VEGETARIAN PEKING DUCK
From: The Ethical Gourmet by Jay Weinstein
Serves: 4 as an Appetizer, 2 as a Main Course
Duck, when cooked in the Peking style, has a crispy skin, a juicy bite, and a woodsy, smoky taste. In this mock duck, a crunchy outer bean curd skin, filled with earthy mushroom and bamboo shreds, provides the crisp, juicy, woodsy effect. Wrapped in a tortilla with hoisin (Chinese dried plum sauce), scallions, and cucumber, you won't believe it isn't the real deal.
Bean curd sheets, called fu jook in China and yuba in Japan, are available from Asian grocers. But if you can't find them, use spring roll wrappers to replicate crispy skin instead. Dried black mushrooms are the beloved fungus of China and Japan. Fresh, they're sold as shiitake mushrooms here. Once you hook into a source for dried black mushrooms, you may never want fresh again. When sliced, they add a pleasantly chewy texture to anything you cook. Like good risotto, they're soft when you bite down, but resistant at the middle. Bamboo shoots have a crunch, making your, "duck" more dynamic yet. I shred them with a knife, but you can use a grater or food processor if you wish.
Rolling these quackers is like making spring rolls—fold the sides in first to ensure that filling doesn't fall out during cooking, then roll them into a not-too-tight cylinder. Set the steamer basket on a counter, where the rolls can air-dry as they cool a bit. To soften the tortillas (an essential step, unless you're into eating leather), I like to place them directly over a low heat on the stovetop, and flip them back and forth until they puff and blister on both sides and have some brown or charred spots. Alternatively, you could steam them or toast them in the oven. Bean curd sheets are great wrappers for crisp rolls. Fresh ones are pliable, but they dry quickly. If they crack when bent, steam them for five to seven minutes.
• 6 dried black Chinese mushrooms
• 4 teaspoons light soy sauce
• 1½ teaspoons sugar
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 tablespoon peanut oil
• 1 cup finely shredded bamboo shoots
• 1½ teaspoons cornstarch
• 1/2 teaspoon Asian toasted sesame oil
• 2 fresh bean curd sheets, approximately 12 inches square (if they are dry and crackly, steam to soften for 5 minutes)
• 2 cups peanut oil for frying
• 4 flour tortillas, quartered
• 2 scallions, cut into thin strips
• 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and sliced into thin matchsticks
• Hoisin sauce
Soak the mushrooms for 15 to 20 minutes in boiling water to cover. Drain, reserving the liquid; then shred very finely (about 1/2 cup).
Combine 2 teaspoons of the soy sauce, 1/2 teaspoon of the sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and 1 tablespoon of the mushroom soaking liquid in a small bowl. Heat the peanut oil in a skillet, add the shredded mushrooms, and stir-fry a few minutes. Add the bamboo shoots and the soy sauce mixture. Cook 1 minute more. Remove from heat.
In a small bowl, mix together the cornstarch, remaining 1 teaspoon sugar, 2 teaspoons soy sauce, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, the sesame oil, and a tablespoon of mushroom soaking liquid. Brush this mixture onto the bean curd sheets and spread the cooked vegetables over the sheets, leaving a 1 -inch border around the sides and bottom, and a 3-inch border along the top. Fold the sides in to seal in the filling and roll, jelly-roll-style.
Heat the peanut oil to 375°F in a high-sided medium skillet Cook the rolls until browned and crisp (careful they spatter, use a screen if you have one), about 5 minutes, turning once Set on paper towels to drain excess oil Slice into eight pieces each (a serrated knife is best).
Soften the tortillas by either steaming them or heating them directly atop a stove burner. Serve each slice wrapped in a tortilla quarter with scallion strips, cucumber sticks, and hoisin sauce.