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February 20, 2010

My lovely boyfriend had got a duck for me to cook as part of my Valentine’s present (!). He said that he was the tin man to my Dorothy and that instead of following the “yellow brick road“, we’re following the “culinary road“. Hmmm…more like the scarecrow I think and the scarecrow is closer to Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz story plus the tin man doesn’t have a heart. He carried on singing the yellow brick road song like a demented munchkin while I was preparing food!


In fact, eating duck is a major feature in alot of  meals I’ve had with my family or on special occasions but it’s been of the roasted, dark crispy skin type with that satisfying almost gamey taste with all that FAT. Yes, all that fat lurking under the skin must somehow be adding to the flavour after the roasting procedure as it must seep through the flesh and help make it succulent. Always happy to see roast duck hanging up in the windows of Chinese restaurants with that aromatic scent wafting my way whenever the door was opened. I was a very poor student back then with little culinary skills but thank heavens I don’t hang around Chinese shops and restaurants looking like a hungry starved little girl anymore now as things have changed for the better!

Anyway, after that romantic gesture from my boyfriend, decided to try something different and braise the duck in a Chinese style. Never done this before so found a Chinese cookbook called World Food China by Annabel Jackson for some instructions. There’s a recipe for aromatic duck but the recipe looks similar to Teochew (Chiu Chow) duck I think. Teochew cuisine is famous for braised duck and geese but unfortunately haven’t seen their dishes featured on the menu in my local Chinese restaurants. Followed the recipe in that book though made a few changes as one does!

Chinese braised duck

Serves 4-6

1 duck (2 kg)

1 tsp salt

1 tsp five-spice powder

8 slices fresh root ginger

3 spring onions, trimmed, halved

3 cloves

1 large stick of cinnamon

3 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine

1 tsp sesame seed oil

1 tbsp light soy sauce

2 tsp dark soy sauce

25 g rock sugar, crushed into small pieces

250 mL boiling water

  1. Trim excess skin and fat from the cavity and neck area, pat skin dry with kitchen paper towel, rub salt and five-spice powder on the skin, stuff the cavity with the ginger and spring onions and leave for 30 minutes at room temperature.
  2. Brown the duck all over in a large wok/pot to add an attractive colour and release the fat, drain off the fat and leave the duck on a plate.
  3. Caramelise the sugar slowly in the same wok on a low heat setting taking care not to burn otherwise the flavour will be compromised.
  4. Add all the other ingredients except the water and place the duck in the wok coating it all over in the mixture, heating until boiling.
  5. Add the water, mix and heat until boiling, cover and simmer for approximately 1-1.5 hours, occasionally skim off the fat and baste the duck. Leave to rest for 10 minutes on a plate.
  6. The duck should be tender and is ready to be chopped into bite-sized chunks served on a bed of rice.
  7. The gravy should be strained and drizzled over the duck pieces.

Had a bit of difficulty trusting my boyfriend and the recipe as added more water than stated in the book as was worried the duck wouldn’t be cooked properly! I should have listened to him as the gravy wasn’t as potent as I thought it would be.

Another first for me was chopping the duck up into neat chunks and had no clue whatsoever. Didn’t help as boyfriend had made me tequila Redbull drinks so was a bit unsteady with the chopper and housemate with his girlfriend came back at that time watching me perform so not knowing what I was doing I just carried on chopping away …errr I definitely need practice as evident in my photo!

Served the duck pieces with boiled white rice and drizzled the gravy on top. Boyfriend was very happy as he eagerly chomped the duck down simultaneously saying the meat was tender with an aromatic flavour  but the gravy could have been reduced a bit more to intensify it.

As there was plenty of duck left over, we dumped the pieces in the gravy overnight so the meat would soak up the flavours and marinate slowly.

For our lunch the next day, boyfriend suggested cooking fried rice with finely chopped spring onion and ginger and stir fried with the duck pieces. I made sure that I fried the duck first to make the skin crispier and a lovely brown colour before cooking the rice. Plus I reduced the gravy to thicken that lovely juice, see I do listen to my boyfriend! Strained the gravy and poured it over the rice and duck, it tasted much more potent with that sweet, salty, slighty spicy warm kick.

Yum yum, ducky’s bum!

Was so happy eating leftover duck with boyfriend in my house looking at the fresh snow in my garden that I really didn’t care about all the washing up!

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