In the Kitchen With Mum and Popo

In this installment, Audrey Low contributes a little snippet that reflects on the kitchen chores she had as a child, plus a whimisical look at an old wives’ tale . Of Malaysian-Chinese descent, Audrey is an anthropologist living in Australia. Her blog: combines her love of Asian art, food, travel, and writing, blending her personal journey with people’s stories and her research.

If you would like to guest blog about cooking with a special woman in your life, please email me at

In the Kitchen with Mum and Popo
By Audrey Low

Audrey and mum

Audrey and her mum, Judy Low, at graduation

Choy keok, a Hakka hot and sour soup, is a dish my mother learned to cook when she was a child from her nyonya grand-aunt. Imagining my mother as a child reminded me of learning to cook with her.

My mum cooks in silence; it’s like meditation for her. I remember my dad urging me to go into the kitchen to learn how to cook, but she would never say anything except, perhaps, the occasional instructions to get some ingredients: “Take the blunt knife and cut some serai (lemongrass) from the garden,” or “Pluck some curry leaves/fresh limes/chilies.” Mostly, I learned through observation.

There were many chores for kids around the kitchen. I, like Pat, had the interminable chore of breaking the ends off every single bean sprout. I too could never understand why it was necessary, and no amount of reasoning could get me out of that chore.

Pounding chili in the heavy stone mortar and pestle was another favorite job to give kids. And when I was doing the task, I would inevitably get a speck of chili in my eye. My grandmother’s solution was to pour cold water on my feet. Admittedly, it’s a far more elegant method than simultaneously hopping around in agony, rubbing one eye and splashing water on my face, which I did repeatedly.

However, after trying her way a couple of times unsuccessfully, I gave it up. But I’m pretty sure my grandmother still swears by the method to this very day.

Mum’s Choy Keok

Photo and recipe courtesy of Audrey Low

For this soup, mustard cabbage is not interchangeable with other leafy greens — it’s the only vegetable that will not fall apart in this robust soup. You can buy roast pork from a Chinese restaurant or deli or make it yourself with this recipe. Please visit Papaya Tree Limited for more stories and photos!

Makes: 8 to 10 servings
Time: 20 minutes plus simmering time

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
20 slices assam keping or assam gelugor (sometimes mistakenly called dried tamarind), or 3 heaping tablespoons tamarind paste
8 cloves garlic, smashed
5 dried whole chilies
3 fresh red Thai chilies, sliced
1 thumb-sized piece ginger, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 to 2 pounds roast pork (or any other roast meat like duck and chicken)
2 (12 ounce) bunches mustard cabbage (gai choy), cut into thirds
1 1/2 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon salt

In a big stock pot, heat the oil over medium heat until it starts to shimmer. Add the assam keping, dried and fresh chilies (add more to taste, if desired), ginger, and garlic and stir until fragrant.

Add the roast pork and mustard cabbage. Add the sugar, salt and enough water to cover the ingredients. Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to low and simmer for about 1 hour, or until the mustard cabbage is soft. Serve with rice.

As grandma always says, please share!

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Happily Sprouted: What a difference a tail, or rather no tail, makes

When I was a little girl, I hated mung bean sprouts, which we call “tauge” in Indonesian or “dou ya” (literally “bean sprout”) in Mandarin. At the market, they’re often labeled simply bean sprouts.

It had nothing to do with their bland flavor or the weird crunchy yet porous texture of their skinny white bodies (mung bean sprouts have a high water content), but everything to do with the fact that I was always roped in to snap the tails off these little buggers.

Yes, with their tails off, mung bean sprouts look neat and tidy and taste a whole lot better (if you’ve ever had any straggly, stringy and musky-tasting bits in your mouth, you’ll know what I mean) but it was a childhood chore that I didn’t quite enjoy when I could’ve been outside riding my bike or catching spiders in the drain.



Now that I’m an adult, I do appreciate the aesthetics and the texture of a tail-less sprout, especially since I can buy them already washed and tail-free. In fact, I am offended every time a restaurant serves me sprouts with their tails still intact (which happens quite often at the Vietnamese hole-in-the-walls I tend to frequent).

