Cantonese Fire Duck


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • It may be served as a main course for


Appears in

The Key to Chinese Cooking

By Irene Kuo

Published 1977

  • About

A fantastically delicious duck that is crisp outside and marinade-tasting inside, this Cantonese specialty is roasted with a marinade sewn inside the cavity. “Stuffing” the marinade within the duck not only seasons the meat deeply but also enables the duck juices to collect and enrich the liquid seasonings into one of the most flavorful sauces in the world. After roasting, the sauce is poured out and served over the duck after carving.

This recipe also requires a duck with the head on to prevent the marinade from seeping out. While in China it is also inflated as is the Peking Duck, we can omit that procedure without really altering the spectacular result very much. Unlike Peking Duck, which must be eaten while hot, Cantonese Fire Duck is delicious hot, at room temperature, or cold. It makes a marvelous cold delicacy for a picnic. It may be served as a main course for 4 with, for example, such vegetables as Stir-fried Shredded Cabbage with Carrots and Szechuan Eggplants.


  • 1 duck, about 5 to 6 pounds


  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh coriander or parsley
  • 2 medium whole scallions, finely chopped
  • 1 or 2 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 point of a star anise
  • ¼ teaspoon roasted and crushed Szechuan peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dry sherry
  • 1 tablespoon bean paste
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • teaspoons sugar
  • ¼ cup water or stock
  • 2 tablespoons malt sugar or honey
  • 2 quarts boiling water



Remove the fat and the oil sacs—two smooth flat ovals about the size of kidney beans attached to the tail bone; then rinse the duck and pat the inside dry. Tie a heavy piece of string at the base of the neck and insert a hook securely into the neck bone above it.

Make the Marinade—Heat a small skillet over high heat until hot; add the oil, swirl, and heat for 5 seconds. Splash in the coriander, scallions, and garlic, and stir rapidly for 10 seconds, then add the remaining marinade ingredients. Adjust the heat to medium low and stir until well blended. Cover and let it simmer over very low heat for 3 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the marinade cool. Then tilt the duck and fill the cavity with the marinade. Fold the fatty skin inward and truss the opening very tightly with skewers, or sew with needle and thread.

Dissolve the malt sugar or honey in 2 quarts boiling water in a large wok or roasting pan over high heat. Holding the duck by the hook, lower it about halfway into the sugar water and scald it, turning it and basting it, for 5 to 7 minutes, just as done for the Peking Duck. Then place it on a rack in an airy spot for 4 hours.


Leave one oven rack at the middle level and one at the bottom level. Cover a large pan with aluminum foil and pour in about ½ inch water. Put it on the bottom rack as a drip pan. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Remove the hook from the duck, wrap the wing tips with foil, and place the duck directly on the middle-level rack, breast side up, and roast for 30 minutes. Lower the heat to 350 degrees and roast for 1½ hours until the skin is waxy and a deep-brown color. Remove the foil from the wing tips during the last 20 minutes of roasting.

When done, transfer the duck to a chopping board. Remove the hook and skewers and drain off the marinade into a bowl.


Chop and reassemble the duck the Chinese way, spooning the marinade on top, or carve it Western style. In that case, pass the marinade separately.