Monday, July 23, 2012

Chinese 8 Treasure Duck (八宝鸭) Recipe =)

A traditional and delicious dish that's slowly becoming "endangered"!!

Hey fellas!

The other day, I so happened to be having a chat with April on Instagram about one of my biggest food aspirations, which is to learn the ways to cook as well as history behind ALL the traditional Chinese dishes that I grew up eating at home from my Mother. Which is what I got to do when I was back in Kota Kinabalu for a month. There's so many that I hold dear to my heart since I was young. But today, I'd like to introduce you to a dish that's very special to my family, which is the 8 Treasure Duck.

Another reason why I'm particularly passionate about sharing about this dish is because:
1) It's one of Dad's favourites and a dish that my family and I cherish a lot on special occasions
2) It seriously is one of those "endangered dishes" that's slowly growing extinct

I'm not even kidding. It really is a dish that's more common to my parent's generation and I later realised that not a lot of people I know have had them before. Not to mention, this dish doesn't appear in the menus of any Chinese restaurant anymore (except for a very rare few, as I've mentioned in my post on Dad's 60th). As for my family, this dish isn't a dish we cook at home very often as well but we have on a few special occasions over the years and I'd be SO sad if it actually went "extinct" one day!!

That's why, it's times like these when I'm really grateful to have a blog because I get to share with people my food experiences, especially the ones that are very personal to me.

So what is the 8 Treasure Duck (八宝鸭) ?

It's basically a traditional Chinese dish (with Shanghainese origins, I believe) that's first marinated, fried, stuffed with 8 different ingredients (hence, the "treasures" or "jewels" of the dish) before it's steamed or braised till soft and falling off the bone. Absolutely DELICIOUS.

Making the 8 Treasure Duck (八宝鸭)

As Traditional as this dish may be, every family (or restaurant chef) adopts slightly different methods and ingredients for their recipes, which is fine.

But, in terms of INGREDIENTS:
My parents still think that the core ingredients should always include glutinous rice and dried shrimps at the very, very least. Other common "jewels" that you may see in other versions of this dish include dried scallops, chinese ham, gingko nuts and so on. BUT, if you have trouble finding all the ingredients, don't fret. Feel free to include anything that you feel suitable or like to eat =)

As for the METHOD:
Some may choose to debone the duck (so it's easier to eat and allows you to put more "fillings" in the dish) but we highly discourage this because it's so much more work. Plus, the bones actually add much more flavour to the dish, especially for the "treasures" encased in the cavity. We also chose to stick with this quantity of ingredients (even though it definitely can't all fit in one bird) because you'd be gathering all these various ingredients anyway, so you might as well take a bit more and steam the extras into "Lo Mai Fan" aka "Steamed Glutinous Rice" which people can enjoy.

Finally, the other thing that crossed my mind was whether this would be a dish I'd be make in Melbourne too, or only in Malaysia where I have a bigger kitchen. The answer is: YES. Because, the splatter from deep frying the duck was not as bad as I imagined and if you read the recipe below, it's pretty easy and straight-forward too!

So, there you have it. Very happy to be sharing this precious family recipe with all of you today and I truly hope you will make this to share with your friends and family too so we can keep this traditional Chinese recipe alive for many generations to come =)

The extra side of "Lo Mai Fan", which is just as awesome to eat... Especially with some chilli on the side


8 Treasure Duck Recipe

N.B.: The bacon was later replaced with dried red dates and the duck had been fried in this shot


For the duck:
1 whole duck (2.0 - 2.5kg)
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp 5 spice powder
Oil for frying (around 2.5 L)

For the filling:
2 pieces lap cheong  (cut to thin, diagonal strips)
1/2 cup dried lotus seeds  (soaked 24hrs, then drained)
5 pieces dried chinese mushrooms  (soaked 24hrs, then drained)
2.5 tbsp dried shrimps  (rinsed, drained then drained)
1 medium carrot                                 (diced)
1 1/4 cups glutinous rice (soaked 24hrs, then drained)
5 dried red dates (pitted, but some packets sell pitted ones already)
2 yolks of salted duck egg
2 1/2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
Splash of Shao Xing wine
1/4 cup hot water (for the bird)
Extra hot water (for the rice)

For the sauce:
1 tbsp corn starch + 3 tbsp water
Salt and pepper to taste


1. Rub the soy sauce all over the duck and marinate in the fridge overnight.

2. Pit the soaked lotus seeds and remove the green stems (because it's bitter)

4. Heat up enough oil in a large wok until it covers at least HALF the duck. Once hot, place the duck in the wok and fry until DARK (not golden). Later, turn the duck and fry the other side until dark as well. Set aside.

