Roasted duck rice may not be as popular or ubiquitous as Hainan chicken rice but Penang does have a few hawker stalls offering really good roasted duck rice alongside chicken, roast pork and Chinese sausages.
Duck is the lesser liked poultry possibly due to its strong gamey flavours and tougher texture but when roasted to perfection, it is something worth chewing over.
Roasting a whole duck is not an easy task as the marinade has to be able to bring out the robust flavours of the duck and yet ensure that it is not too strong that it turns people off.
Secondly, the skin has to be roasted to just the right crackling crispy texture where a single bite will elicit a crunch like biting into the thinnest of crispy crackers and also a juicy burst of natural flavours of the duck meat.
Often considered a red meat, duck meat is darker and tougher than the soft tenderness of chicken but if cooked in just the right temperature, it will be just as tender.
A good duck meat requires ample of skills to result in the glistening skin enrobing the tender and juicy meat beneath.
Roasted duck rice is served pretty much like the Hainan chicken rice except with a thick, savoury gravy.
The gravy is what brings the whole dish together as it enhances and complements the gamey flavours of the duck while adding another dimension of taste to the otherwise plain white rice.
Some stalls will be accompanied with a bowl of preserved vegetable sourish spicy soup known as kiam chai boey. The kiam chai boey — which literally means salted leftover vegetables – is a traditional soup born from a culture of not wasting even a single morsel of food, especially leftovers.
Traditionally, the kiam chai boey is a pot of boiled leftover food that could range from chicken, duck, vegetables, even fish and then salted preserved vegetables, tamarind juice and chillies are added to give the concoction the salty, sourish and spicy flavours.
Now, some chicken rice and duck rice stalls still do prepare this traditional soup, mostly with the carcass of either duck or chicken and also other parts such as the feet and neck along with the must-have salted preserved vegetables (called kiam chai in Hokkien), tamarind and chilies.
Due to the different ingredients used, the taste of the kiam chai boey is different in every stall and it may even differ every day for the same stall.
Here are some of the roasted duck rice to try out in George Town:
Jit Seng Roasted duck rice @ Star Hotel Coffee shop, Lebuh Carnavon (12pm – 4pm)
Wai Kee @ Lebuh Chulia (11pm-3pm)
Sin Boon Kee @ Prangin Mall (12pm – 4pm)