Duck with Pearl Onions

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Preparation info

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Appears in

Homestyle Chinese Cooking

Homestyle Chinese Cooking

By Yan-Kit So

Published 1997

  • About

Covered with a lid, the wok becomes an effective casserole for slow cooking. This braised duck, with its tender yet firm-textured meat, is evocative of roast duck.


  • 1 oven-ready duck, about 4½ pounds
  • thick soy sauce
  • 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 12—18 pearl onions
  • 3 tablespoons Shaoxing wine or medium-dry sherry
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoons thick soy sauce
  • 2 whole star anise or 16 segments
  • 2 inches cinnamon stick, broken up
  • 1 cup water


  • Pour a kettle of boiling water all over the duck to scald the skin, which will shrink instantly and become glossy. This helps to keep the shape of the duck. Wipe off excess water. While the skin is still warm, brush all over with thick soy sauce to color it.
  • Heat a wok over high heat until smoke rises. Add the oil and swirl it around. Lower the duck into the oil to brown, breast side down first, then turn over and sideways. Fry for 4-5 minutes, until the skin takes on color. Remove the duck.
  • Add the whole onions to the oil and fry over a high heat for 1-2 minutes. Lift to a plate with a perforated spoon. Remove most of the oil (which can be saved to cook vegetables like cabbage or cauliflower).
  • Return the duck to the wok. Add the wine or sherry, salt, sugar, chicken stock, 3 tablespoons thick soy sauce, star anise, and cinnamon. Add also about 1 cup water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover with the wok lid, and simmer for about 1½ hours. Add the onions around the duck, replenish with a little more water or stock, and continue to simmer, covered, for another hour.
  • Remove the onions and keep warm nearby. Turn up the heat to reduce the sauce, spooning it over the duck repeatedly until the sauce becomes thicker and glazed. Alternatively thicken the sauce with cornstarch (about 4 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons water for every 1 cup sauce).
  • Remove the duck to a serving platter and arrange the onions around it. Carve it your usual way or break it up into chunks with chopsticks.

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