Just as the name implies, mung bean sprouts come from–wait for it–mung beans, also known as mung, moong, mash bean, green gram, etc. Remember those science experiments in elementary school? Boy, do I remember them! I remember cushioning a handful of green mung beans on a bed of cotton wool soaked with water and sticking them on a warm window sill to germinate. Within days, the beans’ hard shells would split and tiny sprouts would start poking out. What a thrill! I never tried eating them though (I learned earlier on in life that science experiments are not meant to be eaten).

There are no lack of culinary uses for mung bean sprouts. They’re often stir fried with garlic and ginger, or the way I like it, with pieces of salted dried fish. Fresh bean sprouts are rolled into Vietnamese spring rolls and are used as a garnish for phở and numerous soup or dry noodle dishes in many Asian cultures. They’re tossed into fried noodles (think Singapore char kway teow and Hokkien mee) and in Korean cuisine, they’re blanched and seasoned with sesame oil, garlic and salt and served as banchan.

Don’t confuse mung beans sprouts with soybean sprouts—they have bigger, droopier heads–which are popular in Korea.

Because of their high water content, mung bean sprouts get slimy, and inedible, quickly. Store them in the crisper for no more than 2 days after purchasing.

Stir-Fried Mung Bean Sprouts with Tofu and Chives (Pad Tao Kua Tao Ngae)

stir fried mung bean sprouts with tofu and chives by you.

This is another dish that Pranee kindly showed me how to make. Together with pork and chives, the combination of soft and fried tofu plays a fun game of textures in the mouth. Don’t worry about cutting the tofu to the exact measurements, they are only a guide. Just as long as the pieces are bite-sized and manageable in the wok, you’re good to go! Vegetarians can omit the pork for a tasty and nutritious protein-rich dish.

Time: 15 minutes

Makes: 4 to 6 servings as part of a multicourse family-style meal

4 ounces pork loin
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, minced (1 tablespoon)
6 ounces (about 1/2 package) soft tofu (not silken), cut into 1- by 1 1/2-inch pieces
6 ounces (about ½ package) 1- by 1 1/2-inch fried tofu pieces
4 cups fresh mung bean sprouts, tails snapped off
3 tablespoons soy sauce or fish sauce
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
1/4 cup Chinese chives cut into 2-inch lengths
Ground white pepper

Chinese chives are a little fatter than regular chives and skinnier than green onions

Handle the pork partially frozen so that it is easier to cut (if it’s fresh, place in the freezer for about 30 minutes). Cut the pork along the grain into 1 1/2-inch-thick strips. Then, with your knife at an angle almost parallel to the cutting surface, slice the meat diagonally across the grain into 1/4-inch thick slices.

Preheat a large wok or skillet over medium heat for about 1 minute. Swirl in the oil and heat until it becomes runny and starts to shimmer. Add the garlic and cook until golden and fragrant, 15 to 30 seconds. Throw in the pork and stir and cook until the meat just loses its blush, about 2 minutes. Add both types of tofu, followed by the bean sprouts. Sprinkle with the soy sauce and sugar and toss gently for 1 minute, being careful not to break up the soft tofu. Add the chives and white pepper and stir everything swiftly, but gently, around the wok.

Chinese chives are thrown into the mix

Once the ingredients are heated through, about 1 minute, remove from the heat. Serve with freshly steamed rice.

As grandma always says, please share!

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The Char Siu Challenge

Eleazar Juarez, owner of Rio de Parras Organics, pressed a brown bag full of greens into my hands. I peered inside and beyond the feathered leaves I saw the pale, straggly cilantro roots still attached. Who knew that a simple herb could invoke such a spring in my step!


This was one of the smaller roots that Eleazar gave me

Ever since I discovered the recipe for Chinese barbecued pork (char siu) in the Chong Family cookbook, I’d been at a lost where to find cilantro roots. I didn’t want to pull out the fragile seedlings growing on my windowsill and everywhere I went cilantro was sold with the roots already lopped off. Then it hit me. Duh, ask a farmer! And so I did.

If your hunt is not as successful, the stems will do fine. Besides, not all recipes for char siu call for cilantro roots. I must say that the addition does add an earthy and musky nuance which I thoroughly enjoy. Cilantro roots are also used in Thai cooking. Fat roots are crushed to flavor soups just like lemongrass and thinner ones thrown into stir-fries.


Chinese Barbecued Pork (Char Siu)

IMG_4766 by you.

