3.023 Pan-Fried Duck Breasts in Five-Spice Glaze with Shredded Leeks


28 (Sat) January 2012

Pan-Fried Duck Breasts in Five-Spice Glaze with Shredded Leeks


by me

at home

-Oksu, Seongdong, Seoul, Republic of Korea-

with W and DJ

For the first time in my life, I bought a duck.  It was a whole duck.  Not confident to risk it all on a single recipe, I separated the bird into 4 components: the breasts for this dish, the legs-thighs-wings for a future dish, the carcass for stock, and the excess skin for the rendered fat, as well as the crispy skins themselves, which we ate as an appetizer dipped in sweet chili sauce.  At 11,000 won for 1.5 kg, a pretty decent value.  And fun.

After consulting several cookbooks, I settled on a recipe in Man with a Pan (see most recently 2.353 Lemon-in-the-Ass Rosemary Roast Chicken with Roast Potatoes and Pan Gravy). Developed by contributor Adam Bonin, the recipe was the synthesis of two duck recipes attributed to the venerable Mark Bittman, whom I quoted in yesterday’s post (on an unrelated matter), whose video podcast The Minimalist is conceived on the notion of simplicity in cooking (see 2.223 Sesame Shrimp Scrambled Eggs).  Nevertheless, the ingredient list left me a bit skeptical as to whether the recipe would work: a glaze comprising 2 TB rice wine + 2 TB water + 3 TB soy sauce seemed like it would be salty.  According to the author, however: “Everybody in my family knows – and most of our friends know – that Adam can make duck, and he can make this duck.  And he can just nail it.”  Self-reference in the 3rd person is often a sign of spurious cockiness, but I gave it a shot, confident myself that I could adjust if/when necessary.

As anticipated, the glaze was mouth-puckeringly salty.  Even diluted with some stock, it was still a bit strong.  The shredded leeks, not part of the original recipe, helped balance things out.

Americans don’t appear to regard soy sauce as being particularly salty.  Years ago, while helping out at my aunt and uncle’s sushi boat restaurant in San Diego, I noticed that the customers ate inordinate amounts of soy sauce as a condiment; they would drop a piece of sushi into the soy sauce dish and wait for the rice to sop it all up and turn black.  “Doesn’t that make it too salty?” I once asked.  “Salty? It’s just soy sauce,” the guy replied, looking puzzled.  Another example, though I can’t recall the details, I saw a cooking program in which the host, who was making something Asian, took great pains to explain that soy sauce may register as “sweet” but actually has a high sodium content and warned the viewers against the “temptation” to add extra salt.  Indeed.

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4 thoughts on “3.023 Pan-Fried Duck Breasts in Five-Spice Glaze with Shredded Leeks

  1. Is seems you are much more capable of getting as much food as possible from the duck than me. Is eating the skin as appetizers popular in Korea? I don’t remember eating it like that?

    Speaking of soy sauce. Isn’t the saltiness level dependent on which “style” of soy sauce it is? In the grocery stores here in Sweden you can normally but “chinese soy sauce” and “japanese soy sauce”. The “chinese” variety being much more salty than the “japanese” one. I once cooked red braised pork belly using the saltier variety of soy sauce and woke up dehydrated and dying for a glass of water in the middle of the night (the alcohol we consumed during the evening could also have played a role).

    1. no, nobody eats duck skin as appetizers in Korea. nobody really eats duck.

      yes, different styles of soy sauce would have different sodium levels. i’m sure there must be a chart out there somewhere. i was just saying that generally Americans don’t think of soy sauce as salty, just a dip, like ketchup.

  2. as far as I’m aware – and always, my perspective is informed by observations of modern day practices in the city, with little knowledge of historical or regional practices – nobody eats chicken skin on its own, though it’s almost always left on the chicken for any application.

    pig skin is sometimes grilled à la Korean BBQ (https://givemethisday.com/2011/04/29/2-114-pig-nipples/), but not that common. i’ve never seen it prepared in different ways, like cracklin or chicharon. when i used to buy whole slabs of pork belly in the Philippines, it would come with the skin, which I would remove (with filleting knife!) and give to our helper, who thought we were crazy to give up the best part.

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