Sichuan Duck Udon Noodles with Charred Ginger Scallion Sauce

Sichuan Duck Udon Noodles with Charred Ginger Scallion Sauce

If I had to choose my ultimate comfort food, I think it would have to be noodles. It wouldn’t be an easy decision, there would be tea biscuits to consider and pastas to ponder. But in my heart of hearts, no matter how much I may hem and haw, I know the answer would be noodles. And I know for a fact, if someone very cruelly made me choose a particular breed of noodle, it would be udon. And if I was forced to take it yet further and specify a dish, I think today’s Sichuan Duck Udon Noodles would be a serious contender. I pray none of this ever happens because it would definitely be a Sophie’s-Choice-type of scenario.

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Sichuan Peppercorns - Sichuan Duck Udon Noodles with Charred Ginger Scallion Sauce

No word of a lie, I have a new favorite dish on my hands. I’ve contemplated making these Sichuan Duck Udon Noodles every night since the day I photographed them, which is very unusual for me. I generally have culinary ADD. After I’ve worked on a recipe for a while, I don’t want to look at it again for at least six months. But these noodles…These noodles got under my skin.

Scoring the duck breast - Sichuan Duck Udon Noodles with Charred Ginger Scallion Sauce

I suppose my new found obsession isn’t that surprising. I basically recruited all of my favorites things and put them together in a wok. It is well documented that I will order seared duck breast off of any menu I can. Sichuan peppercorns make me weak in the knees and numb on the tongue in the best way possible. And noodles? Well, we’ve already established that I am hopelessly devoted to that particular class of carb. But beyond this strong starting line up, these Sichuan Duck Udon Noodles have a lot of subtle charms that really elevate the dish.

Seasoned Duck Breast - Sichuan Duck Udon Noodles with Charred Ginger Scallion Sauce

It’s no secret that I love Vietnamese food. Don’t worry, I’m not going to get into it again. But I do want to highlight one aspect of it that I particularly admire: the balance between raw and cooked ingredients. Floral, herbaceous and fresh notes that play nice with deep, umami-rich hits, that’s what keeps me coming back. I wanted to give my noodles a similar quality and I like to think I achieved that by adding slices of deseeded cucumber, celery leaves and, the old standby, cilantro. Pops of refreshment in a dish dominated by gamey duck meat and doughy, soy-heavy noodles are, frankly, necessary. But this is not where the petite flourishes end.

Butter Basted Sichuan Peppercorn Duck Breast - Sichuan Duck Udon Noodles with Charred Ginger Scallion Sauce

If you took a peek in my fridge, you’d swear I have a condiment problem. Mostly because I do. The other day, when I was giving the fridge a good scrub, I naturally took everything out. Every inch of my kitchen counter was taken up by the contents of my fridge. And a good 75% of that was exclusively condiments. I cannot stop buying them and I cannot stop making them, which brings me to this Charred Ginger Scallion Sauce. It is, in a word, a revelation and totally worth losing fridge space over.

The origins of ginger scallion sauce seem to be fairly muddied. The sauce does seem to have a common companion in Hainanese Chicken Rice, which some claim dates back to the 4th century. No wonder we’ve lost track of where this particular condiment definitively came from. That’s a long ass time ago. However, ginger scallion sauce only captured the fascination of the North American palette in the previous decade when it was made popular by the extremely popular David Chang.

The first time I ever made Ginger Scallion Sauce, I followed David Chang’s recipe in the Lucky Peach Cookbook to a T. I made Danny Bowien version as well from the same book. And I can honestly say I like them both but for different reasons. I like how Chang’s sauce gave the ginger and scallions room to breathe by keeping the additional seasonings to a minimum. But I also like the funk Bowien brought to the sauce by adding fish sauce. For sauces bearing the same name, the two are incredibly different.

But what version would be best to put on a plate of noodles that are already seasoned to high heaven? Well, the answer to that is neither. In fact, you might even question if these noodles require such an adornment. The truth is they don’t, so if you can’t be bothered to make another thing after you’ve stir-fried and seared with the best of them, don’t sweat it. But I did decide to move ahead with my own version of the Southern Chinese mother sauce and I’m not the least bit sorry I did.

You may remember me posting this Romesco Lima Bean Dip a little while back. Well, I bring it up because this was the dish that made me fall in love with blistered scallions. The idea to blister the ginger as well, is something I borrowed from the Vietnamese, who start their pho broth with blistered ginger root, onion and spices. So, instead of heating oil and pouring it over minced ginger and scallions, as it is traditionally prepared, why not use the oil to blister the aromatics? The result was a slightly caramelized flavor, a hair more complex than the original. I toss in a dash of fish sauce because I thought Bowien was really onto something there.