5. Dice mushrooms and chop dried shrimps finely. Mix all the ingredients for the filling in a large bowl (except for the hot water).

6. Stuff the cavity of the bird with the filling. You will have extra filling but don't worry. Pat gently to enclose. Pour 1/4 cup of hot water into the cavity (to help the steaming process).

7. With the extra filling, place in a metal/glass container and fill till half with hot water. Steam this together with the duck later and you will have extra "Lo Mai Fan" aka "Steamed Glutinous Rice" on the side =). 

8. Place the stuffed bird and container of glutinous rice in a large, deep metal dish. Steam in a wok under the LOWEST heat for 2hr 30min. Take a wet cloth to wrap the handle of the wok to stop air escaping from the wok. Check water level and top up with hot water, if necessary (though I never had to top up with water!)

Note: If the container of glutinous rice can't fit on the metal dish with the bird, steam separately for 45minutes after the bird is done.

9. Once done, remove bird onto a serving plate and also the container of rice. Pour the remaining sauce into a small pot and place under low heat. Add the corn starch solution. Once bubbling and thickened, season with salt and pepper to taste.

10. Drizzle sauce over the duck at the table once guests are seated/dinner is ready. Decorate with blanched broccoli florets. ENJOY =)

DIG IN!!! The "treasure" was well worth the effort and UBER delicious

Would also like to take this opportunity to give a quick shoutout to the amazing Julie (of Gourmet Getaways). Julie is a fantastic blogger and an even better individual who's shown so much interest in Chinese cooking and had asked for this recipe from the start. So, I'm dedicating this recipe to you, Julie!! Thanks so much for the great friendship and inspiration all this while and I hope your family enjoys this recipe!! =)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Donwoori, West Melbourne

It's not news to people that I love Korean food, in general. Though, I've always had this Love/Hate relationship with Korean BBQ. I LOVE BBQ-ed meat for all its fatty, charred, tender goodness. But gawd, do I hate smelling like a chimney. Ohhhh, the things we put ourselves through for the love of food.

There are a number of places that Melburnians would go in the CBD for Korean BBQ. But, I'm sure most would agree that the easiest thing to do is to go to the row of shops on Victoria Street (directly in front of Victoria Market) where you have 4 different Korean BBQ joints all lined up together, ever so conveniently.

This time, I decided to check out Donwoori for the first time (after realising my usual haunt of Woo Ga hasn't been as good the past few times I've been there).

Complimentary banchan

Before, one of the main reasons why I LOVED Woo Ga was because I felt like they served one of the best Kimchis in Melb. Really. I love it so much that I would always ask for extra serves. But, I must say that the Kimchi here was just as good!

Not too spicy, slightly sweet and most of all, still CRUNCHY to bite. Try etttt... The pickled cucumbers and onions with soy was a nice complement to the meal too.

Kimchi Jjigae

Very nice!!! Good depth of flavour and nice balance between pork broth and tomato base. Loved every sip

Loved the fatty pork in the soup... Wee-hee~

Spring onion salad with gochujang

Always my favourite salad to go with Korean BBQ. Slightly sour and refreshing.

Seafood Spring Onion Pancake

Pancake was not bad. Flour was slightly chewy but I liked it. Not as much seafood as you would get in other places but I can never say no to these babies.

Now, on to the grilled meats...

Ox Tongue

Top side beef

Marinated Flank Beef

Top grade beef rib

SUPER tough, for some reason. I am quite sensitive to tough meat and found the one here as well as Woo Ga just the same.

I think when it comes to beef ribs, it's better to have the marinated version to break the meat down a little and make it more tender.

Overall, BBQ was quite good (apart from the beef rib) and so was the soup and pancake we had. BUT, there is another place that I love going to more for Korean BBQ. Best thing about this place, though, was that it was really cheap! We spent $19/person (for 4 of us). We weren't super full, but it was just nice.

So far, I've only eaten at 3 out of the 4 Korean restaurants along the strip, but must honestly say that as of now: Donwoori > Woo Ga >>> Hallah.

Again, I'm referring to BBQ meat, not the cooked dishes. Though, this might change in the future. Who knows, Woo Ga might find their mojo and reclaim the top spot once again (in the Victoria St Korean Restaurant category).

