Duck Pho

Remember that basket of fresh organic produce that landed on my doorstep on my birthday last year? Well, I have been getting regular baskets since then and have been enjoying the fruits (no pun intended) of supporting a small local organic farm. It’s always lovely to receive a basket brimming with crackly-fresh veggies any day, but knowing that they were all raised without chemicals and artificial doodads, so you are getting nothing but their pure gorgeous veggie-ness...that’s another pleasure all together. Added to the fact that, for me at least, any food tastes so much better, and is appreciated that much more, when you know its provenance...from whence it came!

There is more to this small farm than just sprightly vegetables though. They also have wild ducks and chickens and (from the hens) eggs. So after a while of ordering just veggies, I decided to try the other bounty, natural and free range, that the farm had to offer. The eggs are all different sizes and colors, from the lightest dusky pink to cafe con leche tan, and have deep yellow yolks that are deliciously rich. The wild duck is leaner that the fatty white ducks you buy in the grocery and specialty stores, with a deeper, gamier flavour.

I think a little more practice with duck is in order before I do a full blown duck dish – as I’ve never really cooked duck before (although a kind fellow-blogger friend has lent me an amazing duck cookbook so I'll soon be on my way!). For my first (and so far only) wild duck (let’s call him Benicio) we boiled it with some orange rind, star anise, celery, leek, and soy. Then we made a glaze of soy, honey, Chinese cooking wine, brown sugar, and 5-spice and slathered this on the bird before roasting it (stuffed with more orange rind, a cinnamon stick, and another star anise).

We weren’t planning to boil it first but some stubborn feather nibs (I have no clue what you call the end bits of the feather) made us decide on the hot bath (and a valiant last minute effort to remove the remove the stubborn bits) before roasting. Now I am glad we did. Because then I had duck stock. And now I have duck pho.

Duck Pho
(recipe adapted from Cherry Ripe’s Duck Pho in The Accidental Foodie by Neale Whitaker)

  • 1 quarter Peking duck
  • 750 ml duck stock (I used the stock I got from boiling the duck above, but you can also make stock as I have done here with a Peking Duck)
  • 1 star anise
  • 150 grams rice vermicelli
  • Small bunch of mint
  • Small bunch of saw tooth coriander (culantro)
  • Small bunch holy basil
  • Small bunch cilantro
  • 2 spring onions, slice thinly on the diagonal
  • Lime wedges
  • Vietnamese chilli sauce
  • Fish sauce with fresh birds eye chilli, finely chopped lemongrass, sugar, and lime...shaken not stirred

- Bone the Peking duck quarter and separate the skin from the meat. Shred the meat into bite-sized pieces large enough to be easily picked up with chopsticks. Set aside.
- Put the stock and the star anise in a pot and bring to the boil. Keep at a bare simmer until ready to serve. Keep covered to avoid evaporation.
- Prepare the noodles as per package instructions. Set aside.
- De-stalk the herbs. Set aside.
- Scrape off the fat from the duck skin (phooey, I know). Place the skin between two pieces of paper towel and microwave for a few seconds – watch it, you don’t want to burn the skin! Press down on the paper towel to squeeze out oil. Change to fresh paper towel and repeat until skin is crispy. Slice and set aside.
- To serve: Place noodles in a bowl. Top with duck meat and herbs. Ladle hot broth over the top and garnish with duck skin. Serve with chopsticks and a spoon (extra points if you’ve got Chinese-style ones). Serve condiments alongside.
- Serves 2.

This is an excellent way to make use of duck stock and/or leftover Peking duck! Between the flavourful broth and the bright green assertiveness of the herbs, it makes for a satisfying meal with a lot of personality. And slurping noodles from a bowl with chopsticks always puts a smile on my face :) Cherry Ripe (oh name envy!) also uses bean sprouts, Vietnamese mint, and butter lettuce in the pho...but I didn’t have them. She also uses fried shallots and peanuts to top and adds prawn crackers among the condiments. I didn’t have those either. No matter, this was a bowl full of unapologetic flavour and we enjoyed every single slurp! A bonus: prepping the duck skin as above is an easy and effective way of reviving it!

Happy weekend, and an advanced happy Valentine’s Day everyone! I hope you all do something you love on the day that celebrates love :) Yes, celebrating your love for bacon or your love for reading comic books in the can counts in my book – just light a candle and be celebratory about it ;) We will be lazy and eat in – something we love doing (especially during Valentine’s when restaurants are packed)! And we’ll be using part of today’s veggie basket while we are at it! :)