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Aromatic Duck

1 cup thinly-sliced peeled ginger
8 whole star anise pods
2 cinnamon sticks
2 teaspoons toasted whole Sichuan peppercorns
3 cardamom pods -- lightly crushed
For the Dish:
1 whole duck - (4 to 6 lbs)
3/4 cup soy sauce
3/4 cup sugar
2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 English cucumber -- cut thin strips, abt 2" long - (abt 1 cup)
5 green onions -- trimmed, cut into 2" lengths, and then into strips
1/3 cup Hoisin sauce
Several Mandarin pancakes (or thin flour tortillas)


Place the ginger, star anise, cinnamon, Sichuan peppercorns and cardamom in the center of an 8-inch square of cheese cloth. Bring the corners of the square together and tie them with a string to form a bag that encloses the spices.


For the Dish: Place the duck in a 5-quart pot and pour in enough cold water to cover. Add the spice bag and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Adjust the heat so the water is simmering, cover the pot and simmer until the duck thigh is tender when poked with a fork, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.


Lift the duck from the water with a large wire skimmer or by inserting a sturdy wooden spoon into the body cavity. Hold the duck over the pot to allow water to drain back into the pot. Transfer the duck to a colander and drain completely. Cool to room temperature.


Stir the soy sauce and sugar together in a small pan over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Let cool. Pat the duck dry on all sides with paper towels. Brush the duck 3 or 4 times with the soy syrup to coat it well.


Heat the oil in a wok over medium heat to 350 degrees. Hold the syrup coated duck by a hook inserted behind its wing joint or with a sturdy pair tongs and suspend the duck over the hot oil. With a Chinese ladle, spoon the hot oil repeatedly over the duck until the skin is caramelized and crispy, 5 to 6 minutes.


Briefly cool the duck. Remove the skin from the duck and cut the skin into thin strips. Using your hands, and using rubber gloves for protection if you find the duck too hot, remove the meat from the bones, tossing it into a bowl as you work.


Shred the meat with two forks. Place the duck meat and skin on a serving plate. Place separate bowls of cucumber, green onions and hoisin sauce and a plate of green onion pancakes alongside.


To eat, spread a small amount of hoisin sauce over a green onion pancake, top with some of the duck meat and skin, cucumber and green onion. Roll the pancake around the filling like a burrito.


This recipe yields 4 servings.


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