Salt-cured duck

Salt-cured duck

The Real Food of China
Leanne Kitchen

We were lured to the old Chinese capital of Nanjing by tales of its refined cuisine — and we weren’t disappointed. Nanjingers have a special place in their culinary hearts for duck and this dish is a local specialty. They say it’s best made in mid-autumn during the osmanthus blooming season, but we say it’s great any time. And don’t be alarmed by the amount of salt used here — the salt draws out the moisture in the duck, then the salty liquid is drained off. If you prefer, you can lightly rinse the duck under cold water before steaming.


Quantity Ingredient
1 tablespoon sichuan peppercorns
75g salt
1 x 2kg duck
10 cm piece ginger, peeled and cut into 1 cm-thick slices
4 spring onions, cut into quarters
light soy sauce, to serve
chilli sauce, to serve


  1. Dry-roast the peppercorns and salt in a small, heavy-based frying pan over a low heat, shaking the pan often, for 5–6 minutes, or until the salt has turned light brown and the peppercorns are fragrant. Cool, then transfer to a mortar (or an electric spice grinder) and pound with the pestle to form a coarse powder.
  2. Prepare the duck by removing the excess fat and skin around the neck and cavity, then rinse under cold water and dry well with paper towel. Rub the salt and pepper mixture all over the duck and inside the cavity, then put the duck in a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 2 days to cure, turning the duck over after the first day.
  3. Fill a large saucepan one-third full of water and bring to the boil. Drain the duck well, then place the ginger and spring onions in the cavity. Place the duck in a heatproof bowl that will snugly fit into the saucepan, then put the bowl into the pan (you may need to adjust the water level in the pan; the water needs to come halfway up the side of the bowl). Cover the pan and steam the duck over a medium heat for 1½ hours, or until cooked through, adding more water to the pan as necessary.
  4. Remove the duck from the bowl and place on a plate to cool. Using a cleaver, chop the duck through the bone into bite-sized pieces. Serve with small bowls of chilli sauce and soy sauce.
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