One chilly evening in recent memory, my parents and I sat down on low stools huddling around a pot of Ginger Duck Stew in Taipei. This particular restaurant specializes in the hotpot dish and it’s a crowd favorite during the winter time.
It was my first time having this. I love ginger, and it’s good for me because it is very warming. All the TMC doctors I’ve been to have diagnosed my body structure as internally more yin, which explains why I can never be best friends with low temperatures, so ingesting ginger helps re-calibrate that imbalance for me and gets my chi flowing (as it should).
Hotpot and shabu shabu are great, but ginger duck stew hotpot is da bomb.
I wasn’t kidding about the low stools. I don’t know if this was by design or what, but it sure made this a more grounding hotpot experience (heh). And one of the rare times I wore a light tanktop in the middle of winter, because it got warm fast in here once the soup started bubbling.
Most of the items dipped into the ginger broth are duck parts, ie. internal organs, which I’m a big worshipper of. You’d think that there would be raw duck meat on the menu too, but surprisingly no, all duck items are internal organs only, such as duck intestines, duck liver, duck gizzard… the closest thing to meat is duck meatballs.
The ginger broth is very medicinal and made with plenty of ginger juice, sesame oil, cooking wine, along with a blend of Chinese herbs. It’s potent and loaded with warming properties. Historically, this was a royal dish served to the emperor for its health benefits.
Oh wait a sec, I stand corrected. There is duck meat, but cooked duck meat all the way at the bottom of the pot which you can fish out and nibble on – which I wouldn’t and didn’t, because the duck meat (bones and all) was added into the broth at the very beginning back inside the kitchen as a flavor base, so by the time the broth arrives to the table hours later, all that duck meat has been reduced to dry tough pieces. I say skip that and focus on the really good stuff. Such as…
Duck intestines. Different than what I was expecting in appearance because it looks like crystal chicken feet skin, and the texture is also similar… crunchy and I imagine rich in collagen.
Let’s not forget the duck blood pudding, my all-time favorite. *heart eyes*
This is a plate of duck gizzard (front) and duck liver (back). I wouldn’t order the duck gizzard next time because it got way too rubbery after it’s boiled in the soup. Or maybe there’s a trick to cooking this, like a 5-second flash poaching method or something…?
The best part of this duck ginger stew hotpot turned out to be this plate of duck testicles. In Chinese, the name is 鴨佛 (literally translates to “duck Buddha”). And boy, I clasped my hands in prayer indeed after taking a bite of this and giving thanks for the exquisite experience. I hadn’t seen or heard of this before, I was even surprised that ducks have this particular body part!? Turned out that duck testicles are an internal not an external organ, hence they are also known as white kidneys, which definitely sounds less shocking and unsavory.
Bearing the texture of a scallop, it is melt-in-your-mouth tender and pillowy soft. It does not have any ducky or gamey flavor whatsoever. In fact it’s tasteless, but that delicate texture totally makes up for it. I liked it so much I wanted to hog the entire plate. While this easily gets top spot on my “weirdest food I’ve ever tried” list, this is not one of those squeamish food at all (despite its less palatable origin). This is absolutely a delicacy that I want more of.
The ginger duck stew is eaten with cooked rice vermicelli that’s been tossed in sesame oil on the side, which is a great accompaniment as it’s light and easy to digest. It reminded me of how when I got sick as a little girl, my grandma would make me congee for the first couple days. Then after my appetite started picking up, I’d get an upgrade from soupy rice to rice vermicelli soup.
Ginger duck stew is a great to fight off those winter chills so yeah, this was one meal in Taiwan which I enjoyed tremendously. Extra servings of duck testicles next time for sure.
Writing this article made my mouth water and my stomach rumbling with hunger, but I’d be crazy to attempt to recreate this in Singapore where it’s humid and hot all year round. Besides, there’s no way I can find all those delicious duck internal organs in SG. I may just have to return to Taipei soon so that I can have this again!
No. 100, Section 1, Chongyang Rd
New Taipei City, Taiwan 241