Yunnan Kao Ya

Yunnan Roast Duck

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves

    6 to 8

    as Part of a Chinese Meal, or 2 to 4 as a Single Dish.

Appears in

Every region of China has its duck speciality, and Yunnan is no exception. In the Yunnan countryside, roadside restaurants display ducks, cooked and uncooked, hanging from poles outside. Brick and clay ovens are kept going day and night, cooking even more ducks. The Yunnan method of preparation follows the typical Chinese technique: the ducks are basted and hung out for hours to dry in the breeze, a necessary step before roasting to produce crispy skin and moist meat. What makes eating duck in Yunnan unique is the combination of condiments and seasonings used as dipping sauces; sweet bean sauce with chilli, a salt-and-pepper mixture which uses black instead of Sichuan peppercorns, and spring onion morsels are all served. To my surprise, no flour pancakes or steamed wheat buns came with the duck. Served simply with plain rice, I enjoyed excellent Yunnan roast duck at the Kang Le Xiao Wu restaurant, prepared by chef Wen Hongchun whose recipe I offer here. It makes an excellent centerpiece for a special dinner party.

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  • 1.6-1.8 kg/3½-4 lb whole duck, fresh or frozen
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 850 ml/ pt water
  • 3 tablespoons dark soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons white rice vinegar

Dipping Condiments

  • 5 tablespoons hoisin sauce mixed with 2 tablespoons chilli bean sauce
  • 2 tablespoons salt mixed with 2 teaspoons Freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 spring onions, cut into 5-cm/2-in pieces


If the duck is frozen, thaw it thoroughly. Rinse the duck well and blot it completely dry with kitchen paper and season the cavity with salt and pepper. Then insert a meat hook near the neck.

Combine the water, soy sauce, honey, and vinegar in a large pot and bring the mixture to the boil. Using a large ladle, baste the duck several times until all the skin has been completely coated with the mixture. Hang the duck in a cool, well-ventilated place to dry or, alternatively, hang it in front of a fan for about 4 to 5 hours, longer if possible. Once the duck has dried, the surface of the skin will feel like parchment.

Preheat the oven to 240°C/475°F/Gas Mark 9. Place the duck on a roasting rack in a roasting tin, breast side up. Pour 125 ml/4 fl oz water into the roasting pan. Put the duck into the oven and roast for 15 minutes, turn down the temperature to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 and continue to roast for 50 minutes. The skin will be a deep mahogany colour and very crisp when the duck is done. Meanwhile, prepare the dipping condiments.

Remove the duck from the oven and let it sit for 10 minutes, then cut it for serving. Using a cleaver or sharp knife, cut the duck into serving pieces by first dividing it into quarters, and then cutting the quarters into bite-sized pieces. Serve at once with the sauces.