I’m drained from writing this recipe.
When I first asked my mom to teach me how to cook, I was a college sophomore to be. It was 2010. I didn’t know how to dice an onion. But that didn’t cross my mind until a few months later, when I was faced with a whole onion and a recipe that asked for the onion to be diced but did not provide step by step directions teaching me how to transform an onion from whole to diced.
Anyway, I digress.
I followed my mom into the kitchen with an eager attitude and clean notebook, sharpened pencil at the ready.
“Alright, you pour the soy sauce in and then you add some vinegar…”
“How much soy sauce? How much vinegar?”
“Oh, I don’t know, maybe…half a cup?”
“What do you mean, maybe?”
And so the rest of the cooking lessons followed. Words like “maybe”, “just pour some in”, and “probably a tablespoon” flew around the kitchen. Summer break ended and I flew back to college, notebook filled with recipes calling for “about a tablespoon of rice vinegar” and “some salt and pepper”.
Recipes that did not inspire confidence in a girl whose prior cooking experience comprised microwavable Easy Mac and fried eggs.
In my many attempts to imitate my mother’s effortless glug glug glug, I once churned out an entire pot of beef noodle soup so saturated with soy sauce that the beef chunks resembled charcoal briquets.
Those were the days, I tell you.
Today, on this frigid first day of 2016, I present to you a recipe of my own creation, a dish that I created by going glug glug glug with a bottle of soy sauce and eyeballing spoonfuls of hoisin sauce. Was it exactly 1/4 cup of soy sauce that I put into the soup? Maybe.
That’s why it was so draining to write this recipe.
Like mother, like daughter.
Duck Noodle Soup w/ Crispy Braised Duck Legs
Serves 2, with plenty of duck soup leftover so you can enjoy duck noodle soup for the next 2-3 days.
knob of ginger
2 cloves of garlic
one stalk of green onion
1/2 an onion
1/2 tsp five spice powder
1/2 tsp white pepper powder
1/4 cup soy sauce (plus more to taste)
salt and pepper to taste
2 duck legs
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 cup water
2 tbsp hoisin sauce
2 tbsp honey
1/4 tsp five spice powder
1 onion, sliced
handful of dried shiitake mushrooms
salt and pepper
(all optional, feel free to omit, add, or change as desired)
2 packs udon
1 large chunk of winter melon （冬瓜）peeled and cut into 1″ pieces
2 handfuls of pea sprouts （大豆苗）
1 pack bean curd knots
1 bunch enoki mushrooms
1 stalk of green onion, cut into 1″ pieces
handful of dried shiitake mushrooms
To make the soup:
- Place the duck bones (I used the bones of an entire duck I roasted for Thanksgiving, then froze), ginger, garlic, green onion, and onion into a large soup pot (3-4 quarts) and cover with water.
- Bring to a boil and add five spice powder, white pepper, and soy sauce. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for at least an hour (I cooked mine for almost 2 hours).
- Skim off any foam and duck fat that rises to the surface and discard.
- Salt and taste for seasoning. You may want to add some more soy sauce as well.
To make the duck:
- Once your soup is bubbling away, get started on the duck legs. Preheat oven to 400˚F, then combine soy sauce, water, hoisin sauce, honey, five spice powder, and a dash of salt in a bowl. Set aside.
- In an oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat, sear the duck legs skin side down for 10-15 minutes until the skin is golden brown and crispy and most of the fat has been rendered out. During this process, don’t stand too close to the stove because I guarantee you hot fat will fly out and sizzle on your exposed skin. It’s worth it though.
- Remove the legs to a plate and drain the fat from the pan. Season the other side of the duck legs with salt and pepper, then sear for 1-2 minutes. Remove from pan and drain the fat again, leaving just enough to sauté the onions.
- Briefly sauté the onions, about 1 minute, then add the mushrooms and soy sauce mixture to the pan. Bring the liquid to a boil.
- Nestle the duck legs into the pan with the crispy skin facing up. The liquid should come about halfway up the legs. Salt and pepper the skin side.
- Transfer the pan to the oven and cook for 30 minutes at 400˚F. After 30 minutes, lower the heat to 350˚ and cook for another 20-30 minutes until the skin is a deep golden brown, the duck is tender, and the liquid is reduced.
- Remove from oven. Remove the duck from the braising liquid (the onions and mushrooms can be discarded, they have served their purpose and are now too burnt/soaked with soy sauce to be edible) and allow to rest on a cutting board while you finish your noodle soup.
To put together your bowl:
- About 15 minutes before your duck is ready to come out of the oven, strain the duck stock into another large pot, discarding the bones and other seasonings.
- Bring the stock to a boil and add the bean curd knots, dried shiitake mushrooms, and winter melon pieces and allow to cook until the shiitake mushrooms are fully rehydrated and the winter melon pieces are tender.
- In another pot, bring water to a boil. Blanch the enoki mushrooms and pea sprouts, then remove from the water and set aside.
- In the same water you used to cook the enoki mushrooms and pea sprouts, cook the udon.
- Remove the udon from the water and divide evenly between two deep bowls. Ladle the soup over the noodles and top the bowls with winter melon, shiitake mushrooms, bean curd knots, pea sprouts, and enoki mushrooms. Using a large cleaver, cut the duck legs into two and place on top. Garnish with green onions.
Happy New Year!