Chinese-style twice-cooked duck with sticky rice cabbage rolls

Chinese-style twice-cooked duck with sticky rice cabbage rolls

William Meppem

This is one of our most popular ways of cooking and serving duck at the Botanical. The technique of twice cooking results in a very crisp finish, while the duck sauce is a perfect match for the sticky rice and cabbage rolls. Poach the ducks a day or so in advance as it is important the skin has time to dry.


Quantity Ingredient
2 organic pekin ducks
2 tablespoons five spice powder
4 litres Master stock
4 Sticky rice cabbage rolls
300ml peanut oil
12 shiitake mushrooms, stalks removed
2 garlic cloves, grated
2 teaspoons finely chopped red chillies
2 tablespoons hoi sin sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
4 baby bok choy, blanched in boiling water

Duck sauce

Quantity Ingredient
3 tablespoons sesame oil
2 ginger roots, roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
4 star anise
4 cinnamon sticks
250ml clear honey
250ml red wine vinegar
100ml light soy sauce
100ml hoi sin sauce
100ml oyster sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons cornflour
50ml chinese shao xing rice wine


Quantity Ingredient
2 young ginger roots, finely shaved
1 lebanese cucumber, sliced in 1⁄2 cm thick rounds
1 bunch coriander, tied with string
250ml Rice wine pickle
3 spring onions, finely sliced on the angle
2 long red chillies, deseeded and finely julienned


  1. Carefully remove the legs from the ducks (poach these separately and use for a soup or salad). Cut away the ribs and back of the birds, so you are left with the breasts on the bone. Discard the wishbones and remove the wings. Reserve the duck carcasses and wings for the sauce.
  2. Gently loosen the skin over the duck breasts with a finger. Season the breasts all over with five spice. Bring the stock to the boil over a low heat. Drop the ducks into the stock, simmer gently for 15 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat and leave the ducks in the stock to cool, for about 2–3 hours.
  3. Remove the duck breasts from the stock, reserving the stock for the sauce and setting aside the star anise and cinnamon for garnish. Pat the ducks dry. The drier you can make the skin the crisper it will become. At the restaurant we store our ducks near the refrigerator’s fan so they become very dry. You can get good results by leaving the ducks near a fan after the initial cooling, or in a fan-forced oven on a rack with the fan on and the door open. When the skin is very dry, refrigerate.
  4. Prepare the sticky rice cabbage rolls. Then prepare the pickled garnishes, putting the ginger and cucumber in separate containers and adding the coriander bunch to the cucumber. Pour the rice wine pickle over the vegetables and allow them to marinate in the pickle for at least 1 hour.
  5. To make the sauce, chop the reserved duck carcasses and wings. Heat the sesame oil in a shallow frying pan over a high heat, add the bones and fry until golden-brown all over. Drain off any excess fat then return the bones to the pan with the ginger, garlic, star anise and cinnamon. Reduce to a medium heat and cook until fragrant, for a few minutes, then add the honey, vinegar and soy sauce. Boil until reduced to a rich caramel. Add the hoi sin and oyster sauces and 500 ml of the reserved duck stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes, until rich and fragrant. Dissolve the cornflour in the Chinese wine and add gradually to the sauce, stirring until dissolved. Continue to cook over a low heat for 10 minutes until the sauce thickens. Allow to infuse off the heat for about 15 minutes, then pass through a sieve and set aside.
  6. Put a Chinese steamer over a saucepan of boiling water and steam the cabbage rolls to reheat. Then remove the plastic wrap.
  7. Heat 250 ml of the peanut oil in a wok to 180°C over a medium heat. Once the oil begins to simmer, put the dry duck pieces in whole. Cook on all sides, but primarily on the breast for about 5 minutes until they are golden and crisp, constantly turning and basting with the oil. Drain the ducks and allow to stand. Remove the breasts from the bone with a sharp knife, and divide into 2, leaving the wingbones attached.
  8. Heat the remaining peanut oil in a frying pan over a low heat and add the breasts to keep warm. Drain the wok, add a little more oil and quickly stir-fry the shiitake mushrooms with the garlic and chillies. Add the hoi sin and oyster sauces then the bok choy and caramelise all the ingredients.
  9. To serve, reheat the sauce. Place a warm cabbage roll at the top of each serving plate. Arrange a duck breast resting on top of the roll, with the bok choy and mushrooms neatly alongside. Then arrange pieces of pickled ginger and cucumber, and the spring onions and chillies on top. Decorate with the reserved cinnamon and star anise and drizzle the sauce around the plate.

Chef’s note

  • There is a growing interest in organic farming practices and the result is you can now source richly flavoured ducks. Thirlmere ducks from New South Wales are our restaurant favourite. They are a cross between pekin and muscovy ducks, are corn-fed and free-range.
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