* or 2 Cornish game hens, about 1 1/2 pounds each (see note) Remove fat from duck or hens and discard.
Rinse thoroughly with cold water.
With the palm of your hands press down on the breastbone to snap the bone and flatten the bird.
Marinating: In an ungreased skillet or wok over medium heat, toast the peppercorns and salt until the salt turns a tan color and the peppercorns are aromatic, about 5 minutes.
Finely grind in a food processor or spice mill and combine with sugar, ginger, onions and wine.
Rub mixture throughout the duck or hens inside and out and place in a shallow heat-proof bowl (select one that will fit comfortably into the wok or pot that you will steam in).
Cover and marinate overnight or up to 3 days, refrigerated.
Turn every few hours, Remove from the refrigerator.
Let the duck or hens come to room temperature.
Steaming: Fill the bottom of wok or steaming pot with boiling water.
Place bowl with the duck or hens and marinade on a rack over the water.
Cover and steam 1 1/2 hours for duck, 45 minutes for hens.
At 15-minute intervals, check water level and replenish with more water if needed.
Remove hens with their bowl.
Transfer duck or hens to a cooling rack; scrape off marinade.
(Save duck stock.
It makes a delicious cooking stock for vegetables.
) Set hens in a cool, airy spot to dry for at least 4 hours, or refrigerate, overnight, uncovered, Smoking: Line bottom of a wok with heavy-duty aluminum foil.
Mix together and distribute smoking materials on the bottom.
Set a 9 or 10-inch round cake rack into the wok or devise a rack by crisscrossing 6 wooden chopsticks in the middle of the wok.
Place duck or hens directly on rack.
Turn heat to medium-high.
When the smoke begins, cover the wok and smoke for 10 to 20 minutes, or until duck or hens turn golden brown.
Remove from rack and brush lightly with sesame oil.
The hens may be served at this point or browned.
Browning: Place hens breast side up on a roasting rack in a 425 degree F.
oven for 5 to 10 minutes to crisp the skin.
Serving: Chop duck or hens into bite-size pieces, or remove bones and cut meat into thin slices.
Serve with Lotus buns and accompaniments.
Note: If you are preparing more than 2 hens, you will need to steam and smoke them in 2 batches.
PER SERVING (duck, not counting lotus buns): 700 calories, 38 g protein, 1 g carbohydrate, 58 g fat (20 g saturated), 168 mg cholesterol, approximately 1,270 mg sodium, 0 g fiber.
Joyce Jue writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, 11/25/9 1.