Never use a thawed frozen duck for this princely dish!
1 fat fresh duck (about 4 lb/2 kg) cleaned but with its neck still attached if possible
½ teaspoon five-spice powder
2 teaspoons salt
2-3 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 lb (500 g) fresh bean sprouts
2 tablespoons honey
½ cup (125 ml) water
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon light dry sherry
Pancake Wrappers (Maker 18)
1¾ cup (400 g) flour
8 oz (250 ml) boiling water
1¼ cups (310 ml) oil
3 tablespoons plum jam
1½ tablespoons white vinegar
For the Packets
Green onions, cut into 2-in (5-cm) pieces
1 pickling cucumber, unpeeled, cut into 2-in (5-cm) lengths
Pinch of salt
1 green onion, sliced
Green onion tops, chopped
A few leaves Chinese celery cabbage, cut into thin strips or thin slices winter melon or zucchini
Plate all the Syrup ingredients together in a pan and bring to a boil. Cook and stir until the honey is dissolved. Set aside.
Wash the duck and dry it with paper towels. Combine the five-spice powder and salt, and rub the inside of the duck well with this mixture. Tie a string around the neck of the bird if you can and hold it over a basin. Otherwise place it in a large strainer or colander. Pour boiling water over the duck at least six times, allowing the bird to dry thoroughly between each washing. Brush it with the Syrup and use a hair dryer or a fan as suggested in the recipe for Roast Crispy Chicken.
Heat an oven to 375-400°F (190-200°C). Place the duck on a rack in a baking dish, breast-side down, and roast for about 20 minutes, then turn it breast up and roast until the breast is crisp and brown and the meat is cooked-about another 20-30 minutes. The meat should remain quite pink since all but the skin and the very top layer will be cooked a second time.
To make the Pancake Wrappers, sift the flour into a bowl, make a well in the center, add the boiling water and mix with a wooden spoon until the dough is just soft enough to handle without being sticky, knead the dough for about 5 minutes, cover the ball with a damp cloth and set aside for half an hour. Knead again, then form it into a long roll about 1½ in (4 cm) in diameter and cut it into 18 pieces. On a floured surface roll each piece out to a circle about 3 in (8 cm) in diameter. Brush one side lightly with oil and lay another circle on top. Roll out the double wrappers until very thin.
Cook on a dry hot griddle or heavy frying pan over a low heat for haft a minute until flecked with brown spots. Turn over and cook the other side. Remove from the pan and pull apart into two wrappers. Fold each one loosely into a triangular shape. Arrange the folded triangles on a serving plate and cover with a dry cloth until needed.
To prepare the Plum Sauce, heat the jam and white vinegar in a small pan. Add water to taste and to achieve a suitable consistency. Provide a small side dish of sauce for each diner.
Peking Duck is classically served as three separate courses. Carve off the entire crisp skin in pieces with only very little meat attached. Serve the skin on a plate with side dishes of the Plum Sauce, Pancake Wrappers, the green onions and strips of cucumber. Each diner puts a pancake wrapper on their plate and places on it a couple of slices of duck skin, a piece of onion and one of cucumber, tops them with the homemade Plum Sauce, and folds everything loosely into an oblong packet.
For the second course, cut the meat off the carcass in strips, season with the oyster sauce and stir-fry it in a little oil with the bean sprouts. Serve this with two or three other dishes and rice.
Finally, to make the Soup, chop up the carcass, cover it with water, add a little salt and bring to a boil. Add one green onion, some chopped green onion tops and green leafy vegetable such as young spinach or Chinese cabbage and serve the resulting soup last in a large bowl.