The words char siu literally mean “fork burnt or roasted,” a nod to the traditional preparation method of skewering strips of pork with long forks or hooks and cooking them over a fire or in a hot oven. This has its benefits. It allows the meat to cook evenly from all sides. If you’d like to try this, hang pork strips from metal S-hooks on a high rack in your oven over a foil-lined pan on the lowest rack to catch the drippings. I improvised even further by rolling strips of aluminum foil to act as loops and tied them to the upper rack (see photo below).

Time: 1 hour (15 minutes active) plus marinating
Makes: 4 to 6 servings as part of a multicourse family-style meal

2 1/2 to 3 pounds boneless pork shoulder (measuring about 8- x 6- x 3-inches)
2⁄3 cup sugar
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 green onions, smashed with the flat part of a cleaver or a large knife
2 cilantro stalks (preferably with their roots attached), smashed with the flat part of a cleaver or a chef’s knife
1 star anise pod
1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon 5-spice powder

Cut the pork lengthwise into four long strips. Lay each strip flat on the cutting board and cut in half lengthwise. You will end up with 8 strips about 1½ inches wide, 1 ½ inches deep and 7 to 8 inches long. Place in a dish large enough to hold all the pieces in one layer.

In a small bowl, mix the together the sugar, soy sauce, green onions, cilantro, star anise, rice wine, sesame oil, and 5-spice powder. Pour the marinade over the pork. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or preferably a day and a half.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Remove the pork from the marinade and place on a broiling rack set on top of a foil-lined roasting pan to catch the drippings. Reserve the marinade. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, flipping halfway, or until the pork starts caramelizing and is just beginning to char at the edges. Baste at least once on each side during the first 30 minutes of cooking.

Transfer the pork to a chopping board and let rest for about 10 minutes before cutting crosswise into ¼-inch-thick slices. Meanwhile, simmer the reserved marinade over medium heat for at least 10 minutes and skim off any scum that rises to the surface.

Serve with freshly steamed rice or noodles and sauce.


An easy way to “skewer” your meat and roast it from all sides

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Thanksgiving Stuffing the Chinese Way

IMG_1276 by you.


I can’t believe it’s only 3 weeks to Thanksgiving.


My husband and I will be celebrating our first Thanksgiving in California but my whole family–parents, sister, and brother with his wife and two boys in tow–is driving down from Seattle to pay us a visit in Pacific Grove. It’ll be crazy-busy times but I’m sure I won’t mind. I miss having my family just minutes away (my hubby, not so much).

Although I didn’t grow up celebrating Thanksgiving, over the years, the annual ensemble of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, and cranberry sauce has grown on me. I’ve realized that turkey doesn’t always have to taste like cardboard (darn those dorm dining hall meals). In fact, a deep fried turkey comes out so moist and juicy, usually-bland breast meat isn’t objectionable to my dark-meat loving palate. I have also learned that just about anything, including miraculous just-add-water from-powder-to-mush mashed potatoes (trust Betty Crocker to come up with instant mashed potatoes), when drowned in gravy and cranberry sauce can be edible.

And of course, there’s a never-ending succession of Thanksgiving recipes unfurled year after year in magazines, on TV and on the World Wide Web to help the impassioned cook present yet another winning holiday menu. If you’re cracking your head trying to figure out what to make for this year’s gathering, try Pearl Fong’s delicious Chinese-American stuffing recipe. It is probably adapted from the Cantonese dish called lo mai gai: glutinous rice, black mushrooms, and Chinese sausage wrapped in a dried lotus leaf and steamed. (An aside: Before seeing this recipe in my manuscript, my editor had assumed his mom invented this dish!)

Whatever I end up preparing for my Thanksgiving table, I will give thanks for family, friends, peace where I live, and the very fact that I can actually put food, even a feast, on the table. Happy Thanksgiving!

Sticky Rice Stuffing (Naw Mai Fun)

IMG_1275 by you.

Many Chinese-American families have incorporated this Chinese-style sticky rice stuffing into their Thanksgiving tradition, serving it right alongside turkey. However, the turkey is not always roasted. Instead, it may be steamed, which is the traditional way chicken or duck is cooked. Pearl Fong’s rice stuffing recipe blends both traditional Thanksgiving ingredients (chestnuts) with traditional Chinese ones (water chestnuts) to create a side dish that is delicious anytime of the year.

