Szechuan Smoked Duck

smoked szechuan duck

Long time friend Sal was back over from London and having remebered what we had for dinner last time she was over, got another invite and to make a request. Meat but not beef or seafood and lamb somewhere else left me with three choice of rabbit, quail, or duck. Toni picked duck.

I chose this recipe because I’d seen something similar on that show on SBS about Australian food and a three stage cooking process seemed and interesting thing to try. I’ve found a recipe in what seems to be my sole source of Chinese recipes – Yan-Kit’s Classic Chinese Cookbook. It’s not very glam but it’s a nicely functional book that covers most areas and techniques and the recipes work. I find it ideal for me as someone who hasn’t mastered Chinese food enough to do too much messing around on basic principles. Actually there’s a bit of messing around with the recipe. The main consideration is time and you need to allow about two and a half hours for cooking.

I bought a 2.1kg duck which was only about $18 and deboned it to make it more managable for cooking and carving and just because I enjoy it. [instructions here]. Once you’ve deboned slice it down the middle into two pieces. The wings are a little unwiedly so I removed them and use them for the stock. Taking the ends of the drumsticks off with a cleaver is a good idea too. Also remove the tail and excessively fatty bits (no don’t be sad, we can use these later). Rub it with salt and leave for as close an amount of time as overnight as you can and then rinse in hot water and dry. It this had been a whole duck I was supposed to rub the cavity with saltpetre but I’ve no idea why.



Get a wok, line the base with foil and place 4tbs of jasmine tea leaves; 1.5 cups of flour; and half a cup of brown sugar in the center. Place the duck on a steamer bottom or a rack, clear of the tea etc, and place a tight fitting cover over it. Get the heat up to a level where there’s a good amount of smoke happening and then smoke for 30 minutes, turning the duck once



Mix together two cm pieces of ginger (bruised); 2 large spring onions (chopped), one star anise (broken up); 2tsp of szechuan peppercorns; and 2tbs of chinese rice wine (shaohsing). Divide it equally. Place one half of the duck in a heatproof bowl, put the mix on top, place the other duck half on top and top with the rest of the mix. Place the bowl in a steamer, the steamer in a wok, cover, fill the wok with water up to the sides of the steamer and steam for one hour.

As the duck is in a bowl the liquid will accumulate in the base so swap the pieces over during the steaming.

Take the duck out and dry. Discard the mix.


Place corn oil in the wok and bring up to 190C, test with a piece of bread, it should brown in under a minute. Place the piece of duck in the oil and fry for about two minutes on each side to crisp it, and repeat with the other piece.

Brush the skin with sesame oil and keep warm.


Place all the duck bones, neck, and wings in a saucepan with a sliced stick of celery, a couple of chopped spring onions, two dried shiitake mushrooms, and enough water to cover. Allow to simmer for 2 hours, skimming the top as necessary. Strain and reduce over heat to taste.

I wasn’t sure where to go from here so I added a couple of star anise and a splash of rice wine and let it simmer a little longer. I used it to stir-fry the greens and as a glaze over the duck.


A bunch of chinese greens (not sure of the name – white stalks) trimmed up to where the stalk meets the leaf and a bunch of asparagus. Stir-fried with garlic and ginger and finished with a little of the stock.


Slice up the duck and place it on the greens, garnish with some spring onion greens and pour a little of stock on each person’s plate.

Very nice, perhaps a shade moister would have helped. The smokiness was the dominant flavour but not over so. Duck is very rich so the dish was very filling and we had to have a breather between dessert. A sorbet would have hit the spot, or maybe a nice lychini.

I thought the smoking technique was very interesting and wonder what role the flour had in it all. Mysteries. And following on from last night’s topic, does anyone else find describing how food tastes, a pain the arse?

Update: Oh here we go then – Despite the earthy foundation of meat the flavours have the ethereal carriers of smoke and steam as if the dish were a meeting of profanity and sublimity and the interface of the living and the spirit world so loved in Chinese ghost stories. Similarly time and space weigh in with the past years of childhood of the licorice tastes of the star anise; the distant season of the spring onions; and the locality of the szechuan peppercorns, all speaking from afar with their muted tones. Grounding us back in the now is the crisp crunch of the deep fried skin skin and consoling us with death is the vivid green of the vegetables whose colour is from light itself.


  1. Reid’s avatar

    Hi Anthony,

    I’ve never smoked or steamed a duck before so thanks for the instruction. Do you smoke it first, then steam it? What’s with the frying bit?

    You’ve got me curious now as it looks so delicious!

  2. Gracianne’s avatar

    Hi Anthony,
    I am impressed. I have been using the same Yan Kit’s cookbook for years but never dared trying the smoked duck. I think perhaps it would be moister if cooked whole. I tried that for last Christmas dinner – rubbed with spices, steamed then fried (not smoked though)and it was splendid.
    And why should describing how food tastes a pain? It is an easier subject than politics.

  3. Anthony’s avatar

    Hi Reid
    Sorry if this wasn’t clear, the steps are:
    The frying bit makes the skin nice and crispy.
    No reason why you couldn’t do it with duck breasts.

    Hi Gracianne
    I’m glad someone else has the book.
    I’m curious about the moistness, and bones do add to the moistness,especially when roasting, as does stuffing. I’m not quite sure how steaming affects it but I’d imagine it would draw some of the fat out.
    Re the describing – I’m of the Frank Zappa writing about music is like dancing to architecture school. Maybe I’ll have a go later.

  4. Sue’s avatar

    Cheezus mate, that duck looks ducking great. I’m inspired but all the fryin and steaming scares my apartments smoke alarms. :(

    Have a Merry Merry Christmas!

