One of the major perks of living near Chinatown is that several times a week, my walk home takes me through the seemingly endless sidewalk markets selling exotic vegetables and mysterious fish. A walk home can send my kitchen imagination running wild, but what really makes my day are the glossy barbecued ducks hanging in butcher and restaurant windows. Whether you find them gruesome or delectable, there’s no ignoring these mallard mannequins. As it happens, I am a big Peking duck fan, but only eat it on special family occasions. My walks through Chinatown have recently had me wondering how I can bring the power of Peking duck into my own kitchen.
I have a dream of making my own Peking duck from start to finish, but for the moment I’m content to settle for this apartment-friendly substitute: Peking chicken wraps. The idea is to maximize the Peking duck flavor while not investing in too many specific ingredients. These can of course be made with duck, but if you want to take it easy on your cholesterol and wallet, try chicken thighs. The darker meat is closer to duck meat and offers a meatier and richer flavor than chicken breast.
There have been many debates about whether buying organic chicken is better than free-range chicken, and whether either is actually more humane or healthy than factory-raised birds. The best thing you can do when shopping for any produce, especially meat, is to be sure to read the label, or talk to your butcher. Knowing where your food comes from is the first step into making conscientious choices.
Instead of a flour pancake, I used lettuce to add extra crispiness and freshness, and to balance out the spicy marinade. Next time around I would add some thin slices of ginger to each wrap. This may not be a permanent solution for a duck craving, but it’s good practice for when it’s time to make the real thing.
- 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 5-6 scallions, trimmed of dark green parts
- 4 lettuce leaves
- 1 carrot
- 1/2 cucumber
- 1 1/2 tsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp five spice powder
- 1/2 tsp sesame oil
- 4 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp smooth peanut butter
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tsp Sriracha sauce
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1/8 tsp white pepper
Wash the chicken and pat dry. Trim thighs of fat and place in a bowl with marinade ingredients, making sure all surfaces are coated. Cover and let chicken marinate for 30-45 minutes in the refrigerator.
Meanwhile, peel and slice the carrot and cucumber, then cut them and the scallions lengthwise into thin pieces. Mix ingredients for hoisin sauce together, adding peanut butter, honey and Sriracha to taste. Use a fork and stir ingredients vigorously to make sure everything mixes in, until sauce is thickened. Refrigerate until ready for use.
Preheat an oven to 350°. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator, and line up on a baking pan. Bake in a 350° oven for 20-25 minutes, or until chicken is moist but no longer pink on the inside. Let chicken cool, then slice lengthwise into strips. Layer a few strips of chicken, carrot, cucumber and scallion on a lettuce leaf and top with hoisin sauce, then roll leaf like a wrap.