Time: 1 hour 45 minutes (45 minutes active)
Makes: 8 to 10 servings as part of a multicourse family-style meal

1 1/2 cups sticky rice
1 1/2 cups long grain rice
3 3/4 cup water or chicken stock
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
4 (about 6 ounces) Chinese sausages, steamed and cut into 1/4-inch diagonal slices
8 medium dried black mushrooms, rehydrated and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (reserve the soaking liquid)
1/2 cup (about 2 ounces) peeled and chopped water chestnuts
15 (about 4 ounces) peeled, cooked chestnuts, chopped
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil (optional)
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper

Put the sticky rice and long grain rice in a large pot and wash well. Drain and add 3 3/4 cups fresh cold water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Set aside for 1 hour.

In a small skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat until it becomes runny and starts to shimmer. Fry the onions until they’re soft and translucent, about 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside.

Set the pot of rice on the stove and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 8 to 10 minutes until the water is almost completely absorbed.

Place all the prepared ingredients on top of the rice and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Reduce the heat to medium-low and allow the steam to cook the rice.

After 15 to 20 minutes, add the remaining salt, soy sauce, sesame oil, and black pepper. Stir from the bottom to distribute the ingredients. Cover and cook for another 10 minutes or until the rice is tender but not mushy; the grains should still be separated. If the rice is still hard, make a well in the center of the pot and add a little water, stock, or mushroom liquid. Raise the heat to high to generate more steam, then reduce and cook a few more minutes.

Moisten the rice stuffing with turkey drippings and/or chicken stock and serve as a side dish with your cooked turkey.

Pat’s notes:
One key ingredient is glutinous rice (also called sticky rice, naw mai [Cantonese], or malagkit [Tagalog]). You can find both white and black glutinous rice at Asian stores. To avoid confusion, remember that raw glutinous rice is fat and opaque, while long grain rice is skinny and translucent. Once cooked, however, glutinous rice turns translucent and clumps together much more instead of separating as regular long grain rice does.

The Real McCoy–Homemade Sweet and Sour Pork

sweetandsourpork1 by you.

We’ve all had sweet and sour pork at some point or another. If you, like me, have been put off this dish forever by greasy battered pork doused in toxic pink glow-in-the-dark sauce served at a Chinese-American restaurant and/or the supermarket deli counter, take heart, there is hope yet!

I was actually surprised to find out that sweet and sour pork is a bona fide Cantonese dish. It’s just that many restaurants in North American do a lousy job of it.

Some say it originates from a traditional Jiangsu pork dish made with a sugar and vinegar sauce (tang chu li ji) and it is closely related to sweet and sour spare ribs (tang chu pai gu). Sweet and sour pork probably spread to the U.S. in the early 20th Century when Chinese migrant gold miners and railroad workers swapped trades and started cooking. And from thereon it permeated the country and is now a standard item on every Chinese-American menu.

Remember Aunti Pearlie? Well, try he rsweet and sour pork recipe and you’ll look at this oft-vilified dish with entirely new eyes and your tastebuds will thank you for it.

Sweet and Sour Pork (Gu Lao Rou)

sweetandsourpork3 by you.

There are endless variations of this quintessential Chinese dish but it always tastes best homemade. The pork cut of choice is pork butt or shoulder–not too lean, not too fatty. Other cuts may be leaner but they often turn tough and chewy when fried. So trim the fat if you must, or substitute with chicken breast.

Time: 1 hour plus marinating time
Makes 4 to 6 servings as part of a multicourse family-style meal

1 pound pork butt, trimmed of fat if desired and cut into 1-inch cubes
3 tablespoons self-raising flour
1 teaspoon Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 cups vegetable oil, divided
1 medium carrot, peeled and cut thinly on the diagonal
1 green or red pepper, cut into 1-inch squares
1 medium yellow onion, cut into 8 wedges and separated
1 clove garlic, minced
One 8-ounce can pineapple chunks, well drained (about 1 cup)

2/3 cup water
3 tablespoons tomato ketchup
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon soy sauce
3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar

In a medium bowl, mix the pork together with the flour, rice wine, salt, pepper, and egg with your hands, making sure to coat each piece of pork well. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, preferably 12 hours.

Bring marinated pork to room temperature before cooking.

Line a plate with paper towels.

In a large wok, heavy skillet, or Dutch oven, heat oil over high heat until it reaches 350 degrees F on a deep-fry thermometer.