    (hmm an afterthought…if Jesus was a cheese? bruhahah, jarslberg as he is quite holy)

  5. Anthony’s avatar

    Hi Sue
    Just rip the batteries out and you’ll be fine.

    Cheesemas is a wonderfully inclusive idea. Except for the lactose-intolerant but serves them right; perhaps if they we’re a little more tolerant themselves we’d be more inclined to let them join.

    May I suggest Gouda King Island Wensleydale as the official carol?

  6. Santos’s avatar

    saltpeter is mainly used in preserving meats as a colouring agent–it helps keep the flesh pinky or reddish and therefore more palatable, fresh, or “less cooked” looking. it is thought to also inhibit the male libido, so maybe it’s just to keep you or the duck less um, stiff.

  7. Santos’s avatar

    my new helpful blogstyle rule: if i can’t describe, then i don’t. my new year’s resolution: avoid using the phrase “full of flavour” or the word “flavourful”, unless i can actually pinpoint what that damned flavour is.

  8. Anthony’s avatar

    Oy thanks for the saltpeter ermm tip.


  9. Reid’s avatar

    Hi Anthony,

    I think I got the steps down now, I had to actually go back and re-read everything.

    Interesting that the recipe would call for smoking, steaming and frying. I think I’ve read somewhere that the Chinese like to air-dry duck to make the skin crispy.

    If I can find some duck somewhere, I might be tempted to try this at home. Don’t know about my deboning skills though….

  10. Sue’s avatar

    I actually like describing how food tastes. But yes, the golden rule is if you can’t find the words, don’t.

    For the lactose intolerant, Cheezemas offers ye olde soy cheese.

    On the first day of Cheezemas, my true love gave to me some prosciutto wrapped bocconcini.

    Sing along!

  11. Anthony’s avatar

    Don’t they air-dry their sauasages as well?

    You could always just use the whole duck. Quack.

    OK OK superduperest description ever coming up some time.

    Two gouda wheels
    and some prosciutto wrapped bocconcini.


  12. FXH’s avatar

    reid – smoking a duck – first get some papers, put bob marley cd on stereo,chop up mull, roll not too tight,…. you probably know the rest.

    anthony – first time I have seen the recipe and the price of a raw duck.

    My recipe. Get rice, and some baby bok choy. chop up bok choy in big chunks and leave on bench. Rice in cooker with rice X 1.5 water. Start off cooker. Ring Chinese restaraunt 3 ks away, order 1 smoked, shiney window hanging duck chopped up to takeaway. Jump in car, with companion, drive up to aforementioned Chineses. Park if possible, double park if not. Jump out, sprint into shop, grab two containers of chopped duck plus two containers of orangey sauce. Hand over $24.50. Sprint back to car, jump in, order driver home.

    Arrive home, 2 containers of duck to microwave, but not switched on. Rice not yet ready. Fire up wok, toss in bok choy with garlic, ginger, 5 spice and sesame oil. Quick high stir fry. Rice ready now. Bang on microwave for 2 mins – reheat duck.

    Serve rice in large (warmed) dish on table, bok choy in (warmed) dish on table, duck pieces in (warmed) dish on table with sauce on top.

    Eat with very impressed guests.

  13. Kate’s avatar

    That sounds like my recipe too, fxh!

    Finding the adjectives to describe any physical sensation is a difficult task. From flavour to touch to aural experience, it’s rooly rooly hard. Much easier to describe colour, shape and other such ‘concrete’ realities.

    Flavour is such a complex thing and yet it’s one we seek to describe using five words: sour, sweet, salty, and bitter. And umame, which doesn’t really count.

    Can you tell I’m procrastinating?

  14. Anthony’s avatar

    …eat duck after becoming unusually hungry and collapse in fits when friend goes quack.

    The chinese restaurant is of course an option but leaves me with loose hours to cause trouble around the house.

    It’s a bit like writing out the sheet music and then writing about waves of neo-gothic rockthrob with wildly syncopatic tom domintaed funk. But I’ve given it a go.

    Umame (umami) is too a flavour.

  15. Anonymous’s avatar

    Whoah, what a marathon!
    But then, you’re good at that.

  16. Kate’s avatar

    I know, umami is a flavour! But for most of us, it’s not something you get as instantly as describing ‘salty’ or ‘sweet’.

    For anyone who cares:

  17. Manas’s avatar

    Man, that looks good.

    I love Sezchaun. Anything peppery in general. I’m in awe as usual.

  18. Anthony’s avatar

    I am such a slow poke so these things just call out to me.

    You must master the flavour of inscrutable.

    Hi, it was good. Not that peppery though, for that I would have given it a good rubbing over with szechuan pepper – maybe before frying would be intersting but probably left to marinade a little before smoking.

    Cheers for the choccies by the way, unnecessary but appreciated.

  19. Kate’s avatar

    But sensei, how can I master the flavour of… nevermind.

  20. Anthony’s avatar

    Ah I see you had to dash(i), that is good.

    Ladies don’t droll do they?

  21. blog_heb_enw’s avatar

    Cheers for the recipe Anthony,

    We keep ducks and I’m always on the look out for new recipes. Can’t wait to give it a go. Excellent site, great pix.


    Merry Xmas.

  22. Anthony’s avatar

    Hey you’re very welcome.

    That’s great you’ve got ducks, I hope you can use it, especially if you run out of oranges. Do you really live in a caravan in Wales, that’s really cool.

    Chuffed you like the site.

    Nadolig Llawen!

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