Don't like them too gamey? Try your luck with Cantonese-style duck
Two local winners upping the duck game
You either love it or hate it.
Duck can be a foul fowl, unbearably stinky to some.
But it can also be gamely aromatic to others.
I belong to this latter group.
The world has several versions of cooking and eating this webbed wonder.
The Europeans adore the confit method (cooking it in its own fat and juices) and smoking the breast meat.
The Balinese prefer it done smashed and fried (popularised by Bebek Bengil), while the Thais have their red curry duck which pairs so well with steamed rice.
The Chinese have a few popular styles - the braised Teochew method, poached in salty stock the Hokkien way, and the famous Peking Duck (roasted then cooked in a few ways in one serving).
There's also another Cantonese method of roasting, which is very well-received in Singapore but not quite Peking-style either.
The kind of duck used differs from what is used in Beijing.
It has less fat and it is not roasted particularly for the skin.
You find them hanging in Cantonese roast meat stalls amid slabs of char siew and roast pork.
Even within this version, there are a few styles found in Singapore, like these two crowd-pleasing renditions:
Chao Ji Roasted Meat
#02-165 Chinatown Complex
Food Centre, Blk 335 Smith Street
11am to 3pm, closed Mondays
At 63, Charles Leong is one of the last generation of roast meat hawkers. After about 30 years in the business, he said "no one in my family wants to take over and I am getting tired and old".
And when he calls it a day, it will be one less roast master we have.
Chao Ji Roasted Meat sits across from the famed queues of the Michelin-starred chicken noodle stall but it holds its own with its line of regulars.
Mr Leong's ducks come softer and with a very roasty skin, yet it retains some bite.
It is juicy and of course his art of chopping and plating is what makes his well-made roast duck ($38 for a whole duck) even more appealing.
The sauce used is vintage Cantonese - dark caramelised soy sauce with duck drippings and hoi sin sauce.
Charles' other piece of magic is his char siew.
He explained that the soft meat was achieved not by using a tenderiser but the low fire roast method instead, yielding an outside of burnt ends, with soft juicy meat inside.
That is a winner too.
YaLoh Herbal Roast Duck
#01-109 Golden Mile Food Centre
505 Beach Road, 11am to 8pm
The folks here are looking to run a few outlets and perhaps start a franchise. It has a central kitchen operation but the ducks ($45 for whole duck) are roasted well, as you can see from the firmness in the fowl on display.
The edge the duck has is in the sauce. It comes with sweet herbal overtones over a lightly salty umami taste, while bits of dang gui, chuan xiong and wolfberries peep out at you.
This version tames the gaminess of duck slightly thanks to the sauce.
YaLoh - which is barely three month old - appears ready to have its own following.
KF Seetoh, the founder of Makansutra, dabbles in street food businesses like Food Markets and has his own TV shows on cable. He publishes food guides and online content. He is also the creator of the World Street Food Congress. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.