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Create a homemade Chinese New Year meal with crispy Peking duck wrapped in gluten-free pancakes with all the trimmings!
Here’s a well-known dish that everyone loves to eat – Peking Duck with Mandarin pancakes, especially during Chinese New Year, which is the next festival on the calendar this year – 1st February 2022 to be exact, ushering in the Year of the Tiger.
How many of us suffer when we go to have a meal at a Chinese restaurant and see the trolley whiz by with a whole roast Peking duck and steamed bamboo baskets filled with warm pancakes, knowing that you can’t enjoy the crispy duck pancakes because they are made with wheat flour? Even if you opt not to eat the pancakes, the duck is glazed with gluten soy sauce, so really all that’s left are the cucumber sticks and spring onion shavings…Bon appétit!
Chinese New Year Traditions
In northern China, the pancakes (called Chun bing) are served to welcome Chinese New Year (Spring Festival) and pray for a good harvest from the spring crops. Not only is duck added as a filling, but stir-fried vegetables and eggs are cooked separately, and each diner helps themselves, similar to assembling a burrito.
Making homemade Peking duck is not common in most homes in China as many do not have ovens and it is far easier to resort to buying one already made.
Store-bought Peking duck meal versus homemade
Buying a ready-made Peking duck from a takeaway shop or restaurant has been prepared with regular soy sauce containing gluten. This applies to the Hoisin sauce, although some brands now offer gluten-free Hoisin Sauce.
The pancakes sold in the freezer section at Asian supermarkets or in restaurants are made with wheat flour, also gluten!
It is possible to enjoy a Peking duck meal completely gluten-free by following my recipes. You can choose between a whole Peking duck or several portions of Peking duck breasts. I explain how to prepare both types in my recipes. The ingredients are readily available and all it takes is a bit of planning ahead to make all the components for this classic, authentic Chinese meal.
Peking Duck with Gluten-Free Pancakes, Gluten-Free Hoisin Sauce & Homemade Five-Spice Seasoning
Whole Peking Duck
- 1 whole duck, approximately 3 kilos
- 2 tsp coarse salt
- 4 tsp gluten-free Tamari soy sauce
- 4 tsp sherry or vodka
- 2 tsp store-bought or homemade five-spice powder
- 1 spring onion, whole, ends trimmed
- 5 cm fresh ginger piece, peeled
- 1 mandarin, use peeled pieces only
Peking Duck Breasts
- 4 duck breasts, skin left on
- 1 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil, to fry
- 2 tsp gluten-free Tamari soy sauce
- 2 tsp sherry or vodka
- ½ tsp store-bought or homemade five-spice powder
Gluten-Free Hoisin Sauce
- 8 tbsp gluten-free Tamari soy sauce
- 3 tbsp peanut butter, smooth
- 3 tbsp molasses or treacle
- 2 tbsp runny honey
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 2½ tsp rice vinegar
- 2 tsp Sriracha or other gluten-free Asian chilli sauce
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
- 1 tsp white pepper
- ½ tsp mustard powder
- ¼ tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp cornflour Known as cornflour in the UK and corn or maize starch in the USA
Homemade Five-Spice Seasoning (measured for this recipe)
- ½ tsp anise powder or 1 whole anise star
- ¼ tsp black peppercorns
- ¼ tsp fennel seeds
- ¼ tsp cinnamon powder
- ¼ tsp whole cloves
- ¼ tsp sea salt or Himalayan salt
- 1 cucumber, cut into thin strips
- 4 3 spring onions, cut into thin strips
- A handful of fresh coriander leaves, washed
- 2 fresh, red chillies, sliced thinly (optional)
- 100 ml store-bought gluten-free Hoisin sauce (if not making the homemade sauce)
Whole Peking Duck
- Wash and pat the duck dry with paper towels.
- Rub the coarse salt inside and outside the duck all over the skin.
- Stuff the cavity of the duck with ginger pieces, spring onions and mandarin peel.
- Mix the Tamari soy sauce, Sherry or Vodka and five-spice in a small bowl.
- Brush the duck all over with half the Tamari glaze mixture. Put aside the remainder for glazing later.
- Chill uncovered for 4 hours or overnight. Keeping it uncovered, ensures a crispier, drier skin.
- Poke the duck breast a few times with a toothpick, piercing the skin.
- Place a roasting pan on the stove over 2 burners set at medium heat and fill with 5cm of boiling water.
- Place a rack over the roasting pan and lay the duck on it breast-side up. Cover tightly with foil.
