I've often wondered why certain Chinese dishes are widely available in the UK while others are seemingly impossible to track down. For example, when it comes to Sichuan food, it's a given that you'll find the likes of water-boiled beef (shui zhu niu rou 水煮牛肉) and fried chicken with chillies (la zi ji 辣子雞) in any authentic Sichuan eatery. And then there are dishes such as kung po chicken (宮保雞丁) and ma po tofu (麻婆豆腐) that originate in Sichuan but can be found in generic Chinese restaurants and take-aways everywhere.
However, one classic Sichuan dish that I've never seen in the UK is tea-smoked duck (zhangcha ya 樟茶鴨). In this dish, the duck is smoked with tea and camphor before being steamed then deep-fried. It's usually served with clam-shaped steamed 'cut buns' (ge bao 割包).
The version I had in Hong Kong at the Modern China restaurant was mighty fine. Smoky tender duck with crispy skin served in a fluffy pillow of a bun. It came with accompanying dips of seasoned salt and sweet chilli sauce (I have no idea whether this is authentic or not). I've also eaten this dish in Beijing before, and I've been told that it's a very famous Sichuan speciality. So, why I can't find this dish in dear old Blighty? After all, it is so much tastier than the crispy aromatic duck with pancakes that the British adore.
Anyway, in a first for the blog, I'm offering a prize to anyone who can find tea-smoked duck in London. The first person to contact me with details of a restaurant that serves this dish will be invited to join me to sample it for free. There is some small print in that the dish has to be the one with the Chinese name: zhangcha ya 樟茶鴨.
Come to think of it, let's spread the competition to the rest of the UK. I'll attempt to offer the same prize if I can get to the restaurant easily. In other words, places like Birmingham and Manchester will be OK, but I'd probably give it a miss if the winning restaurant happens to be in the Scottish Highlands or Northern Ireland.
Update 22 August 2011: Well, we have a winner. Congratulations to @Serenak105, who tracked down tea smoked duck at the Hunan restaurant in Pimlico. She also discovered tea smoked duck salad at the Chinese Cricket Club, but being a stickler for the rules, I didn't let her have that! However, just because she's found one restaurant in London that serves tea smoked duck doesn't mean the search is over. I'd love it if all of you out there could find more places that serve this Sichuan speciality.
PS: Modern China is what's known as a jing-chuan-hu 京川滬 restaurant. This concept, popular in Hong Kong, sees restaurants serve the cuisines of Beijing, Sichuan and Shanghai (separately not fused). To be honest, other than the duck, the Sichuan dishes that we sampled were mediocre. Much better were the Shanghai dishes such as xiao long bao and stir-fried river prawns.
Modern China 金滿庭
10/F, Food Forum, Times Square, 1 Matheson Street, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
香港 銅鑼灣 勿地臣街1號時代廣場食通天10樓
Nearest MTR: Causeway Bay 銅鑼灣