Quack … Quack …

I love duck! But I don’t like the changes they’ve made on the WordPress dashboard at all :(. I’ve had to re-acquaint myself with all the buttons and it’s taking me that much longer to post. That and the fact that my manuscript deadline is looming. I know I haven’t been posting as often but please be patient with me. The end is near!

Anyway, let me leave you with this very simple and very tasty Asian version of coq au vin. Well, not quite, but duck is also considered poultry, and if you think of soy sauce as wine … oh, and it’s braised in my very French Staub Dutch/French oven too! It comes from my good friend Angie’s mum, Aunty Rose, who hails from Singapore.

Teochew Braised Duck (Lo Ack)

Photo by Lara Ferroni
Photo by Lara Ferroni

As a newly-wed, Rosalind Yeo learned how to make this dish from her mother-in-law using a Chinese rice bowl as a measuring implement. The recipe is now a family favorite, often served at Chinese New Year as well as for everyday meals. While it originates in Chaozhou province, China, the addition of lemongrass and galangal is very Southeast Asian. The sweetness of the duck is contrasted sharply by the tart dipping sauce and you get a tingly sweet sour sensation in your mouth. You can also add fried tofu or hard boiled eggs 20 minutes before the duck is done. Or jazz up the meat a little with a medley of intestines, duck liver, or gizzards. Do I hear “yum?”

Time: 1 1/2 to 2 hours
Makes: 4 to 6 servings as part of a family-style meal

One 4- to 5-pound duck, rinsed, and patted dry with paper towels
1 to 2 tablespoons coarse salt
4 whole cloves
4 whole pieces star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed (cut off bottom root end and 4 to 5 inches at the top woody end where the green meets the yellow, peel off loose outer layer), bruised and halved
One 1-inch-thick slice galangal, smashed
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, or to taste
1/2 cup dark soy sauce
Chili-lime dipping sauce (recipe follows)

Sprinkle salt on the duck skin and in its cavity.

In a 14-inch wok or 6-quart Dutch oven (or any vessel large enough to hold the whole duck), combine 2 cups water, cloves, star anise, cinnamon, lemongrass, galangal, sugar, peppercorns, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and soy sauce. Bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium-low. Gently lower duck into the wok. There should be enough liquid to reach halfway up the duck. Top it up with water, if necessary. Baste the duck every 5 minutes or so for the first 20 minutes so that it colors evenly. Cover and simmer for another 40 minutes to 1 hour until duck is tender and the meat is falling off the bones. Halfway through the cooking process, flip the duck. If the sauce looks like it’s drying up, add more water.

To check for doneness, poke duck in the thigh with a chopstick. If the juices run clear, the duck is cooked. Or, use a meat thermometer to check if the internal temperature has reached 165 degrees F.

Turn off the heat and leave the duck immersed in the sauce for another hour if desired.

Cut the duck into serving pieces and serve with rice and chili-lime dipping sauce.

Chili-Lime Dipping Sauce

1 to 2 cloves garlic
1 long fresh red chili (like Holland, Fresno or cayenne), or 1 tablespoon bottled chili paste (sambal oelek)
3 tablespoons lime juice (3 key limes)

Pound the garlic and chilies in a mortar and pestle, or pulse in a small food processor, until a coarse paste forms. Add lime juice and mix well.