GAME has been used to describe meat from animals that are traditionally hunted or caught in the wild. The list of what can be considered game varies depending on where you are but, typically, game can include duck, rabbit, deer, sheep or goat, boar, buffalo, even bears. Locally, I know ducks and snipes are hunted. I remember my grandpa used to go to Zambales and Bataan to hunt snipes. It wasn’t really of any interest to me so I never asked about their hunting trips.
On the cooking side, game meats are treated as a sort of novelty among food lovers. The term gamey refers to the pungent, earthy and sometimes strong flavors and aromas certain meats have compared to the common farmed chicken, beef and pork. Among the most commonly consumed gamey meats are lamb and duck. Of course, the ducks and lamb available in stores are farmed and don’t technically count as game anymore since they aren’t of the wild. But, for purposes of classifying them apart from the more common meats and because of their gamey taste and smell, let’s consider them as game.
Lamb, goat and duck are pretty common meats and can be purchased at most supermarkets and wet markets. Although the lamb we get is imported, usually from Australia or New Zealand, we have a steady supply of local goats and ducks. For some reason though, these meats and the typical dishes made with them are normally associated with men and drinking sprees. Papaitan, fried itik or pato, kalderetang kambing, kilawing balat ng kambing and the like are the most common preparations of goat and duck we have and these are almost always consumed with alcohol. Are our tastebuds so sensitive that we need to be drunk to be able to eat game meats? It would seem so. And it seems part of the local macho culture, too, as consuming and preparing these dishes are usually left to the men. Maybe it’s the “heat” these meats supposedly have.
Personally, I’ve always enjoyed lamb. I actually enjoy the gamey taste and prefer lamb to beef. Goat, on the other hand, I find too lean and too boney. I also like duck better than chicken, especially the skin and duck fat. But my preferences are my own and the majority of people, at least those I encounter, still find lamb, goat and duck offensive.
The dish I prepared for this edition shows a preparation of gamey meat that lessens the pungent aroma and taste through the use of aromatics. I wanted to keep things local and chose ingredients available at your local wet markets. I hope you try this recipe out, keep an open mind and palate, and start getting your game on.
Tamarind Roasted Duck
1 whole duck, dressed
5 pcs fresh tamarind
3 handfuls young tamarind leaves
4 pcs shallots
salt and black pepper
In a small pot, boil tamarind in 4 cups of water until tender. When tamarind is soft, mash with a fork and add 2 tablespoons rock salt and 1 tablespoon pepper.
Use half of this salty and sour liquid to marinate duck. Rub tamarind mixture inside and around the surface of the duck.
Chop shallots roughly and mix with a handful of tamarind leaves. Add the mixture to remaining tamarind marinade and stuff inside duck cavity.
Place remaining tamarind leaves in the bottom of a roasting pan. Place duck on top of leaves and roast in a preheated oven at 150°C for an hour and a half.
When done, let duck rest for about 15 minutes before carving. Serve with wilted tamarind leaves and any cooking juices.
Image credits: Michael Anthony Sagaran