Do Tan Da’s poems, the lotus flower, and the duck have anything in common? These three seemingly unrelated things were the main elements that brought forth a miraculous dish cooked by Chef Nguyen Van Bong, who is used to spending night after night reading poems in the library of Phu Yen Province after an exhausting day at work in the kitchen. This chef, who comes from Kaya Restaurant, Phu Yen, is enchanted by the poems of Poet Tan Da-Nguyen Khac Hieu as much as cooking. It was Tan Da’s dish “Duck Steamed with Lotus Flower” that was an inspiration for Bong’s Duck Steamed with Lotus Flower, Served with Rice and Basil-Flavored Salt. Bong’s dish was not only an aromatic, delicious, mouth-numbing hot dish, but also a cultural masterpiece combining the warmth of rice and the beauty of the lines of the poem from a legendary region: “Nothing can be compared to lotus beauty in swamp – Look! A flower bud’s just in full bloom – As a maiden mirrors her unique posture – Over the water on far horizon – Revealing white petals and green calyxes with yellow stigma – Rustling and fluttering away are the butterflies – Let’s row our boat idly afar…”
DUCK STEAMED WITH LOTUS FLOWER, SERVED WITH RICE AND BASIL-FLAVORED SALTPrint This
- INGREDIENTS FOR THE STEAM DUCK
- 500g duck breasts
- 100g dried bamboo shoots
- 1 young coconut
- 6 lotus flowers
- 20g ginger
- 20g shallots
- 10g garlic
- 10ml rice wine
- 10ml cooking oil
- INGREDIENTS TO MARINATE THE DUCK
- 4g seasoning powder
- 5g sugar
- 1g ground black pepper
- 12g salt
- INGREDIENTS FOR THE RICE
- 500g fragrant rice
- 100g lemon basil leaves
- 10 green tiny chili peppers
- 1kg duck bones
- 1.5 liters water
- 10g ginger
- 30g shallots
- 20ml rice wine
- 20g salt
- 50g onions
Cook the broth and the rice:
Preparation: Clean the duck bones with 20ml of rice wine, 10g of salt and 10g of smashed ginger, then poach the bones in boiling water; clean them thoroughly again and drain them. Peel the shallots and reserve the whole bulbs. Peel the onions then cut them into halves.
Cook the broth: Put the duck bones into a wok with 1.5 liters of water, 50g onions and 30g shallots, bring them to a boil and skim off the foam, then lower the heat and bring them to a simmer until the broth is reduced to about 700ml.
Cook the rice: Rinse the rice in a few changes of water. Add water to barely cover the rice and cook it. The amount of water used depends on the type of rice. It is necessary for the rice to be properly cooked and spongy.
Prepare the basil-flavored salt: Remove the stems of the lemon basils, reserve the leaves and put them in a blender together with 10 tiny chili peppers and 10g salt and blend them thoroughly. When the rice is cooked, combine it with half of the basil-flavored salt, mix them thoroughly and continue to steam them for 5 more minutes.
Steam the duck:
Preparation: Soak the dried bamboo shoots in water overnight, then clean thoroughly and boil them. Refresh the water after 30 minutes of boiling, and continue to boil for 30 more minutes. When they are thoroughly cooked, clean them again with cold water, let them cool down then remove the old parts, shred them and wring out the excess water. Use 10g smashed ginger, 10ml wine and 10g salt to wash the duck breasts to remove the smelly odor, then clean them again and drain them. Finally cut them into slices of 5mm thick. Peel the remaining 10g ginger and finely cut them into strings. Chop the garlic and the shallots, remove the old outer petals of the lotus flower because the young petals are more fragrant and less bitter.
Marinate the duck: In a big bowl, marinate the duck with 5g ginger strings, 5g garlic, 10g finely chopped shallots, 1g pepper, 2g seasoning powder, 5g sugar and 2g salt. Mix them thoroughly and leave them to marinate.
Steam the duck: Put a frying pan on the stove, add 10ml cooking oil, 5g garlic, 10g finely chopped shallots, 5g ginger strings, stir-fry them until fragrant then add the shredded bamboo shoots, 2g seasoning powder and mix them thoroughly. Continue to add the young coconut water and bring them to a boil, then reduce the heat so the bamboo shoots may absorb the spices thoroughly. When the water is reduced, add the duck and stir-fry them until the meat shrinks, add the lotus flowers and stir continually. Finally, turn off the heat. Transfer the meat and the lotus shoots to a bowl or tureen, and steam them for 30 more minutes until they are cooked thoroughly.
Serve the duck with rice and basil-flavored salt, and let the remaining half basil salt for dipping.
The duck should be tender, the bamboo shoots should be crunchy and agreeable to the palate, but without being chewy. The rice should have the fragrance of the white basil and not be too watery or dry.
Use the water which is used to wash the rice to soak the dry bamboo shoots so that they will be thoroughly cleaned and the unpleasant odor will be removed.
The bamboo shoots can be soaked, boiled and shredded in advance, stored in the fridge and taken out for immediate use when necessary.
EFFECTS OF THIS DISH
It helps tonify Yin, nourish blood and Qi, stimulate digestion, relieve constipation, increase urine output, and reduce the body heat and detoxify the body. This dish is very useful for people with asthenia; it enhances body strength and is suitable for people with blood deficiency, loss of appetite, dysentery, constipation, diabetes, and osteoporosis; for pregnant women with little breast milk and people with long lasting fever, hot palms and soles of feet, sweating at night, dry hair and skin, dry mouth and throat, thirst because of heat exhaustion, women with light periods, or bacterial vaginosis. It also helps to cure cardiovascular diseases, tuberculosis and cancer during radiation and chemotherapy treatments.
NGUYEN VAN BONG Kaya Hotel (Phu Yen Province) Runner-up in the Southern Regional semi-final round of the Golden Spoon Awards 2013