Reduce heat to medium-high. Using tongs, drop the pork a few pieces at a time into the hot oil, ensuring the pieces don’t stick together. Fry in batches, 7 to 8 pieces at a time, until golden brown and crispy, about 6 to 7 minutes. When done, remove the pork with a slotted spoon, shaking off excess oil, and drain on paper towels. Keep warm in a 300 degree F oven.

Use a slotted spoon or a wire mesh strainer to remove any debris from the oil and bring oil temperature up to 350 degrees F again before frying the next batch. Repeat with remaining pork.

Drain the remaining oil and wipe down the wok with a paper towel. Heat 2 tablespoons of fresh oil over medium-high heat. Fry the garlic until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Toss in the onions and carrots and stir for about a minute. Add the peppers and stir-fry until tender-crisp, about 2 minutes. (If you prefer softer carrots, cook ahead by microwaving or steaming.) Add the pineapple, give everything a quick stir and turn off the heat, leaving the vegetables in the wok.

In a small saucepan, mix the sauce ingredients together and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring continuously. Once the sauce starts to bubble and thicken, about 1 to 2 minutes, reduce the heat to low. Pour in the vinegar and stir to mix. Set aside.

Tumble the cooked pork nuggets into the wok with the vegetables and pour the sauce over. Toss to coat and transfer to a large rimmed platter or bowl. Serve immediately with freshly steamed rice.

Grandma says:
You may deep-fry pork the nuggets ahead of time. Refrigerate or freeze until needed. Then re-heat with a quick dip in hot oil or in the oven. Don’t forget to bring the meat to room temperature first.

Stuffed Egg Crepe Rolls (Yu Gun)

egg rolls3 by you.

When Nellie Wong was growing up, she made fish paste from scratch. She’d scrape the fish filet off the bones and mix it with egg white. Today, fish paste is readily available in frozen tubs at Asian markets. Look for a light grey emulsion the color of fresh fish meat. Don’t buy a product that’s light brown or darker grey, a sign it’s been frozen too long. Traditionally, this recipe only uses fish but Nellie prefers a combination of pork and fish, adding ginger and sherry to neutralize the “fishy” smell. You can also stuff vegetables with the paste.

Time: 40 minutes
Makes: 4 to 6 servings as part of a multicourse family-style meal

1/2 pound ground pork (1 cup)
1/2 pound fish paste (1 cup)
4 water chestnuts, finely chopped
2 medium dried black mushrooms, rehydrated and finely chopped 
2 green onions, cut into thin rings (1/2 cup)
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons corn starch
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon peeled and minced fresh ginger (from a 1/4-inch piece)
Ground white pepper to taste
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons dry sherry
2 teaspoons water

Egg crepes:
4 large eggs
Vegetable oil for frying

Soy sauce and sesame oil, or light sauce (recipe follows)

In a large bowl, mix all the stuffing ingredients together to form a thick paste. Set aside.

Make the egg crepes one at a time. Beat 1 egg lightly with a pinch of salt in a small bowl using a pair of chopsticks or a fork. You don’t want to introduce too much air and the egg to become frothy.

Lightly brush the base of an 8-inch nonstick skillet with oil and heat over medium for 1 minute. Swirl in the egg mixture to coat the bottom of the skillet in a thin, even layer. Cook until the omelet surface is nearly dry and the underside is light golden, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Lift the edge of the omelet to check. Flip and cook for another 1 minute or so. Slide onto a plate. Repeat with the remaining eggs. Set aside to cool.


Nellie making the egg crepes

Set up your steamer.

Fill the steamer pan half full of water and bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium until you are ready to steam.

When the crepes are cool enough to handle, spread one quarter of the paste (about 1/2 cup) evenly over each crepe, leaving about a half-inch gap all around the edge. Roll into a fat cigar and seal the edge with a little paste. Place the roll seam-side down on a greased pie plate (or any rimmed platter) that will fit inside a steamer without touching the sides. Repeat with the remaining crepes, arranging them in a single layer on the plate. The size of your steamer will determine how many rolls you can steam at a time.

egg crepe rolls in wok

The pork and fish-stuffed rolls are ready to be steamed

Return the water in the steamer to a rolling boil. Set the plate of rolls in the steamer basket or rack. Cover and steam over high heat for 20 minutes, or until the filling is firm and no longer pink.

When done, turn off the heat and wait for the steam to subside before lifting the lid. Lift it away from you to prevent condensation from dripping onto the rolls, or scalding yourself. Carefully remove the basket or the plate and set the rolls aside to cool. Repeat as many times as necessary.