BUT, all of it still doesn't beat Madang in Sydney. I didn't get a chance to blog about it, but it was SERIOUSLY good. Recently, my friend Adrian mentioned that he went to a newly opened Madang in Melbourne and I'm not sure if it's in any way affiliated to the Sydney one but I'm really keen to try!!

Hope you're all doing awesomely swell, wherever you are. Happy eating!! =)

Donwoori on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Papa Goose, CBD

Simple yet inviting decor

I love my uni life. As much as there are days when I simply cannot stand the amount and difficulty of my uni workload, there are also aspects of it, which I love. And No.1 for me has got to be the amazing group of friends that I've made. They make uni life so damn fun for me and the only reason why I was able to maintain my sanity to complete an Engineering degree. We work hard, but play much, much harder.

For the last 2 years of our undergrad, we've also sort of developed a tradition which we carry out every time we finish the last paper of our exams:

- Head STRAIGHT to Queensberry Hotel to completely let loose and just drank and drank and drank
- Go home, sober up and get dressed for a long, relaxed dinner at a nice-ish restaurant
- Play Counter Strike till really late. And if it's at someone's house, we'd do that while drinking cheap wine and listen to depressing music.

It's totally weird. But that's just us and oh, so much fun. Judge away... Lol

So when we just ended our LAST ever exam of our undergrad (Nov last year), we carried out our favourite tradition together one last time. For dinner, we decided to head to Papa Goose.

A few of my friends and I opted for the 5-Course Degustation for $85 but the other bigger eaters preferred to order a range of dishes off the menu instead.

Here's a recap of our degustation dinner:

Amuse bouche of Pea Gazpacho with Peppermint Oil

Well, a lot of people are neither fans of peas or gazpacho (raw, cold soup). NOT EVEN CLOSE. But I am, so this worked for me.

Dressed spanner crab, soft-shelled crab, avocado, free-range egg, cucumber, avruga and parsley

This dish was really pretty.

Australia is really lucky to have abundance of fresh and delicious crabs. The spanner crab was umami-sweet and fried soft-shelled crabs never fail to make me happy. I always enjoy eating avruga a lot too (as I find real caviar too salty), so this dish was a win.

Scallop of the Day:
Seared scallops, scallops rolled in fish (?), celeriac remoulade, apple and cauliflower puree

Couldn't remember the exact name of the dish (cause it wasn't on the menu) but it was pretty pleasant and delicious. Very ready (and excited) to enter the mains, now...

Twice cooked quails, puy lentils, radicchio, pear, pomegranate dressing

Quails were cooked well. Though, I wasn't entirely sure if all the elements worked well together on the plate in terms of flavour for this one.

This dish reminded me of the UNFORGETTABLE spatchcock dish I had at Marque (in Sydney), last year. Oh, how I've missed that so.

Aylesbury duck, roasted carrot puree, fennel, fig, mandarin marmalade

I enjoyed this a bit more than the previous dish. Though, I've had some sort of puree on two of my dishes before this already so I was a bit like, "huh... again??" when I saw the roasted carrot puree in this. Granted, it was delicious but a tad repetitive. That aside, duck was nicely pink and moist and dish was tasty overall.

Deconstructed Banoffee Pie

This dish was not on the menu that day but the waiter told us that the chef was experimenting with this dessert and kindly asked if we wanted to give it a go. Of course, we said, "YES!!!". Since most of us are fans of Banoffee Pie, so this was intriguing.

Plating was impeccable and elegant. Very interactive dish as we found ourselves going from one element to another comprising of the flavours of banana and toffee but in various forms and textures. I complimented the chef's successful efforts on this dish, which the waiter happily passed on.

Seeing as this was a British restaurant, this dessert bode really well with the overall theme. Personally, I think they should put this on their regular menu from now on.

Lemon gin cake, lemon curd ice cream, sloe gin syrup, candied violets

I decided to order this dessert because the waiter briefly explained the origins of sloe gin in the UK and how it was made, which I found very intriguing. To put it simply, it's gin soaked in a special kind of berry for months before it turns ruby red.

Cake was well-soaked and moist and the alcohol was definitely present (but not overpowering). I quite enjoyed this dessert as a whole. Good experience.

Ending our very long and relaxed dinner together
There's always that "one person" who has their eyes closed in group photos, isn't there? Haha
Thankfully, I doubt by friend S reads my blog otherwise she'd definitely scold me for putting up this photo LOL

To cap it off, I think our meal here was quite enjoyable. It wasn't too busy (despite being a Friday night) and as for me, I found the presentation of the dishes here quite intricate and beautiful.