- Steam the duck for 45 minutes, checking the water level every now and then. By steaming the duck, this method melts away some of the fat and shrinks the skin.
- Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F.
- Remove the foil and place the duck in a clean roasting tray.
- Brush the duck with the Tamari glaze, leaving some for further glazing.
- Roast the duck for one hour, glazing and basting often with the duck roasting juices.
- Pierce one of its thighs to check for doneness. If the thigh juices run clear, the duck is ready. If you have a meat thermometer, the temperature should read 63°C/145°F.
- If it needs a few minutes longer, cover the duck with the foil used earlier during steaming and return it to the oven until ready. Another method to test for doneness is if the legs wiggle easily.
- Keep the duck covered with the foil and add a dry, clean tea towel to cover for at least 20 minutes before carving and serving.
Peking Duck Breasts
- Pat the duck breasts dry with paper towels.
- Mix the Tamari soy, sherry or vodka and five-spice in a small bowl.
- Brush the duck on both sides with the Tamari glaze mixture.
- Chill uncovered for a minimum of 30 minutes or overnight.
- Heat a frying pan on medium-high heat. Add 1 tbsp of oil to coat the pan.
- Sear the duck breasts, skin side down for around 6 minutes. Move them often so the skin crisps up nicely and the duck fat renders out into the pan.
- Turn the heat down to medium and fry for a further 6 minutes, checking often that the skin is not burning. Turn the heat down to low if your pan is too hot.
- Preheat the grill/broiler to medium-low heat.
- Place the duck skin-side down on a tray and grill for 5 to 8 minutes for medium. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes if you like your duck well-done.
- Turn them over so that the duck breasts are skin side up and continue to grill for a further 3 to 5 minutes. The skin should start bubbling up and becoming crispy. Turn the grill up if it is not crispy enough, making sure the skin doesn't burn.
- Remove from the grill and rest for 10 to 15 minutes, covered with foil, before carving into thin slices and serving.
- Whisk to combine both plain flour, potato starch and salt in a large bowl.
- Make a well in the middle and add 150ml of boiling water, olive oil and vanilla extract, mixing thoroughly with a wooden spoon.
- Using your hands (use latex gloves if the heat is unbearable), knead the dough, adding the remainder of the 100ml boiling water slowly until the dough is smooth with a slight sticky feel. You may not need to use all the water to reach this consistency.
- Cover the dough in plastic wrap and allow it to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.
- Lightly sprinkle your counter top and rolling pin with tapioca flour.
- Divide the dough into 16 equal size small balls.
- Between two sheets of baking paper, press each ball into a disc with your hands and roll out to 13cm diameter pancakes. Trim around the edges to form a circle, using a small plate.
- Heat up a crepe pan or frying pan to high heat, then turn down to medium heat.
- Once the pan is ready, brush each pancake with a little oil and add one pancake at a time to fry for 1 minute on each side or until light brown spots appear.
- Press down slightly on the sides of the pancake with a spatula – this will add some air bubbles to the pancake, making it lighter in texture. Repeat with the remaining pancakes.
- Set aside and cover until serving time.
- When ready to serve, you can heat up the pancakes using the traditional method with a wok or pot filled with some water and place a steaming rack over the water, followed by a bamboo steamer and lid placed on top of the rack.
- Line the bamboo steamer with 2 layers of baking paper.
- Steam all the pancakes at once for around 10 minutes until they are soft and warm.
- Alternatively, cover the pancakes with plastic film and zap them in the microwave for several seconds until they feel warm.
Gluten-Free Hoisin Sauce
- Combine all the Hoisin ingredients in a small pan and bring to a boil.
- Immediately, lower the heat and simmer until it thickens, stirring constantly for 5 minutes.
- If it appears too thick, add a tablespoon of water to loosen the sauce. Continue adding more water if you prefer the sauce to be runnier.
- Pour into a small serving bowl or jug and allow to cool down slightly before serving. The sauce thickens further when chilled. Zap it in the microwave for a few seconds to bring it to room temperature before serving.
Homemade Five-Spice Seasoning
- Grind all the listed ingredients in a food processor or coffee grinder until smooth and powdery.
Assembling the pancakes
- Place duck meat, some skin, a sliver of spring onion, a piece of cucumber, some fresh coriander leaves and some gluten-free Hoisin sauce on each pancake. Fold or roll up each one and eat using your hands. Provide some finger bowls and napkins to clean hands.
- Peking duck keeps for 2 days chilled
- Gluten-Free pancakes are best eaten on the same day made
- Gluten-Free Hoisin sauce keeps for 7 days chilled