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For people who eschew red meat yet eat poultry (you might hear them claim they "do it for the protein"), duck is a gateway drug, an opulent bridge between feathered and hooved things. It is the color of liver, encased in a scuba suit of fat, and drawn to fruit, spice, and smoke like a magnet to the fridge. And yet it remains a bird. In Lukshon chef-owner Sang Yoon's version of the popiah, a fresh spring roll popular in Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, and parts of China, duck, in an appropriately elegant twist, replaces the humble turnip, traditionally a go-to filling.
At Lukshon, the duck is shredded like Carolina pulled pork, a dense, sweet mass of flavor tucked into a fresh pliable cylinder with pickled jicama and a hoisin chile sauce. The popiah is sliced and propped up into a sort of nest, a crown of cilantro stems lending a grassy counterpoint.
The popiah is not always a slick small plate or a street cart snack -- often a presumed source of inspiration. In the places where it's popular, lively all-day house parties frequently congregate around popiah preparation. The stuffing of delicate skins with bean curd, bits of shrimp and/or pork, and thin slivers of jicama, cabbage, and, yes, turnip evolves into both family ritual and screwball comedy, as overstuffed wrappers invariably burst, spilling forth edible confetti. This won't happen at Lukshon -- unless you bite too hard.