Though served with less pomp than its Peking cousin, Cantonese roast duck is no less impressive.
While the Western-style roast chicken makes a zippy meal, there is nothing quick about the Chinese-style roast duck. Roasting might take about 45 minutes, but lots of preparation is required beforehand. First rubbed with seasoning ingredients, stuffed with aromatics and then blanched, the birds are then carefully bathed in a maltose marinade and hung air-dry for up to six hours before roasting. Cantonese-style roast ducks are not inflated like the Peking duck – thus the skin does not separate from the flesh. However, a well-executed bird should still boast crisp crackling. This, contrasted against the tenderness of the bird’s fine textured flesh, and the luxurious mouthfeel from just the right amount of fat left under the skin, is what makes the dish irresistible.
At London roast duck specialist Four Seasons – which arrived on our shores in April 2015 – careful attention to detail is given even before the duck arrives in the kitchen. Marketing and operations manager Richard Chua reveals that the ducks are bred according to the restaurant’s specification by a farm in Holland. “In London, we use ducks from Silver Hill Farm. Those are slightly fattier and we did not feel it was suitable for the Singapore market.”
Four Seasons is not the only restaurant paying plenty attention to the provenance of the poultry: Legendary Hong Kong and London Fat Duck, opened in May 2015, both use ducks specially imported from Ireland, just like Four Seasons in London.
Flying off kitchen counters right now.
LEGENDARY HONG KONG
Using the same Silver Hill Farm ducks as Four Seasons in London, the roast at this Jurong Point outlet is deliciously fatty, crisp-skinned and the flesh fine-textured. In terms of flavour, it is invitingly smoky with herbal undertones.
LONDON FAT DUCK
While the skin is crisp and the meat tender, the pool of five spice-laced sauce in which the duck is served at this restaurant in Scotts Square can be slightly distracting. Those who do not like the ducks gamey will appreciate the delicate flavours.
CHAN KWONG KEE ROAST SHOP
Made using birds from Malaysia, the roast from this hawker stall in Loyang Lane is one of the most well-seasoned, with full flavours of spices and herbs coming through in each mouthful.