Saturday, December 12, 2015

Traditional Braised Duck (卤鸭)

As long as I can remember, Braised Duck has always been one of the dishes my mother would cook up on special occasions. Whether it is used as an offerings to praying, or during Chinese New Year feasting, family gatherings or even celebration for elder's birthdays. This well loved dish never fails to make its appearance on the dinner table. This well loved dish stands through the test of time and made into many households of different dialect groups. Originated from the Teochews, it "evolved" in many forms in other dialect families, just like mine. 

As I mentioned before, every family has their very own special Braised Duck recipe. I can't say that mine is much better then others. But it reminds me of home, reminds me of my mom and all those special occasions that it appeared in. It would not be right if I don't learn to cook this myself and keep this heritage recipe alive. Well, it sure paid off when my kids said the braised duck I made today tasted much like their grandma's. My mom will be proud, perhaps I should cook this for her soon. :) *happiness*

I took up the challenge of cooking this without prior consultation on the recipe with my mom, so most part of it is based on memory and also my own preference. But I am super glad it turned out great, in terms of balance in flavour, tenderness of the meat and the colour coating on the duck itself. However I must say for most part of the "work" was done perfectly by my trusty cast iron Le Creuset Pot. My 26 cm, 5.5 qt, 10 year plus pot which is still solid as a rock and doing it's deed really well. *Love* 

I know owning a 26 cm cast iron Le Creuset pot seems uncommon. It is indeed heavy for daily use, but when it comes to dishes like this. I couldn't be more happy when that duck fits nicely into the pot.Yay! But do note that I did cut off the neck, head and the bottom to get it in. I cooked the neck but discarded the head and bottom. Why? My kid kept saying the duck's eyes are creepy and bottoms cannot be eaten! Lol! 

Alternatively, you can cut the duck into half if you still find it hard to fit the duck in, no biggy. And I would not trade another cookware or pot to cook this dish next time. This enameled cast iron pot was able to cook so evenly, preserved the heat and at a much shorter time then I expected. Flavours all nicely infused into the meat and falling off the bone.

Enough said, let's get on with the recipe shall we?  

Recipe for Whole Braised Duck (Serves 5-6 px)

1 whole duck, about 2-3 kg (I bought mine from Sheng Siong at $13.90)
5 cm ginger, peeled and sliced
10 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
5 shallots, peeled and sliced thin

4-5 cinnamon sticks
4-5 star anise
5 cloves
3 dried bay leaves
50 ml + 150 ml quality dark soy sauce (I use 广祥泰)
2 tsp + 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp + 1 tsp spice powder (I used a brand from Penang given by a good friend, you can use any brand of you preference)

For caramel syrup
5-6 tbsp sugar
100 ml water

Add ons
4 Tau Gua, slice half (firm beancurd)
4 eggs, hard boiled and peeled 
500-600 ml water

  • After the duck has been rinsed clean, let it drain then dap dry a little with pepper towel.
  • Rub on 2 tsp salt and 2 tsp of the 5 spice powder on the duck.
  • Drizzle the 50 ml of dark soy sauce over the duck and again rub it all over it.Then let the marinated duck sit for a good hour before use.

  • In the meantime, boil the eggs for 8 minutes. Remove and cool in tap water and peel it. Set aside for use later.
  • Heat up the cast iron pot with 1 tsp of cooking oil. Add in the sliced ginger, sliced shallots, bay leaves star anise, cloves and smashed garlic cloves. Cook over medium low fire until aromatic.

  • Remove the aromatics once it has been cooked till fragrant from the pot and set aside for use later. 
  • In the same pot, add in the ingredients for the caramel sauce: 5-6 tbsp caster sugar, 200 ml water. Cook over medium fire and watch over it carefully. Stir to melt the sugar and let it caramelised till light golden brown. Off the fire and the colour will darken further.

  • Add the stir fried aromatics back into the pot together with the caramelised syrup.

  • Add in the 500 ml of water, 150 ml dark soy sauce, 1 tsp of 5 spice powder, stir well and cook at low fire.

  • Gently lower the whole duck into the cast iron pot.

  • Let the duck slow braise in the liquid at a low simmer. Then gently flip the duck over to the other side every 20-25 minutes. Note that you can add the firm tofu and hard boiled eggs later, it only take 20 minutes to braised them.

  • Do be careful when you flip every time, not to "rip" the duck skin. The duck will slowly take on the colour of the braising liquid. After 3 flip, add in the hard boil eggs and firm tofu.

  • Do another couple more flips. Before off the fire, remove the hard boiled eggs and tofu once they have taken up the beautiful dark golden brown.
  • You can further reduce the braising liquid to a thick gravy or you can leave it slightly soupy to drizzle over the rice. The consistency of the sauce is really up to you. 

Some said that it is best to leave the braised duck to cool completely (much like the Hainanese Chicken) before one can chop it up. It will taste more intense and flavourful. 

Well, I waited only 30 minutes haha! Needed ti shoot the duck before sunset...always chasing sunlight, food blogger's problem.
Okay, I admit. I totally suck at chopping up the meat. Especially cooked poultry *sigh*. But I ain't gonna stop learning and trying! Jia you!
Well, do not let it deter you too. Ultimately the taste will be more important. Well at least it is for my case. My family enjoyed this dish thoroughly. 
So instead of roasting a turkey or some chunk of ham this Christmas Holiday, how about cooking something a Chinese family would definitely enjoy! This delicious traditional Braised Duck dish and impress your family and friends.:)

Do try out this heritage dish and let me know how you like it. If you love traditional food as much as I do, you should definitely learn to make this and cook for your love ones too.

If you do not own a Le Creuset french oven pot, you should go get one during this holiday sale! It is ongoing at TANGS. Else head on over to to find out more about the promotions available now. It's definitely a Merry Christmas gift to yourself haha!

Until the next time, bee happy always!


Angie's Recipes said...

My mouth is watering terribly...the duck is perfectly braised!

Unknown said...

Bee, I love how this braised duck reminds me exactly of the braised duck my grandma and mummy used to make. Now I want to make it for my mummy to try. Thanks for sharing this dish.

Unknown said...

Hi all in how long should I cook the duck?

Honey Bee Sweets said...

Hi Rachel, it is quite subjective as it depends how fast the liquid is reduced to a gravy. I would say a rough 3 hours give and take.