I’ve been eating an awful lot of Itsu’s pots of udon noodles and dumplings for lunch lately and thought that I really ought to try a make this sort of food myself, from scratch.
It started a couple of duck legs, bought for a reasonable price, from Borough Market. I squeezed into that place on a Saturday (literally squeezed. The damn place is so full of tourists who come to buy lunch or just generally oggle that people who actually want to visit the stalls to buy produce have a real struggle to wade through the crowds. Frustrating- and probably more so for those who have market stalls there. Rant over!). I also picked up some locally grown plums and a chicken carcass from another butcher, which I thought I’d use to make soup with.
The next stop on my shopping trip was the huge oriental supermarket up in Elephant and Castle, Longdan. This place has everything, from weird and wonderful to plain hideous! But it’s amazing. There is literally one entire 7 or 8m-long aisle dedicated entirely to noodles. So much choice! I picked up the enoki mushrooms, pak choi, wakame, udon and gyoza skins there, but also bought the bowls I’ve served the soup (and a completely mad but delicious sweet bubble tea!).
By the time I’d got home to marinate the duck legs, I was starting to feel a little ill. Indeed, as the night wore on I felt positively awful and spent most of Sunday sprawled on the sofa. But, I soldiered on – the ingredients were ready to go, the duck marinated and so I set to work at various stages throughout the day making this meal. It’s actually really easy – just a little time consuming.
Unfortunately, when it came to eating I couldn’t taste much at all, which was really sad. But my boyfriend assured me it was delicious and he ate his whole bowl plus seconds! Good enough for me. I’ve got my sense of smell and taste back today and have just eaten the ducky leftovers. Just immense – sweet, aniseed flavours delicately infused with super tender duck meat. I’m gutted I only got to enjoy this flavour once!
Note/ this recipe serves two but the quantity of duck I’ve specified will give you quite a bit of leftover meat. The leftover meat is the best bit and if you’re going to the effort of slow cooking duck legs you may as well get another meal out of it!
Another point – this dish is formed like a Japanese ramen – the raw vegetables and cooked noodles are placed into a deep serving bowl and the bubbling broth is poured over the top. As you eat your already hot dumplings, the vegetables will be cooked gently in the steaming liquid, so it’s important to use vegetables that you enjoy with a bit of a crunch!
Oh and one more thing before I let you have the recipe! I’ve never made gyoza before and kind of just approached it as I would stuffing pasta – sealing the skin down around the meat. I tried a few jazzy little folds and presses, but on reflection I reckon a more authentic shape could be achieved by wrapped the sides up and sealing the gyoza skin over the top of the meat. Next time!
You will need:
For the duck gyoza:
2 fat whole duck legs
1 tspn crushed fennel seeds
1 tspn hot chilli powder
1 tspn cinnamon
1 tspn crushed cloves
2 tbspns dark soy sauce
2 star anise
1/2 cinnamon stick
1/2 tbspn olive oil
15 gyoza skins, thawed if frozen (available form Oriental stores, in the freezer/Japanese section)
For the udon noodle soup:
1 Chicken carcass and giblets (get it from the butcher for pence!)
6 big chunks of Celery
A large thumb of ginger, halved
1 onion, halved
5 garlic cloves
1 Tspn cloves
1 Tspn fennel seeds
1 tbspn Brown rice miso paste (I used Clearspring)
3 Spring onions, sliced
1 red chilli, sliced
Small bunch of Enoki mushrooms
1 tbspn dried wakame, rehydrated in water
1 pak choi, divided into leaves (slice large ones in half)
Udon noodles for two
1 – Mix together all the spices, soy sauce and olive oil and marinate the duck legs in this mix overnight (or for at least two hours) in the fridge
2 – The next day, get up and turn on your slow cooker to preheat for 30 minutes on a high heat setting and remove the duck from the fridge
3 – Half and de-stone your plums and slice your chilli and lay these in the bottom of the preheated slow cooker
4 – Sprinkle over the sugar and the juices from the marinade, followed by the duck legs; place the lid in the slow cooker and cook on the high heat setting for 2 hours
5 – After two hours, check the duck, giving it a little stir if needed and turn the heat down to low for the next 5 hours or until the meat is completely tender and falling away from the bone
6 – Meanwhile make the stock; place the chicken carcass and giblets, onion, celery, garlic, ginger, cloves, fennel seeds and black pepper in a large saucepan and cover with water
7 – Bring the liquid to the boil and then reduce to a gentler simmer for 3 hours, covering the pan with a lid
8 – Return to your duck; remove the legs from the slow cooker after 5 hours and shred the meat away from the bones and skin, discarding the star anise an cinnamon stick but retaining the chilli
9 – Set the duck aside to cool, spoon over a couple of tablespoons of the juices from the pot and leave the remaining juices to cool separately
10 – When the stock is ready, remove the main bulk of the vegetables and bones etc and strain it through a muslin/cloth-lined seive into a big bowl
11 – Rinse out the stock pan and heat the miso paste in the pan; ladle in around 10 scoops of your pure stock, one by one, whisking after each new ladleful to incorporate the miso paste
12 – Skim the fat away from your leftover duck juices and pour a couple of tablespoons into the stock (save the rest for your leftover duck!)
13 – Taste the stock and adjust seasoning as necessary and leave to bubble away while you prepare the gyoza
14 – Take your gyoza skins and dollop a teaspoon of the duck into the centre; use a pastry brush or fingers to dab water around the perimeter of the skin and fold it in half, enclosing the duck, pressing the edges together firmly
15 – Now prepare the noodles; cook as per packet instructions in a pot of water, drain and rinse well under cold water
16 – Next, grab two big deep bowls and lay half the pak choi, half the mushrooms, half the noodles and half the wakame in each
17 – Now it’s time to prepare the gyoza; heat a little oil in a frying pan and add the gyoza when hot
18 – Fry the gyoza on one side for a minute until golden and then pour in a little water; place a lid on the pan and leave to steam for a minute or two
19 – Meanwhile pour the chicken stock into the bowls over the noodles and veg
20 – Lift the gyoza out of the pan and place a few on top of the bright noodles; scatter over the chilli and spring onion and serve immediately