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Recipe for :

Cantonese Roast Duck

This recipe comes from Mai Leung and was featured in one of Martin James' Newsletters.

This duck originated in a few small villages near Kwangchow, but the village that prepared it best was Guh Jeng, meaning Old Well, the home of my grandmother.

It was there that my grandmother was engaged to my grandfather when she was eight years old and was married to him when she was barely sixteen, never seeing him until the wedding day.

She was born in the late Ching Dynasty, survived two revolutions and two world wars but never learned to read or write. A tiny, uncomplicated woman with a kind and generous heart, she received everything that life brought her, good or bad. To all her grandchildren, she was a blanket of protection, embracing all our little woes and pains while we were growing up.

During her eighty-three years, she never saw America or tasted a hot dog, but through her beloved Tarzan movies and my husband, she loved this faraway country.

Life comes and life goes, and quietly she went. She left me beautiful memories - and this delicious duck.


1 fresh 5-pound duckling: remove fat in cavity, rinse duck and pat dry
14 cups water
4 tbsp honey
4 slices fresh ginger, each as big and thick as a quarter
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup dry Sherry

(Mix in a bowl)
2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp five-fragrance powder
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 tsp minced, soaked dried tangerine peel (optional)
2 tbsp rice wine or dry Sherry
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp ground bean sauce

about 1 tbsp thin soy sauce
about 2 tsp sugar to taste


  • Scald duck according to directions for scalding. Hang it in an airy, cool place to dry for at least 8 hours.
  • Stuff duck then, sew up the cavity with skewer.
  • Place a big roasting pan, containing an inch of water, on the bottom of a gas oven or on the lowest rack of an electric oven to catch the drippings and prevent them from burning.
  • Preheat oven to 400ºF.
  • Put duck directly on oven rack with breast side up. (If a gas oven, put duck on middle rack. If electric, put duck on upper rack.) Roast for 1 1/2 hours. Remove duck and put on a chopping board.
  • Remove skewer and thread. Scoop out stuffing (mostly sauce) and put in a small saucepan. Measure 1/2 cup of the drippings (avoiding the grease) and mix with the stuffing. Add soy sauce and sugar to correct taste. Heat sauce over low heat until it comes to a boil. Cover and simmer over very low heat.
  • Carve and slice duck. Put on a platter. Pour sauce over duck. Serve hot.

Mai Leung