Ducky, dear duckyMy acquaintanceship with duck dishes came quite late. It's due because different with its Javanese sibling, Sundanese people rarely eat duck. In fact you won't find duck dishes existed in Sundanese restaurants until the late 90s, and until nowadays it's still a dish very seldom found in Sundanese houses too. I don't remember any particular reason why, except that it's something considerably foreign.
My excitement with duck meat therefore, first came through Chinese cuisine with their Bebek Panggang (roasted duck), available at the Pagoda Restaurant, the first high-class Chinese restaurant in Bandung that's halal-certified.
Having considerably darker flavor than chicken, with tougher meat too, when roasted properly duck have this unique taste that's more exciting than any chicken I have ever tasted before. Accompanied by the hoisin dipping sauce, Bebek Panggang offers a good flavor play between savory, sweet, smoky, and a big punch of umami.
Having tried the Chinese duck, I was intrigued to try another cuisine style using this poultry, and among the most available options back then was Javanese style; well it's nothing really fancy though: a duck seasoned with the same old bumbu kuning; turmeric and galangal based seasoning usually used to fried chicken, and most of the time they only managed to taste like oversized tough roster, with overpriced bill.
However when a duck is properly cooked, it hits the spot chicken dishes can never reach, thus I'm always in hunt for great duck cuisines everywhere I lives; including here in Bali.
Balinese duck huntingBali is famous for its Bebek Betutu and Bebek Bengil. After 3+ years of living in Bali though, my curiosity over Bebek Betutu slowly faded; I found them delicious but I've never been a wet duck-meat fan, so it wasn't in my favorite list.
A recent dinner at Kitchen Sessions: Bali changed my perception of Bebek Betutu though, however I doubt I can find anything close to that on Denpasar street. At Balinese homes perhaps, or big religious ceremonies.
As with Bebek Bengil, with its 80K+ tag, some so-so comments from my fellow foodie, and location that requires quite an effort to reach, resides low on my visit list too. That's why I found myself returning to Tan's Kitchen in Genteng Biru for their Chinese style roasted duck, every times I have this ducky rush.
Anything good on the street? Well I haven't got any insightful moments; especially since duck in Denpasar's street food tend to be seen only as an alternative to chicken and treat it as such; an overgrown chicken, usually with more bones than meat, and in the end it costs significantly higher for the customers but without the necessary wow factor.
Insight from a recent street food hunting journeyThings changed however, with the recent hunt for great street food spots, which made both me and hypnoticade more alert to the potential hidden gems around Denpasar. Among the spot I'm curious with, is an eatery selling Bebek Goreng at Jl. Wahidin, near the heart of Denpasar; everytime we passed by, the place is always packed with guests; and they specializes on duck so it's quite a potential place to find good duck. The place name is "Bebek Yemelia", and they claimed to sell genuine Surabaya style duck.
It took quite a while though, before we managed to land our feet into this eatery; and it was Hypnoticade's curiosity that drove us, thinking that she would found a very good fried chicken here; as duck are almost always sold along with chicken.
(She was wrong though, as Bebek Yemelia stands truthful to its name sells only duck)
Not long after we managed to secure our seats, a waiter came to our table and ask for our order. I ordered for the breast quarter but they have already sold all the breasts out, so I'd settle for the thigh instead. Preparing ourselves for a long wait, we got really surprised when in just seconds later our order arrived, still hot! Not steamy hot but warm enough to know that it's freshly cooked, tasted good, without having to risk blisters on our eating fingers.
A set of dinner here is consisting of a piece of fried duck, hot sambal, and a plate of white rice garnished with the oil left from frying the duck; greasy goodness.
The duck itself didn't look too exciting, however it show traces of good frying and fat-less skin. It's pretty much still looking like a chicken but with longer bones and coarser feathers.
Washed my hand, tear its crispy skin and have a bite to assess its quality; squeeze the lime into the sambal, pick a strain of meat and dip it into the sambal; scoop the oiled rice from the plate and put them inside my mouth...
It tasted good; nothing too fancy but a classic good fried duck where the seasoning penetrated deep, and while the skin is crumbly but the flesh beneath has good moisture.
My only concern was that it's the kind of dish that fell into "gone too soon" category: with excited mode on, you'll find yourself still longing yet the dish has completely finished. Two might be the better number for empty stomach instead.
Bebek Yemelia opens from 11am to 11pm daily, and the cost of a portion of duck plus an ice tea is 20K; quite cheap for a duck dish, and quite okay trade-off for the eating sensation it offers. I'd expect a bigger portion though, or inclusion of the usual side-dishes like goreng tempe and tahu, or giblets satay to extend the eating pleasure.
At the moment, Bebek Yemelia holds the record for fastest serving from needs-to-be-cooked food category with under ten-seconds time. The closest serving time we know was held by Nasi Goreng Cak Heri in Ciledug, Jakarta, who have their fried rice half-cooked, then seasoned and garnished individually to met customer's order; and they still requires like three minutes. (byms)