Behold: Roasted for 4 Hours in Clay Pot And Stuffed With Nuts, Purple Rice, Spices and Herbs
The best preparation of duck I have ever had in my life might be at the newly revamped Dha Rae Oak in Koreatown. It is stuffed with things like chewy Ogokbap (Five-Grain/beans “purple” Rice), whole meaty walnuts, chopped chestnuts, nutty pumpkin seeds, cooked sweet potatoes, Chinese herbs, dried fruit and probably crack. It just might make you forget Thanksgiving even existed.
Korean “Quack” has been hot lately thanks to Jonathan Gold’s recent word-candy writeup of the grilled duck specialist Sun Ha Jang not too far away. In it, he mentions this particular style duck actually ” [at] Il San Duck, you got the famous clay pot duck, stuffed with rice and ginseng.” Well…now thanks to owner Gil Rae Kim…it is back in L.A and it is here to stay.
The classical fowl here is wrapped in cheesecloth, roasted for 4 glorious hours within a vertical clay pot inside a 450 degree specialized Korean ceramic oven Gil imported to the U.S himself. “The ovens can’t be found anywhere but South Korea, Malaysia and now….here.” he proudly says in Korean.
Gil is passionate about tender quack, he bellows out to everyone on the table in the most jolly of elder Korean enthusiasm about the health qualities of duck. “It is goooood for you, gives you stamina!” he says. He’s been wanting to bring this Ilsan style, highly prized duck preparation back to L.A for a while now and has been hitting the duck hard for the last few months.
He is actually the uncle of Neil Kwon, owner of the Korean-German Pub Biergarten in Koreatown . He invited me to be one of the first to taste it this last Thursday.
And what can I say other than wow. To describe it solely as “tender” would be an understatement. The taste will probably shock you, one word….LEAN. Gil says that 4 hours of cooking it allows a lot of the duck fat–that would otherwise stay within–drain to the bottom of the pot, leaving you with just flavorful, lean meat and skin that tastes of pure duck mostly with faint characters of aromatic herbs and sweet dried fruit.
But the best part is the stuffing, abundant and soaking up all the illustrious duck
fat, I mean flavor. The purple rice is sticky and glistening with the stuff, clinging to the duck skin like some sort of inside out savory mochi. The creamy sweet potatoes and al dente mung beans, black beans, peanuts probably do the best job of of holding in them juices, creating an instant gourmet starch filler just by sitting inside the creature as it cooks. Not to take those nuts and seeds for granted, they will add crunchy texture and therefore crown this dish seemingly unfathomable.
Banchan on the day of my visit included meaty sauteed Shitake Mushrooms, sesame flavored Japchae noodles and a pungent onion salad doused in a soy-mustard dressing. And of course that ubiquitous korean bbq coarse salt and pepper mixture. The house kimchi is a little young but it makes up for it with the generous layer of chili paste on each napa leaf. But I digress…
Duck Skewers: On Self Rotating, Propane + Korean Charcoal Hybrid Grill That Gil Rae Brought Himself From Korea
In a Transformer like fashion, our tables were turned into a makeshift hybrid grill that was somehow both gas and charcoal powered. The uniform blue flames embered through metal catwalks filled with smoky Korean Charcoal. In between them, their were self-rotating metal skewers each impaling some more of yup…you guessed it–fresh, chopped duck. This became more of communal celebration of the universal fact that one must wait for good food.
The inevitable annoying flare up will almost burn off your flourishing peach fuzz but it will also let you know when your duck is done and that most of the fat has drained to the bottom. They will now be ready for phase II of cooking, stainless steel flat tops that sits beside the catwalks, ready to sear the rotisserie duck to a crispy-skin heaven if you have the patience for it. Don’t forget to throw in the sliced garlic in leftover duck fat, you have already come this far.
Dha Rae Oak is now open but the clay roasted duck will not be available until Monday February 28th. Gil Rae is adamant about your experience always being consistent and the best, therefore you will have to CALL IN YOUR ORDER AT LEAST 4 HOURS IN ADVANCE. He warns that not all his staff speaks fluent English so be prepared to learn basic Korean to partake in this. The bird is easily enough for three people, maybe four (each one is 5 lbs, but once fat drains…) and it will cost you around $60 for an order, complete with Banchan of course.
In the mean time, the skewers are already available in the restaurant. They come three to an order for $22.99 and you must at least order two of them.
By the end of the night you will have duck fat all over your face, hair, clothes, pants and your pores will reek of garlic but that is a small price to pay for the best duck of your life.
Clay Roasted Duck Will Be Available Starting Monday, February 29th
$60 For One Whole Duck (3-4 people)
YOU MUST CALL AT LEAST 4 HOURS IN ADVANCE TO ORDER IT
Dha Rae Oak
1106 Western Ave.
Los Angeles CA. 90006