It may seem, at first blush, like these Sichuan Duck Udon Noodles has a lot of moving parts. And I suppose they do. There is a duck breast to concern yourself with, a stir-fry component, and a little light condiment-making to tackle. But would it help if I told you, none of these tasks are particularly difficult. Sure, you have to stay alert to keep the duck breast from burning and the noodles from over-cooking. But nothing in this recipe really requires a huge amount of finesse.

So, even though the recipe for these Sichuan Duck Udon Noodles may read like an epic, I can promise it won’t coax you into a nervous breakdown. As with any stir-fry, mise en place is definitely your friend here. So, embrace it and get to chopping before you fire up a single burner.

So, that’s everything there is to know and love about these Sichuan Duck Udon Noodles. Honestly, this dish has “favorite” written all over it. And if you happen to be vegetarian but you still want to make this dish, you can. Swap the duck for cubed tofu tossed in a little oil, soy sauce and crushed Sichuan peppercorns. Stir fry the tofu alongside the veg, omit the fish sauce from the Charred Ginger Scallion Sauce, and boom! You’ve got yourself a kickass vegetarian dish.

Enjoy!

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Sichuan Duck Udon Noodles with Charred Scallion Sauce

Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Resting Time 55 mins
Total Time 40 mins

Ingredients
  

Sichuan Seared Duck Breast

  • 1 duck breast
  • 2 tsp whole sichuan peppercorns
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 5-6 sprigs fresh cilantro

Charred Scallion Sauce

  • 5-6 scallions
  • 1 2-inch knob ginger halved lengthwise
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp fish sauce
  • 2 tsp canola oil
  • 1 tsp turbinado sugar
  • 1/2 tsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper

Sichuan Duck Udon Noodles with Charred Scallion Sauce

  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp black vinegar
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 -2 tsp Sichuan chili oil
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 sweet onion diced
  • 4 cloves garlic thinly sliced
  • 4 ribs celery chopped, leaves reserved
  • 300g (10.5 oz) French green beans
  • 800g (28 oz) fresh udon noodles
  • 1 Sichuan Seared Duck Breast thinly sliced (see above)
  • 1 batch Charred Ginger Scallion Sauce see above
  • 1/3 cucumber halved, deseeded, and sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves for sprinkling

Instructions
 

Sichuan Seared Duck Breast

  • Score the fat of the duck breast in a cross-hatch pattern. Set aside. 
  • Place the peppercorns inside a plastic bag and whack them with a rolling pin to crack them. Rub the duck breast with the salt and the cracked Sichuan peppercorns. Place the breast on a cooling rack on top of a baking sheet. Let sit at room temperature for 45 minutes.
  • Place the duck breast, fat-side-down, on a cold skillet. Place over medium-low heat. Let cook for 15 minutes undisturbed, pouring off the fat every so often. Flip the breast and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Transfer the duck breast to a plate and tent with tin foil. Let rest for 10 minutes.

Charred Ginger Scallion Sauce

  • Place the scallions and ginger cut-side-up on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with a bit of canola oil and sprinkle with the salt. Place the baking sheet under the broiler and broil for 10 minutes or until the ginger is deeper in color and the scallions are blackened and crispy.
  • Place the scallions and ginger on a cutting board. Peel and mince the ginger and chop the scallions. Transfer to a bowl and add the canola oil, fish sauce, sugar, rice wine vinegar, and white pepper. Stir until the sugar dissolves.
  • Set the finished sauce aside to cool.

Sichuan Duck Udon Noodles with Charred Scallion Sauce

  • In a small bowl whisk to combine the soy sauce, dark soy sauce, black vinegar, honey, and Sichuan oil. Set aside.
  • Place a large pot of water over high heat and bring to a boil. While waiting for the water to boil, heat the canola oil in a large wok until shimmering. Add the onion and fry until just translucent. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant. Add the celery and fry until just translucent. Add the green beans and saute briefly until the beans are warmed through but still retain their crunch.
  • Once the water comes to a boil, add the noodles and cook until al dente, about 3 minutes. Drain the noodles and rinse with cold water. Transfer the noodles to the wok and pour the soy sauce mixture over top. Toss to coat and integrate the sauce and the noodles, then take the wok off of the heat.
  • Transfer the noodles to a large platter. Uncover the duck breast and cut into thin slices with a sharp knife. Arrange the slices over top of the noodles. Dot the surface of the dish with spoonfuls of the Charred Ginger Scallion Sauce. Garnish with the cucumber, reserved celery leaves, and fresh cilantro. Serve immediately with additional chili oil and a round of cold beers.

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