Crispy Duck Summer Rolls

Crispy Duck Summer Rolls
My first memory of going out to a restaurant was to a local Chinese restaurant with the whole family. I don’t know how old I was but I was young and have vague memories of being in an opulent royal blue room, presumably in a section reserved for large parties, with no windows and one large table in the centre. The table was resplendent with sweet and sour pork balls, chicken chow mein, spare ribs, crispy chilli beef and prawn crackers. However, at the epicentre of the table in pride of place was the Peking duck, glistening red, surrounded by its courtiers of spring onion, cucumber, hoisin sauce and wafer thin pancakes encased in a bamboo basket. We sat transfixed as the waiting staff shredded the steaming duck with forks, tearing off crisp skin and juicy meat. The wait would be too much to bear for us young’uns as we leaned across the table, grabbing a meaty morsel between our fingertips and popping it into our mouths in one swift move.

Crispy Duck Summer Rolls  |  Stroud Green Larder

Eating out at restaurants was a great privilege throughout my childhood and teenage years, reserved solely for family get togethers. In our little family unit we had our own smaller traditions and whenever we have a Chinese now my mum reminds me of our sacred Saturday night Chinese takeaways. The food was exotic and familiar at the same time, reserved only for that one night a week, it was a treat looked forward to and savoured.

There was only one takeaway in the town I grew up in, which is still open to this day, although different owners I suppose. My sister and I would traipse into the high street with Dad and make our order at their tall wooden counter that we could barely see over, then we would nip to the Co-op next door where we would be allowed a choice of chocolate bar for pudding and Dad would choose a bottle of wine for him and Mum.

Crispy Duck Summer Rolls  |  Stroud Green Larder

Mum thinks we’re spoilt living in London with such a plethora of Chinese takeaways at our doorstep, all of them deliver, take card over the phone and are open until late. If I go out into the hallway now I will probably find an errant menu on the doormat which I haven’t yet thrown out. However, for all the choice, I find it difficult to remember the last time I actually had a Chinese takeaway. The food never tastes fresh anymore and leaves me gasping for rivers of water. Am I more intolerant to MSG these days? Is it just North London Chineses? Or, am I treasuring a memory over food that wasn’t that great in the first place?

Crispy Duck Summer Rolls  |  Stroud Green Larder

There is one thing I know for sure though, I am now a sucker for the fresh vibrancy of Vietnamese food. There is no better Friday night treat then when my husband comes home after a sneaky beer, buoyed up on the thought of the weekend lying ahead to pronounce that he’s taking me out to Kingsland Road for a cheap and cheerful Vietnamese feast.

It doesn’t seem odd at all to marry up the traditional Vietnamese summer rolls with the flavours of my most favourite Chinese dish, Peking duck. Although experts in either area would probably be disgusted by yet another British hash of international cuisine.

Crispy Duck Summer Rolls  |  Stroud Green Larder

This combination works so well, and combines the tastiest dish on the Chinese table with the freshness of Vietnamese summer rolls. I have eaten them by the bucketload this week but by far the best way was when we formed a production line in the kitchen and I was on rolling duty. Very few finished rolls made it onto the platter we had ready and waiting and formal ideas of a table supper were soon abandoned. That night we ate standing up at the kitchen counter squabbling over whose summer rolls tasted the best. Obviously mine, with a handful of duck, equal amounts of sweet crisp skin and plump meat, a sprinkling of rice vermicelli, a touch of sriracha and a good drizzle of my homemade Chinese damson sauce, finally topped with a few good strands of spring onion and cucumber. I’m still that impatient child who can’t wait for her duck to be finished shredding before she dives straight in, as my husband can testify.

Crispy Duck Summer Rolls  |  Stroud Green Larder

Crispy Duck Summer Rolls
Serves 4 as a main meal
The method of cooking the duck is adapted from womanandhome.com

4 duck legs
1 tbsp Chinese 5 spice
150ml soy sauce
5 cloves garlic, lightly bashed
2 tbsp hoisin sauce or Chinese damson sauce
50g dried rice vermicelli
A bunch of spring onions, shredded
1 cucumber, julienned
A packet of Vietnamese rice papers
Some sriracha sauce
Some hoisin sauce or Chinese damson sauce

