Cheap & Good

Juicy salted duck in Toa Payoh

The salted duck, which is fragrant and juicy, has the pale yellow skin of poached chicken.
The salted duck, which is fragrant and juicy, has the pale yellow skin of poached chicken.ST PHOTO: KENNETH GOH

It is easy to mistake Benson Salted Duck Rice in Toa Payoh Lorong 1 for a chicken rice stall.

This is because unlike the usual roast or braised duck, the salted duck at this eight-month-old shop looks very different.

The skin is not reddish-brown, but the pale yellow of poached chicken.

The similarities do not end with the appearance. In taste, the salted duck is also reminiscent of poached chicken - although the meat is slightly coarser and gamier.

But the duck, which has a good proportion of fat and skin, is more fragrant and juicy than most duck that I have tried in hawker stalls.

If the subtle saltiness of the duck is not enough for you, you can dig into the side dish of salted vegetables for more of a kick.

  • BENSON SALTED DUCK RICE

    Kim Seng Coffee Shop, Block 168, Lorong 1 Toa Payoh, 01-1040, tel: 9781-4042
    Open: 9am to 7.30pm, daily, or till it sells out, closed on Thursdays

    Rating: 3.5/5 stars

And if you want even more flavour and do not mind throwing all cholesterol concerns to the wind, ask if there is butter rice.

In three visits to the stall, the butter version was served once instead of plain rice and the price was the same ($3/$4 a dish).

Owner Benson Lim, 45, does brisk business, selling about 20 birds a day. Half a salted duck costs $16, while the whole bird costs $30.

He used to work in catering companies such as the Tung Lok Group and Purple Sage, and took eight months to come up with his salted duck recipe.

He had been inspired by his mother's recipe and dining at another stall that sells a good version of the dish, Ah Ee Traditional Hokkien Salted Duck.

It used to be at Sembawang Hills Food Centre and has since relocated to Toa Payoh Lorong 7.

The cooking process for salted duck is actually not that different from poached chicken. It begins with poaching the ducks, which are imported from Malaysia, in water infused with pandan leaves, lemongrass, garlic and ginger.

Next, the bird is soaked in salt water for about 1½ hours, which seals the meat juices. Finally, it is cooled under running water and rubbed with salt and pepper.

Most people go to Benson for the salted duck rice, but there are other options on the menu. Duck kway teow soup ($3) is served in an aromatic broth and there is also pig organ soup with fish maw ($5), made from an old family recipe.

Finally, there is smoked duck rice ($3/$4) with brown sauce - a "Western-style" dish targeting young diners from a nearby secondary school.

The smoked duck breast, which is from a supplier, is juicy enough, but is a little too salty, though the starchy brown sauce drizzled over it distracts from the sodium overload.

Still, it is best to eat it with a lot of rice and maybe that is why the dish appeals best to its target audience of hungry adolescents.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 19, 2017, with the headline 'Juicy salted duck '. Print Edition | Subscribe