When the rolls are cool, transfer them to a serving platter and cut into 1-inch diagonal pieces. Reserve the “drippings,” the juices left at the bottom of the plate, to make the sauce. Drizzle with soy sauce and sesame oil to taste or light sauce (recipe follows).

Pat’s note:
If you don’t have a brush to lightly grease the bottom of your skillet, wrap a 5-inch square piece of paper towel around the tip of a chopstick with an elastic band to form a “sponge.”

Light Sauce
1/2 cup drippings (make up the difference with chicken stock if necessary)
1 teaspoon cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons water to make a slurry

Heat the drippings in a small saucepan over medium heat until it starts bubbling. Stir in the cornstarch slurry and mix until the sauce thickens, about 2 to 3 minutes. Drizzle the sauce over egg crepe rolls.

Grandma says:
Use the inside edge of a teaspoon to scrape the papery thin skin off fresh ginger. It works better than using a peeler or a paring knife which creates more waste than necessary.

Quack … Quack …

I love duck! But I don’t like the changes they’ve made on the WordPress dashboard at all :(. I’ve had to re-acquaint myself with all the buttons and it’s taking me that much longer to post. That and the fact that my manuscript deadline is looming. I know I haven’t been posting as often but please be patient with me. The end is near!

Anyway, let me leave you with this very simple and very tasty Asian version of coq au vin. Well, not quite, but duck is also considered poultry, and if you think of soy sauce as wine … oh, and it’s braised in my very French Staub Dutch/French oven too! It comes from my good friend Angie’s mum, Aunty Rose, who hails from Singapore.

Teochew Braised Duck (Lo Ack)

Photo by Lara Ferroni
Photo by Lara Ferroni

As a newly-wed, Rosalind Yeo learned how to make this dish from her mother-in-law using a Chinese rice bowl as a measuring implement. The recipe is now a family favorite, often served at Chinese New Year as well as for everyday meals. While it originates in Chaozhou province, China, the addition of lemongrass and galangal is very Southeast Asian. The sweetness of the duck is contrasted sharply by the tart dipping sauce and you get a tingly sweet sour sensation in your mouth. You can also add fried tofu or hard boiled eggs 20 minutes before the duck is done. Or jazz up the meat a little with a medley of intestines, duck liver, or gizzards. Do I hear “yum?”

Time: 1 1/2 to 2 hours
Makes: 4 to 6 servings as part of a family-style meal

One 4- to 5-pound duck, rinsed, and patted dry with paper towels
1 to 2 tablespoons coarse salt
4 whole cloves
4 whole pieces star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed (cut off bottom root end and 4 to 5 inches at the top woody end where the green meets the yellow, peel off loose outer layer), bruised and halved
One 1-inch-thick slice galangal, smashed
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, or to taste
1/2 cup dark soy sauce
Chili-lime dipping sauce (recipe follows)

Sprinkle salt on the duck skin and in its cavity.

In a 14-inch wok or 6-quart Dutch oven (or any vessel large enough to hold the whole duck), combine 2 cups water, cloves, star anise, cinnamon, lemongrass, galangal, sugar, peppercorns, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and soy sauce. Bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium-low. Gently lower duck into the wok. There should be enough liquid to reach halfway up the duck. Top it up with water, if necessary. Baste the duck every 5 minutes or so for the first 20 minutes so that it colors evenly. Cover and simmer for another 40 minutes to 1 hour until duck is tender and the meat is falling off the bones. Halfway through the cooking process, flip the duck. If the sauce looks like it’s drying up, add more water.

To check for doneness, poke duck in the thigh with a chopstick. If the juices run clear, the duck is cooked. Or, use a meat thermometer to check if the internal temperature has reached 165 degrees F.

Turn off the heat and leave the duck immersed in the sauce for another hour if desired.

Cut the duck into serving pieces and serve with rice and chili-lime dipping sauce.

Chili-Lime Dipping Sauce

1 to 2 cloves garlic
1 long fresh red chili (like Holland, Fresno or cayenne), or 1 tablespoon bottled chili paste (sambal oelek)
3 tablespoons lime juice (3 key limes)

Pound the garlic and chilies in a mortar and pestle, or pulse in a small food processor, until a coarse paste forms. Add lime juice and mix well.