Hot & sour duck

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Fire Islands: Recipes from Indonesia

Fire Islands

By Eleanor Ford

Published 2019

  • About

Sweet and sour gets all the glory, though too often the sweetness overbears, stifling the flavour of everything else and leaving little sourness to detect. In Indonesia a hot-sour combo is more popular and works so well with duck. This sauce has it all - there are complex layers of flavour and a deep savouriness, it is smooth and luscious without being rich, and the punch of chilli heat and tamarind sour really shine through. Adjust to your taste, leaving as many chilli seeds as you dare when making the bumbu and upping the ante with chilli powder at the end if you want more fire.


  • 4 duck breasts, skin on
  • handful mint leaves, shredded, to serve

Bumbu spice paste

  • 6 large red chillies, 4 or 5 of them seeded
  • 6 small red Asian shallots, peeled
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 4 cm ( inches) ginger, peeled
  • 5 can dlenuts or 10 blanched almonds
  • 4 tablespoons tamarind paste
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 3 cm ( inches) turmeric, peeled, or 1 teaspoon ground turmeric


To make the bumbu, roughly chop all the ingredients and blitz together in a grinder or food processor. Add a little water if needed to help the blades turn to get a dark rust paste.

Score the duck skins with criss-cross cuts and dust with sea salt. Put skin-side down in a cold wok or frying pan and set over a medium-low heat. This gradual heating will help render the fat, leaving a crunchy golden crackling. After about 12 minutes, turn and cook for another 4 minutes for medium-pink. Remove the breasts to rest on a board skin-side up, leaving a couple of tablespoons of the fat behind in the wok for later.

After resting for 10 minutes or so, slice the duck breasts on the diagonal into thin rags.

Return the wok to a medium-low heat to warm the duck fat. Add a small spoonful of the bumbu and if it sizzles gently, scrape in the rest. Cook, stirring periodically, until the bumbu has darkened a shade, the fat is separating from the paste and everything smells warm and appealing. It will likely take about 5 minutes or more. Add the duck and any juices along with 2 tablespoons of water and continue stir-frying for a couple of minutes more. Taste for seasoning; it will need salt and you can always change the balance of hot to sour with an extra hit of chilli powder or tamarind paste. You want the flavours strong and punchy as they’ll be muted by the accompanying rice. Serve scattered with mint leaves.