to the palate.
Choose the average duck, not too old, with firm meat; sugar should not be added because the coconut water is sweet.
Red dates may be added; simmer the duck and skim off foam from the top frequently to get a clear broth.
Add seasoning according to diners’ taste.
EFFECTS OF THIS DISH
This dish has the combination of the nutrition values of ducks, lotus seeds and mushrooms; therefore, it is good for those who have asthenic body syndrome, neurasthenia (a complex of symptoms characterized by chronic fatigue and weakness, loss of memory, and generalized aches and pains), damaged immune system, decreased body resistance, inflammation, loss of appetite and insomnia, diabetes, and high blood cholesterol.
TRAN MINH DUNG Song Tra Hotel (Dong Thap Province) Runner-up in the Southern regional semifinal round of the Golden Spoon Awards 2013