Last weekend I made the pilgrimage home to Salinas to see the folks. It was unthinkable to try to pick up provisions in SF Chinatown on a crowded Saturday afternoon after my morning commitments, so I called Happy Bakery on Ocean Ave. to find out when the next batch of roast ducks would be coming out of the oven and reserved one. Luckily, the next release would be at 3:30pm. I wanted to see if Happys duck could win my mothers stamp of approval.
The roast duck, $9, was still hot when I picked it up. To keep the skin dry and crisp, I took it whole (not chopped) and had it packed upright in an open top carton with good air circulation and a plastic bag underneath to catch any drippings. Then I propped the package up in a bucket on the floor of the front seat of the car. Even very pricey floral bouquets have never been transported more carefully! Anyway, the car smelled wonderful, redolent of roast duck spices and sizzled fat, and my precious cargo was well-protected for the journey.
At 6:00pm, arriving in time for dinner, the duck was still warm to the touch and in fact hot inside from the pocket of duck juices in the interior. Mom said, lets eat this right away while its hot and the skin is crispy. She quickly sliced the meat off half the duck and assessed it as she worked. She was disappointed to only get two little plastic cups of juice (see duck jus routine in thread linked below), but there was more juice inside the bird too. She thought the duck was on the small side, but admired the even bronzing of the skin and that it was well-rendered of fat.
The proof is in the taste, and we found it tender and finely tuned in spicing. The skin was in good shape, not often that this is possible for an eat-at-home version. Mom said it was a different taste than New Moons yet she liked it equally well.
I had also brought home a half soy sauce chicken. I hadnt planned to, but the half sitting on the counter at the deli was so beautiful with taut and firm, evenly colored unblemished skin, I couldnt resist. We liked this very much also and thought it was a real winner. The seasonings of the master sauce are on the lighter side but complex, not dominated by salt, and just a touch sweet. The quality of the skin was as good as it looked with that near snap of firm, non-flabby resistance to the bite that the Chinese prize so much. The flesh was perfectly poached and silky smooth in texture.
The white blanched chicken feet were very good too. The ankle bones have been cut off leaving the skin and cartilage, so you get a higher proportion of edible to bone here. Mom thought these were too salty and dunked hers in some hot water before eating to soften them slightly and rinse off some salt. I preferred them as is, salty and cold for maximum firmness and crunch. When I told her they also made duck wings/webs, she said shed prefer those next time.
The one clunker was the barbecued pork loin (char siu). We thought it was too dry.
On previous visits, Id tried the empress chicken and Chiu Chow style duck with success. Happy Bakery & Deli is a terrific Cantonese barbecue stand and Im grateful to Margret for telling us about it.
As an aside, I had wanted to pick up some Chinese veggies and fresh egg noodles to take with me. I didnt spot any Asian grocers nearby. Is there one in this neighborhood for this kind of purchase? If there were, this would be my preferred spot for picking up things when Im headed south on 280.
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