People think the most common Chinese roast duck dish is Peking duck but what you see hanging in the windows of Chinatown “delis” is actually the Cantonese version of roast duck from the southern part of China. It, too, has the crackling-crisp skin that comes from air drying the duck prior to roasting but it is moister and savory from the liquid marinade that flavors the duck from the inside as it roasts. I make this dish for the Lunar New Year banquet that I host. It is best to get a duck with the head still attached so that the marinade stays inside the duck’s cavity. I remember the first time I made this dish in college and I hung the duck to dry from the ceiling over the kitchen sink. In the morning, I heard a terrified scream from the kitchen. My poor room-mate from Spain encountered the hanging duck on her bleary-eyed morning trek from her bedroom to the shower before I had a chance to give her any warning. She recovered from the shock and enjoyed the duck at our feast that evening. This recipe is adapted from Martin Yan’s A Wok For All Seasons who signed my soy sauce splattered copy whilst on a book tour visit at his alma mater U.C. Davis when I was there studying winemaking. Cantonese roast duck makes a superb pairing with Pinot noir.


1 whole duck (about 4lbs.) with head

Dry Marinade

1 tsp salt
½ tsp Chinese five-spice
¼ tsp ground toasted Sichuan peppercorns

Liquid Marinade

1 Tbs vegetable oil
2 tsps minced garlic
1 Tbs minced fresh ginger
3 green onions (including tops), cut into 3-inch pieces
1 star anise, broken into pieces
2 Tbs hoisin sauce
3 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
2 tsps sugar

Blanching Liquid

6 quarts water
1/3 cup honey
2 Tbs soy sauce
¼ cup Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
¼ cup distilled white vinegar


Combine dry marinade ingredients in a small bowl and rub on outside of duck. Place duck in a pan. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Place a wok or wide frying pan over high heat until hot. Add oil, swirling to coat sides. Add garlic, ginger, and green onions and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 5-10 seconds. Add remaining marinade ingredients. Reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Let cool, then pour into a 1-cup measure.

Pour marinade into cavity of duck (if head and neck are missing, overlap neck skin and sew tightly first). Sew belly opening shut with a large needle and heavy thread (I use dental floss) or close up with thread and trussing pins or skewers.

Combine blanching liquid ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Fashion a sling made of several lengths of string tied together long enough firstly to go around the duck under the wings and then be able to lower and pull out the duck of the pot of boiling blanching liquid. Holding the duck by the sling made of string, lower it into the blanching liquid and blanch duck for 2 minutes. Lift out, drain, and pat dry. Hang the duck by the string in a cool place until the skin is taut and dry, 4 hours to overnight. (Use an electric fan to dry and the result will be even crisper skin, especially if the atmosphere is humid.)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place duck breast side up on a rack in a foil-lined roasting pan. Roast in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Turn duck over (avoid piercing the skin in doing so). Roast for 20 minutes, basting with pan drippings. Turn duck breast side up again and continue to cook for 10 minutes or until the skin is richly browned and crispy. Continue to baste occasionally with pan drippings.

Remove duck from oven and let stand for 10 minutes. Transfer to a clean pan. Cut string and let juices from cavity drain into the pan. Transfer duck onto a cutting board and cut into serving-size pieces. Skim fat from cavity juices, pour into a fat separator. Reheat de-fatted juices in small pan and pour over duck just prior to serving or serve on the side in a little bowl.

More Recipes >

Recent Recipes