1. Roast duck

The hanging duck is a Cantonese-style roast duck from Sam Woo BBQ, a local chain. The duck on the plate is a Peking-style duck from Moon House.

2. Lucien Shapiro

is an artist who repurposes found, collected materials into ritualistic and powerful emblems, such as the bone protector in Ugly Duckling. For more of Lucien’s work, see

3. Hanging meats

Historically in the U.S., Chinese roast ducks have frequently been used throughout food photography for a grotesque shock and awe factor, even though Europe itself has a long history of hanging meats: for example, see Rembrandt’s Flayed Ox (1655). It was important to me in making this piece that I give these ducks their moment of beauty.

4. Century eggs (皮蛋)

are preserved in a clay mixture that produces a bouncy, translucent texture to the whites and creamy, salty black yolks (duck eggs pictured here, thought they can be made from chicken and quail eggs as well). Often considered an acquired taste in the U.S., century eggs with tofu was one of the first dishes I ever learned to make while working in my uncle’s dumpling restaurant during childhood summers in Taiwan.

5. Behind the scenes

A planning sketch of Ugly Duckling.

6. Duck soup

I try my best not to waste too much food in the making of the still lifes. The ducks pictured here were used, after they came off set, to make a rich duck stock for ramen. Here’s the recipe:

Duck stock

1 whole roast duck, chopped with bones and skin
1 or 2 large yellow onions, with skin

Place the chopped duck in a large pot and cover with water. Do no peel the onions but chop the onions in half, leaving the papery skins on. Add the chopped, unpeeled onions into the water. Cover and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Then lower to a simmer for several hours (about 4–6 hours), periodically skimming foam off the top with a slotted spoon. Once the flavors have developed, strain out the duck and onion. Then flavor as desired, preferably with a healthy amount of white pepper, soy sauce to taste, ginger, and garlic. Serve with fresh ramen.

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