I don’t know if it is about getting older but I find myself craving for some of the more traditional foods for comfort. I’ve always been into soups; something hot in my belly has always given me a warm feeling of wellbeing and sufficiency. So when I had some friends over recently I made duck and salted vegetable soup. This soup, to me, speaks of the best of traditional Chinese cooking. The gaminess of the duck meat balanced by the saltiness of preserved mustard greens and the sour tang of the soup plums. If that is not a flavour bomb, I don’t know what is. In fact, Asian food is held together by a delicate counterpoint of different primary tastes – sweet and sour, savory and tangy, salty and sweet. I think our tastebuds mature with time as I remember as a child being entranced with just sweets and today I would be repulsed by the cloying sweetness of what I used to crave. It was only later that I started to appreciate the bitter flavours common in Asian cuisine such as bittergourd or belinjau crackers. And the complexity of Asian flavour profiles, I suppose, becomes more appreciable with age and maturing tastebuds.
The duck soup was a hit. I think my friends completely identified with the soup – I have truly no idea what the origins of duck and salted vegetable soup are – I think it may be Hokkien (hence the common colloquial name “kiam chye ark”) although I know it is also a Peranakan staple (“itek tim”). It often has a presence in big family dinners and is a universal crowd pleaser. And my guests were confounded by the fact that one could get such depth of flavour from half an hour of pressure cooking in the Instant Pot. I love being a kitchen maven and a master of traditional Chinese cooking when actually cooking this dish was literally just throwing everything into the pot and walking away!
Instant Pot Duck and Salted Vegetable Soup
- 1/2 duck
- 300-400g salted vegetable (“kiam chye”)
- 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and lightly smashed
- 2 large pieces of ginger 4-5 cm long (about 80-100g), peeled and sliced about 1/2 cm thick
- 6 small dried mushrooms, soaked in hot water for 5 minutes
- 3 sour plums
- 1 carrot, peeled and sliced into rounds
- 2 tomatoes, cut into 6 wedges each
- 1 red chili, sliced in half and deseeded
- About 4 L water (or up to the maximum mark of the inner pot)
- Clean the duck and discard the head and feet. Strip off the skin. Chop the duck into smaller pieces (2-3 cm thick for the breast or back cuts).
- Bring a pot of water to the boil and blanch the duck in about 3-5 minutes. Drain and discard the water.
- Soak the salted vegetables for about 1/2 hour, changing the water several times. Cut the vegetables into 4-5 cm pieces.
- Place the duck, salted vegetables, sour plums, garlic, ginger, carrots and mushrooms into the Instant Pot. Fill the pot with water up to the maximum mark.
- Seal the pot and put on manual high pressure for 30 minutes. Do natural pressure release.
- Add the tomatoes and chili and put the pot on sauté mode for 10 minutes.
- Serve hot.