You got to sample the culinary delights of Singapore, the vast armory of exotic foods that the different cultures cannot do without, descended from neighboring Chinese and Malaysian sources and absorbed into the mainstream through the ages. You must have the stomach for it, of course, and the ability to absorb and digest all the spicy sauces and spices that garnish the delicious food, as colorful in appearance as the taste on the lips and the tongue as they slide down the throat.
Whether the roast duck rice combination or chicken, the time-honored formula speaks a thousand stories and belongs to many native traditions.
How did it all originate?
The Yuan destiny many ages ago counted duck roast among the dishes fit for royalty. The Ming and Qing dynasties too revered duck roast thoroughly. If you tasted the duck roast rice that Singapore serves, you would heartily agree. Strangely enough, prices are not very high at S$ 3 unless the same was concocted in one of those grand hotels in the starry sky!
Is duck meat healthy?
Besides, in today’s health-conscious world, no objections need to be raised to the efficacy of the lean duck meat filled with Vitamin B that assists metabolism and Vitamin E that slows the aging process that we are all so concerned about! The meat has a generous supply of protein at 25% more than other poultry birds. Iron, Selenium, and Niacin are also supplied by the duck meat low in saturated fat that we are all horrified with. Can you think of any reason that duck meat should not be a regular part of the diet?
Western cultures, of course, have made a big deal of turkey and duck at the annual Christmas celebrations when such birds are in great demand. Now that interest in emu and ostrich meat increases for the same reasons of avoiding red meat, perhaps we would witness an upsurge in duck meat consumption. The Chinese have been cleverly eating duck meat for ages, well aware of the advantages!
Originally Chinese in antiquity, several variations exist, like the Peking duck and the British roast duck. Singapore has a preparation all its own, and the native people swear by it. The washed entire duck is filled with several spices the day before. Pepper and salt, cinnamon and ginger, garlic, and spring onions are all put inside, and the cavity is closed with pins. What happens next? A coating of vinegar and malt sugar and then the whole duck hangs out to dry. The roasting process may last an hour until done. Experienced cooks understand the completion of roasting when the skin gets crisp. You and I cannot tell when the roast is done.
Individual preferences matter. Like whether you wish to have gravy with the rice. The flavoring may be sweet and sour to enrich roast pork taste. The sour plum sauce could be a tasty addition and chili for added impact.
The Chinese history of roast duck and herbal spices is as old as the hills. The story is told of a waiter called Xiao Er who fed the concoction to his sick master, who recovered. A well-made roast duck with several fragrant herbal spices is both a treat to the eye and a panacea for the tongue. Besides the inspiring golden brown crispy appearance, you are subjected to the heavenly herbal aroma that leads to a tremendous culinary fulfillment hard to resist. Singaporeans are doing it all the time, just as the Americans eat their burgers!
You must have heard of Peking Duck that became the national dish of China in the twentieth century. It is believed that China and the USA reached some understanding after Henry Kissinger enjoyed the dish during a visit to China and a meeting with Premier Zhou Enlai. Cuban Fidel Castro and German Helmut Kohl loved Peking Duck too.
The Peking Ducks are small with black feathers and belong to Nanjing, living in the canals around the city. The ducks are reared in controlled environments until they reach 5 to 7 KG. After slaughter and water rinsing, the air is pumped through the neck to separate the skin from the fat. The duck is hung up to dry after soaking in boiling water. The duck hangs for 24 hours with a coat of maltose syrup. The roasting until golden brown takes place in an oven, closed or hung.
How do the British manage it? They do not have a great liking for duck so that it would appear. The west certainly does not appreciate the rich herbal spices that the east has been drooling over for thousands of years. Does the climate make the difference? It probably does. One British enthusiast believes in simply roasting the fabulous bird with salt and pepper and nothing else!
In any case, the Singapore roast duck rice cannot be separated from its native setting. A culture that values its herbs and spices does have taste buds to appreciate the finer things of life. Taking the cue from neighbouring customs and amalgamating them to local traditions for thousands of years has brought rich gastronomic delights to the local setting. Try something new if you will like Henry Kissinger, and maybe the liking could cement new friendships that result in business deals or even happy marriages. Enjoy the romance of Singapore, the jewel in the ocean that touches the sky
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