Duck Hunt

Clay-oven duck in Koreatown

Outside of the Beijing-style restaurants that serve gloriously crisp roasted duck, the whole bird is woefully neglected.

So when we read about a Korean preparation of whole duck roasted in a clay oven, we knew it had to be tried.

The dish ($60, including banchan; reserve at least four hours in advance) is served at Dha Rae Oak, which outfitted itself with the oven and clay vessels for cooking the ducks last month. Forget the ubiquitous Italian-imported pizza ovens–this is one of the few restaurant in the country with such a duck-roasting setup.

Stuffed with a mass of sticky rice and various nuts, dried fruits, legumes and sweet potatoes, the duck is swaddled in cheesecloth, then encased in a pill-like clay capsule where it roasts for four hours.

The long, enclosed cooking yields exceedingly tender meat, the bird slumping down around its bones into a soft mound of skin, fat and flesh. It's difficult to tell if you're eating leg or breast, but it's all delicious–especially when dipped in the vinegary chili sauce.

The stuffing is like a treasure hunt for your chopsticks. Hunt and peck through the glutinous rice and you'll find tender walnuts, plump raisins or, if you're lucky, a chunk of liver.

Dha Rae Oak, 1106 S. Western Ave., Koreatown; 323-733-2474