Besides that, the specific waiter that attended to our table was seriously exceptional. At the start, I wasn't too happy with the choice of dishes for the degustation so he really went out of his way, back and forth from the kitchen to help negotiate with the chef until we decided on the exact dishes we wanted for every course. This was quite unheard of and I'm sure it caused the kitchen a certain amount of inconvenience to accommodate, so I appreciated the waiter's help really, really much.

The service we received from the waiter was very relaxed and friendly as well, so there was a lot of pleasant conversations with the table throughout the dinner. Love it when that happens. At the end of the night, the waiter even shook my hand to thank us for a good evening, when I feel honestly like it should've been the other way around. I don't know about you, but I was quite surprised by this. Let's just say that this was one of those times that good service does go a long way. Good stuff, Papa Goose and Team. And thank YOU for being so kind to us that night.

Papa Goose on Urbanspoon

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Dad's 60th + Sis-In-Law's Birthday Dinner

Yay to Family Dinners...!

Two nights ago was quite a memorable one because we celebrated Dad's 60th (!!!) and also my Sis-in-Law's birthday. Yahooo... And turning 60 was quite a milestone for Dad so he wanted to wait till both my Sister and I were back from Australia. It's actually been a while since our whole family was together to celebrate a birthday. It was also extra special cause my Sister-in-Law's family was there to celebrate as well!

When planning the dinner, Dad left it up to us to decide where but the only request he made was to have the Braised 8 Jewel/Treasure Duck.

Now, this is quite rare to find at restaurants anymore because it's considered more of an "older generation" dish. Hence, not as "popular". In fact, I don't think as many people know or have eaten it before for that reason. This was also the first time we're ordering this at a restaurant so it's interesting to see how it'd fair. BUT, this was one of Dad's favourite dishes to eat and he even used to make it at home too when we were younger. MUST learn how to make this from Dad one day!!!

Finally, we decided to host the dinner at Promenade Hotel because even though the duck was not on the menu, the Chef did say that he knew how to make it even though it's been a while. Also, the setting was pretty nice and quiet, which makes it easy for us to bring the baby.

Here's a recap of our dinner:

Red Hard-Boiled Eggs

It is a common Chinese tradition to have these on auspicious occasions (such as birthdays or weddings). Typically, the birthday boy/girl would have to eat two lol.

4 Seasons Hot & Cold Combination Platter

One of my favourite Chinese banquet dinner dishes...!! Each restaurant has their own take on it. One of the better ones I've tasted. Every element was delicious.

The Cold: Jellyfish (top left) and baby octopus (bottom right)
The Hot: Omelette with mock Shark's Fin (bottom left) and fried bread balls (top right)

But my favourite were the fried bread balls!!! It was pork and mushroom balls, filled with CHEESE, than coated with bread pieces and fried till crisp (imagine the taste of croutons). SO YUMMY!!!

Fish Maw and Lip Soup with Crab Meat

Braised 8 Jewel/Treasure Duck!!!

The duck is braised so soft that the meat falls off the bone. Sauce was flavourful, but not too salty and delicious with everything too.

Everyone's got slight renditions of what 8 ingredients to fill the stuffing with. My favourite were the lotus seeds that were so soft and tender, almost like steamed peanuts. YUM! Glad to have this again after all these years =)

Dad with his "birthday present"

Steamed Fish Slices with Dried Soy Bean

Fried Prawns with Salted Duck Yolks

Braised Beancurd Sheets with Chinese Mushrooms and Broccoli

Silken Egg Tofu with Crab Roe

Yummy =)

"Longevity Noodles"

Another dish typically ordered eaten during birthday celebrations in the Chinese culture to signify longevity and prosperity.

Sea Coconut with Sliced Lemons

Birthday Cake (with extra, extra nuts as requested) ;p

Dad's not a big fan of cakes cause like me, find most of them too sweet. But, Carrot Cake is one of the few cakes he loves (as well as warm Butter Cake). Like father like son =D

Baked with Carrot Cake recipe found on my blog: here
Paired with Boiled Cream Cheese Frosting recipe from Agnes (of Off the Spork)'s blog: here

The cream cheese was cool because it called for making your own sweetened condensed milk before mixing it with the cheese. Nice!!!

Both cake and frosting were a hit with everyone =)

Looooooove my parents to bitsss... Do you reckon I look more like Mum or Dad? =)

With my Big Sis (but I call her "Jie Jie", which is the Chinese translation)

Birthday kids

Nothing beats being home with the family =)