Dragon Spring Restaurant in Babao is a large, two-story affair. It is owned and run by Wei Hanyan, a Zhuang minority woman who grew up in town, and serves dishes such as fried catfish in brown sauce, stewed beans, and this rich duck stew. The sauce the duck is cooked in—a brown sauce made with local beer, oyster sauce, sesame oil, and other flavorings—is full of ingredients rarely seen in other parts of Yunnan. It is a perfect example of how the foods made on the eastern edge of the province resemble those of neighboring Guizhou, with the chiles and pickles popular in Yunnan used alongside flavorings favored in southern China, such as oyster sauce and Chinese cooking wine.
- 4 cups vegetable oil
- 5 garlic cloves, smashed with the side of a cleaver
- 3 slices of unpeeled ginger, each about 1/2 inch by 1 inch
- 1/2 duck (about 2-1/2 lbs.), cut across the bone into 1-inch pieces
- 1-1/2 tbsp. Chinese Shaoxing cooking wine
- 10 dried Thai chiles, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 pint weak Chinese lager, such as Snow or Tsingtao
- 1-1/2 tbsp. oyster sauce
- 2 tsp. fragrant chile sauce (xiangla jiang)
- 1-1/4 tsp. sesame oil
- 3/4 tsp. dark soy sauce
- 2 scallions, both white and green parts, cut into 1-1/2-inch pieces
- 1 tbsp. cornstarch mixed with 1 tbsp. water
1.) In a wok, heat the oil over a high flame until very hot. (To test the temperature of the oil, submerge the tip of a wooden chopstick; it should produce a strong cloud of little bubbles.)
2.) Add the garlic and ginger and cook for about 10 seconds, until fragrant.
3.) Add the duck and cook, gently pushing the meat back and forth with a wok shovel, for 1 minute. The oil should bubble furiously.
4.) Add the cooking wine and dried chiles and continue cooking, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes.
5.) Carefully pour all but 1 tbsp. of the oil into a heatproof container such as a metal bowl; this is easiest to do if you pour it through a sieve to catch any pieces of meat or aromatics that might fall out with the oil.
6.) Add the beer to the wok, stir the mixture well, and bring it to a vigorous boil. Boil for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, then scoop out any remaining foam. Add the oyster sauce, fragrant chile sauce, sesame oil, and soy sauce to the mixture and stir well, then continue boiling for 4 minutes as the liquid begins to reduce.
7.) Add the scallions to the mixture and cook until they are soft, about 2 minutes.
8.) Add the cornstarch-water mixture, stir everything well for a few seconds to thicken the sauce, and transfer all the ingredients to a serving bowl with just enough sauce to cover.
More from Cooking South of the Clouds
- Lijiang Baba Filled Flatbreads Recipe
- Lessons from a Master Ham Maker
- Dali-Style Cucumber with Vinegar and Chile Sauce Recipe
- A Typical Yunnanese Kitchen Pantry
Reprinted with permission from Cooking South of the Clouds by Georgia Freedman and published by Kyle Books, 2018.