Hangzhou spiced soy-sauce duck

Fuchsia Dunlop

"Land of Fish and Rice: Recipes from the Culinary Heart of China"

"This Hangzhou appetizer is addictive: cool slices of duck bathed in a luxurious dark sauce, with an edge of spice and an undercurrent of sweetness. Traditionally, it is eaten during the Great Summer solar term of the lunar calendar. You will end up some leftover sauce, which has its own culinary uses. Diluted with a little stock or water, it can be used to red-braise deep-fried tofu or wheat gluten, plain white tofu, or vegetables such as winter melon, taro or radishes. If you just reheat it, it is simply delicious drizzled over a bowlful of plain rice or congee. The duck itself keeps well for a few days in the fridge. The same method can be used to cook squab pigeons." — Fuchsia Dunlop 


  • 1 spring onion, white part only
  • 1/2 ounce fresh ginger, skin on
  • 2 duck breasts and 2 duck legs (about 2 lbs)
  • 1 cup light soy sauce
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
  • 3 ounces superfine sugar
  • 1/2 star anise
  • A piece of cassia bark or a cinnamon stick


Smack the spring onion and ginger lightly with the flat side of a Chinese cleaver or a rolling pin to loosen their fibers. Put them in a pan large enough to hold the pieces of duck fairly snugly. Add the soy sauces, sugar, spring onion, ginger, star anise and cassia, top up with 3 cups water and bring to the boil.

Add the duck pieces, arranging them so that they are immersed in the liquid. Bring to the boil over a medium flame, skim, then turn down the heat and simmer for 20 minutes; the liquid should bubble gently.

The next step is to reduce the liquid: I find it easiest to do this by transferring everything into a wok, where the larger surface area makes reducing much faster. Turn the heat up high and reduce the liquid by about two thirds, ladling it constantly over the duck. Skim off the surface layer of oil as far as possible, along with any impurities. Pick out and discard the spices, ginger and spring onion as you go along. You will end up with a dark, shiny, treacly sauce.

Remove the duck from the sauce and leave to cool completely, reserving the sauce. To serve, cut the duck into bite-sized pieces and arrange them on a serving dish. Reheat some of the cooking juices and pour them over the duck.

Excerpted from Land of Fish and Rice by Fuchsia Dunlop (W. W. Norton & Company). Copyright © 2016. Photography by Yuki Sugiura.


2 servings