Some times when you do good deeds, a thousand good fortune will come back to you. Such was the case of my dog, a orphaned mutt from the back alleyways of a Sichuan restaurant near our home in Hong Kong. Like the cartoon Lady and The Tramp, this dog was in need of food and shelter. The owner of the restaurant was beating him relentlessly and even offered good money for the local police to drag the dog away and kill him. When we heard of this, I wanted to save the dog. The next obstacle, of course, was my wife's opposition to any kind of pet in the house. But my daughter insisted on the dog, because we wouldn't let her have a boyfriend. I did not want her to feel lonely, so that was my other reasoning for keeping the dog.
We called the dog, Xing Xing. After the two weeks, Xing Xing went from being the "family" pet to my pet. My daughter lost all interest in him and my wife did not care. When they say a dog is your best friend, I must say that this statement is very true. By being with me, Xing Xing developed a taste for good meat and pork. Cooking time in my kitchen meant some sharing parts for him. Overtime, he even developed an understanding for Cantonese. "What should we make today, Xing Xing?" I would ask. And I swear, I would understand his panting and movements to communicate. "No, not beef chow fun again. We made that Thursday", I would say to him. Xing Xing would then circle and pant and whimper. "Yes, that's a good idea, Braised Duck with Ginger. We haven't made that in awhile!"
I am to blame for Xing Xing's affinity towards duck meat. In Hong Kong, duck meat is plentiful and I have also enjoyed eating too much duck. We have both become picky about good food. It is almost like he is an extension of me. But today something was special, and I think Xing Xing even knows it. Ever since the day we took him him on a late March afternoon, we had considered it his birthday. It only makes sense to give him so duck! Of course, I only give him the meat to the dish. The full dish is for the people! Yes, it may be my dog's birthday but my daughter and my wife likes duck just as much as Xing Xing and I do.
So this article, I am dedicating it to my duck meat loving dog. This dish is called the Braised Duck with Ginger. This is a popular home dish in many Hong Kong households. Just like many of my lessons, it is an easy and popular dish to make with easily attainable resources. If you are living in a part of the world where duck meat is a bit more scarce, most Chinese supermarkets sell them. I have heard some Western markets also sell duck meat, but since I have not been to North America in five years, I cannot attest to this 100%.
Okay, let's start!
1. PREPARING AND COOKING THE DUCK MEAT
- A duck
- Soy sauce
- Cooking oil
THIS FIRST STEP IS VERY IMPORTANT! It removes the grease out of the duck meat, which is unhealthy and ruins the flavor of the dish.
Get the duck and cut the duck in half. With half of the duck, proceed to chop the duck into pieces. Then put it in some large wok with boiling water for 5 minutes. The boiling is to remove the oil from the duck, otherwise it will be extremely greasy. When 5 minutes is over, take the duck meat out. Get a clean cooking brush, dip it in soy sauce and "paint" the meat with the soy sauce. The soy sauce gives it a strong flavor.
In a wok, put the oil in and heat it up. Not too long after, about 15 seconds, place the duck pieces in with the skin facing downward toward the wok. Observe them getting cooked until the pieces are brown-colored. Remove the duck meat and place in seperate dish. Put it in a warm place.
Now we will make the sauce.
2. CREATING THE SAUCE
- Cane sugar
- Yellow bean sauce
- Cooking Wine (Shaoxing)
- Corn Starch
Chop the cane sugar into very narrow pieces. Mince the garlic and do the same. For the plums, mash them into pulp pieces and remove their cores.
In a wok, heat up with cooking oil, then put the cane sugar pieces, the garlic piece and the mashed plums. Put the yellow bean sauce, ketchup and corn starch. Add the cooking wine (preferably Shaoxing wine) Stir-fry these parts together for 5 minutes, then put the sauce on a seperate dish.
- The finished duck pieces from Step 1
- The sauce from Step 2
On a serving plate for 4 people, put the cooked duck pieces in and then pour the sauce on top for an appetizing look. Place some sliced raw ginger on the side for decoration.
You are done.
There have also been many times I am pleased to have Xing Xing. He is who I talk to whenever I have a bad day. We communicate and understand one another. We are both also big fans of Manchester United, listening to their soccer games with Xing Xing generally excited upon each scored goal. He is my alarm clock every morning at 6:30 am and my taste tester during cooking time. My little nieces and nephew love him and he is very good with the children. We have five objects we can tell him to find and he will find it: a ball, an Ultraman action figure, a belt, an old book and my underwear. He loves to put my underwear underneath our bed.
In the beginning of this article, I have said a thousand favors come back for one good deed. We had saved Xing Xing from death. One night, when we were asleep, an electrical fire occurred and a our dog woke us up. Electrical fires are very quick and if not attended to, can create a blaze in a matter of minutes. We had never planned to have a dog, but had it not been for Xing Xing, we would have lost much of our possession in the fire, perhaps even our lives. Fate has a way to repay kind favors, so it is no big deal for me to love my dog with all my heart. Unconditional love is rare in life, but it is always found in a dog.