  1. Place the duck legs in a large saucepan with the 5-spice, soy sauce and garlic. Cover with water and bring to the boil. Turn down and simmer for 2½ hours.
  2. Meanwhile pre-heat the oven to 200°C.
  3. When the duck legs are ready, remove them from the cooking liquid and pat them dry with kitchen paper. Place them on a baking tray, skin side up. Mix the hoisin sauce with a little olive oil then spread equally over the duck legs.
  4. Place in the oven and roast for about 20 minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven when the duck skin is crisp and pull the meat off the legs using 2 forks to shred. Set aside whilst you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
  6. Cook the rice vermicelli by plunging into a pan of boiling water. Turn off the heat and let the noodles sit in the hot water for about 3-4 minutes until soft. Drain and set aside.
  7. The rice papers should be prepared by dunking each one individually in warm water for 20-30 seconds until the paper feels pliable and has lost its brittleness.
  8. Assemble the summer rolls by placing little handful of duck two thirds of the way up the softened rice paper, add the rice vermicelli, a little sriracha and hoisin sauce and top with shredded cucumber and spring onions. Bring the sides of the paper inward over the filling and pinch tightly, then bring the top of the paper down over the filling and over the sides and roll towards you. Eat with abandon.

Goi Ga (Vietnamese Chicken Salad)

Goi Ga (Vietnamese Chicken Salad)

There are some days when nothing goes right. More often than not these days are one off instances where you can wake up the next day, brush yourself off and start anew. This week that did not happen. I am having an unprecedented run of bad luck days. Recipes haven’t worked, food has been burnt and binned and photos have looked plain bad. Never mind the time that I turned my back for one minute and my darling cat jumped on the table, upending a huge bowl of salad and garlicky dressing all over the carpet. Bless.

Food and I are in a funk. This isn’t particularly helpful if you trying to document your kitchen adventures. Here everybody, here’s a picture of my bin overflowing with half baked quinoa gluten-free biscuits soldered onto greaseproof paper. (Don’t worry, that recipe will come good one day, quinoa and I just need a time out at the moment).

There really was only one way to lift me out of the doldrums and put me back on top, by treating myself to a tried and tested recipe. A salad which I know will set me on the right course again.

This salad has known many incarnations in my life. It reminds me of our trip to Vietnam a couple of years ago where every restaurant had their own version, we even spent a brilliant day in Hoi An learning exactly how it’s supposed to be made at the Redbridge Cookery School which I cannot recommend enough the next time you are popping by Hoi An. Regularly I’m sure.

The salad also reminds me of the time I was suffering from a broken foot, I was woefully unable to stand or place any weight on the severely bandaged appendage and a wonderful friend schlepped up from Clapham laden with the ingredients to make her own version of it for me.

It has also been the feature of recent hazy nights out on the Kingsland Road, dropping into one of the Vietnamese cafés for a cheap plate of zingy salad and a bowl of rice noodles to soak up the alcohol.

Safe to say, this salad holds a special place in my heart. It also doesn’t mind if you muck around with some of the ingredients as you can substitute in whatever you have to hand, a bit of pak choi, some sugar snap peas or red peppers. You can swap the chicken for duck or beef or just plain leave it out. I would normally add a few dry roasted peanuts crushed up on top but I didn’t have any on stand by today, but do add some in if you like.

Now, I’m not really one for kitchen gadgets but there is one that I picked up from Lakeland which has slowly become invaluable and makes a bit of an appearance today. A julienne vegetable peeler. Sounds a bit fancy but it is whipped out if I want to make a quick coleslaw or grate some carrots or courgettes. If I use a normal grater I often find the vegetables turn to pulp. This is quick to use, quick to wash and only about £3. So I use it here to juilienne the carrots and the mooli but if you can’t get hold of one then you can just grate them.

Vietnamese chicken salad

 

Goi Ga (Vietnamese Chicken Salad)

4 chicken thighs with skins
2 tsp 5-spice powder
2 tsp olive oil
1 onion, sliced
½ small mooli, julienned
2 carrots, peeled and julienned
3 leaves of chinese leaf, cut into very fine strips
2 handfuls of beansprouts
2 tbsp coriander leaves, roughly chopped
2 tbsp mint leaves, roughly chopped
1 tbsp chopped dry roasted peanuts

for the dressing
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp caster sugar
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp fish sauce
½ red chilli, seeds removed and diced

  1. Coat the chicken thighs with the 5-spice powder and the olive oil and roast on a roasting tray in a pre-heated oven at 180°C.
  2. Put the onion in a small saucepan and cook on a low heat for 15 mins until crispy and caramelized, set aside.
  3. Mix together the mooli, carrots, chinese leaf, beansprouts and herbs in a large bowl and set aside.
  4. When ready, remove the chicken from the oven and leave for about 5 minutes until cool enough to handle.
  5. Meanwhile you can make the dressing. Just add all the ingredients together and give a good stir. Set aside whilst you finish off the salad.
  6. Tear the meat and the skin off the chicken into chunks and tip into a bowl, pour over the sticky bits from the roasting tray and mix it all up which will add a bit of juiciness to the salad. Then mix all the chicken into the salad ingredients until the meat is evenly dispersed and pour over the dressing. Serve with the crispy onion and the peanuts scattered over the top.