Pineapple Duck

I used to find the attitudes of some of my fellow Americans towards Chinese food quite amusing. Their knowledge of Chinese cuisine had come mainly by way of dining at Trader Vic’s in San Francisco. This popular restaurant features what I call ‘pseudo Asian-Pacific food’, served with cute Chinese-style paper umbrellas sticking out of potent mixed drinks, all in a pleasant tropical environment. It was a clever concept to get Americans to accept and enjoy ‘foreign’ food in an exotic atmosphere made reassuringly familiar by Hollywood.

My uncles in the restaurant trade had many Chinese friends who worked at TraderVic’s, and they tell me this interesting combination – Chinese roast duck served with pineapple slices – was a very popular dish. Although the recipe is not authentically Chinese except for the duck, it does make sense to serve the sweetly acidic pineapple as a counterbalance to the robust richness of the duck. I am sure that, had pineapples been available to them, Chinese chefs would long ago have added them to the canon of classical Chinese cookery.

The cooking process here will rid the duck of most of its fat.

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  • 2 tablespoons bean sauce
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
  • tablespoons Chinese rock sugar or granulated sugar
  • 3 star anise
  • 1 large piece or whole piece cinnamon bark or stick
  • 2 teaspoons roasted whole Sichuan peppercorns
  • 120 ml (4 fl oz) Chinese Chicken Stock or store-bought fresh stock
  • 1 tablespoon groundnut oil
  • 3 slices fresh ginger; each 5 cm × 3 mm (2 × ⅛ in)
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 5 spring onions
  • 12 sprigs fresh coriander
  • 1×2.25–2.48 kg (5–5½ lb) duck, excess fat removed from cavity
  • 480 ml (16 fl oz) water
  • 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 1 pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into slices, or sprigs of fresh coriander, to garnish


In a bowl, whisk together the bean sauce, light soy sauce, rice wine, sugar, star anise, cinnamon bark, peppercorns and chicken stock.

Heat a wok or large frying pan over a high heat until it is hot. Swirl in the oil and, when it is very hot and slightly smoking, toss in the ginger, garlic and spring onions and stir-fry for 1 minute. Pour the mixture from the bowl into the wok and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove the wok from the heat and toss in the fresh coriander. Allow the contents to cool thoroughly.

Dry the duck thoroughly inside and out with kitchen paper. Secure the neck flap with a skewer. Pour the mixture from the bowl into the cavity, and then skewer to close up the end of the duck so that it is tightly secured. The liquid is now inside the duck cavity. Tie a long string around the duck’s neck or around its body.

Bring 240 ml (8 fl oz) of water to the boil, then add the dark soy sauce and honey. With a large ladle, baste the duck with this liquid several times. Now hang the duck in a dry, cool place or in front of a fan and allow it to dry thoroughly. This should take about 2 hours. The duck skin should be dry to the touch, like parchment.

Preheat the oven to 230°C (450°F, gas mark 8). Place the duck on a rack in a roasting tin. Add the remaining water to the roasting tin. Roast for 10 minutes, turn the temperature down to 180°C (350°F, gas mark 4) and continue to roast for 1 hour and 10 minutes, until the duck is thoroughly cooked and most of the fat has drained out. Allow the duck to rest for 20 minutes before cutting it up: first cut away the wings, then remove the thighs and legs and chop into two pieces. Separate the breast into halves. Finally, cut all the meat into bite-size pieces and arrange them on a platter. Garnish with pineapple slices or fresh coriander and serve at once.